According to a majority of cannabis consumers, the color and look of a plant is one of the biggest factors when deciding which strain to buy. And many are drawn to colorful marijuana over more traditional green and orange strains.
What does the color of cannabis say about its effects (if anything)? And is colorful marijuana the next step in the evolution of our favorite plant? Or is purple pot just a trend?
How Pot Gets Its Pigmentation
Cannabis coloration can be tied to two primary factors:
2. growing environment
Monitoring Marijuana Plant Genetics
A plant’s genetics affect the prevalence of pigments like anthocyanins and carotenoids. This is true for a wide variety of plants—not just marijuana.And while most plants appear green because of an abundance of chlorophyll, that isn’t always the case. Cannabis, like leaves in the Fall, reaches a point where the production of chlorophyll halts, allowing other pigments to show through.
So how do these difficult to pronounce pigments work?
Anthocyanins are a large group of pigments—approximately 400 in cannabis—known as flavonoids. Despite the tasty-sounding name, flavonoids have nothing to do with a strain’s flavor. These flavonoids are instead responsible for many of the blue and purple hues you find in popular strains like Granddaddy Purple and Purple Kush.
Anthocyanins are produced for more than aesthetics, though. They also help protect plants against ultraviolet radiation, pathogens, and more.
Carotenoids are the set of pigments that promote gold, yellow, red, and orange coloration. In addition to their beautiful sunset-citrus hues, carotenoids are associated with a variety of health benefits, from eye health to male fertility. They’re the same pigments found in high concentrations in carrots.
If only science had been more advanced when we were younger, our parents might have been encouraging us to smoke Lemon Kush for our daily dose of carotenoids instead of eating carrots.
While anthocyanins or carotenoids contribute to a plant’s coloration, their presence alone isn’t enough to guarantee a colorful crop, though. To truly bring out the desired reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, blues, and purples, growers have to use the environment.
Controlling the Marijuana Growing Environment
Plants naturally stop producing chlorophyll when the days get shorter and the temperature drops. So it stands to reason that growers could duplicate and control that effect in an indoor grow.
By controlling temperature and pH levels, many growers are able to foster deeper coloration in cannabis flowers.
- Decreasing the temperature and keeping the pH levels neutral or slightly higher can encourage purple and blue pigmentation in strains with the right chemical predisposition.
- For orange, yellow, and gold coloration, plants are typically grown in alkaline conditions with higher pH levels.
Similarly, using LED lights on a certain spectrum can “stress” the plant, causing it to produce more anthocyanins as a sort of sunscreen. Some growers will even alter the nutrients a plant receives as a way to promote coloration. For example, less phosphorous can cause a red tint in the leaves and buds of some plants.
So while some cannabis strains are naturally predisposed to look like Skittles ads, others require careful cultivation to bring about the deep purples, ruby reds, and golden yellows consumers crave.
The final question we need to answer is maybe the most important: does the color of weed affect its potency?
Is Colorful Marijuana More Potent?
Many cannabis consumers believe purple bud is a higher quality than green. And a deep, richly colorful weed really is a thing of beauty. But will you get a different, longer lasting, or more potent high if you smoke purple or orange weed instead of green?
The short answer is no.
But also maybe yes.
The levels of cannabinoids in a marijuana plant are relatively steady regardless of color. Purple plants aren’t any stronger than green ganja, blue bud, or the rarer pink pot. It can be fun to pull out a bag of bud so colorful it looks like a character from the Muppets, but you won’t get a higher THC concentration. Pigmentation just doesn’t play a role in cannabinoid potency.
There is some evidence that deeper red and purple pot—so deep it appears black—offers a more cerebral high than the average strain. On the other hand, the colder conditions that encourage purple pigmentation to shine through in many strains might actually limit the production of THC, capping a plant’s potency.
So you probably won’t get higher smoking purple marijuana. Good to know.
But does color affect marijuana’s non-psychoactive effects?
As it turns out, the color of cannabis may correlate to how the plant interacts with the body. Anthocyanins (which cause blue and purple hues) are also found in many berries and are known for their role as antioxidants. Studies have suggested they may provide other health benefits, as well, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties.
It isn’t that these benefits can’t be found in traditional green bud, but visible coloration can serve as a sign that a plant has more anthocyanins and carotenoids, suggesting it will provide greater antioxidant and pain-killing benefits.
So the next time you buy bud in Colorado, remember that the color of your cannabis means about as much as a paint job on your car. A pop of color looks nice, but it isn’t likely to change the way you handle the product or how you feel when you’re done.
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