Purple Cannabis: Why You Should Care About Color
Grandaddy Purple. Purple Kush. Purple Haze.
If you’ve ever been into a dispensary you might have seen some of these strain names and noticed that the cannabis community has a fascination with the color purple. Purple strains, which are sometimes grouped together and called “Purps” are a relatively new genetic trend and a product of selective breeding that has resulted in purple marijuana being more common. There are all sorts of myths abound about royally-colored purple weed and while many of us are aware of them, most have wondered at one point or another: why is some weed purple?
What is Purple Weed?
The purple color in your bud doesn’t indicate that your weed is different in any significant way. Much like some flower is dark green and some it lighter, dark purple bud is just a product of the plant’s genetics and growing methods.
All cannabis has what are called ‘flavonoids’ in them – chemicals that, like terpenes or cannabinoids, have a range of psychoactive and therapeutic effects. Some flavonoids are anti-inflammatory, while others are antioxidants.
One of those flavonoids is called anthocyanin, which often is responsible for making some cannabis flowers take on a vibrant purple color. Anthocyanin is also present in a lot of plants and is one of the chemicals that make leaves change color in the fall.Strains with a deep purple color are generally high in anthocyanin and many growers have been known to bring it out in strains with purple in the name.
Flavonoids also play an important role in the way cannabis effects the user, though the precise mechanism by which it does so isn’t always clear. The term entourage effect, coined in 1998 by two British researchers, refers to the way that the key compounds in cannabis (like THC and CBD) function in concert with all of the other chemicals in the plant. The effects produced by a strain are the result of the delicate and complex interplay of all of these chemicals.
How is Purple Weed Grown?
When it comes to the purps, how the bud is grown matters too. Purple weed plants don’t necessarily always exhibit deep purple colors. Anthocyanin can also cause cannabis strains to have colors like deep red, rust-colored or blueberry blue. It all depends on how it’s grown.
Since anthocyanin has a stronger impact in the fall or in cold temperatures when chlorophyll (the chemical that makes plants green) is produced in lower amounts. Some growers, hoping to bring out the purple hues, might lower the temperature while the plant is growing to bring it out more prominently. However, this can decrease yield and THC concentration, so it’s not something that growers do very often.
Where Did Purple Weed Come From?
The wider availability of purple cannabis is an example of how genetics can be traced back to some key strains that later get bred into new varieties. One of the first purple strains to hit the market with a splash was Grand Daddy Purple, which started showing up in the California medical market in the early 2000s. According to some, it owes some of its genetic lineage to Purple Urkle – another purple-colored strain that is thought to be a genetic variant of Mendocino Purp. Always take lineage history with a grain of salt, however; much of this was originally based on word-of-mouth and strain names are notoriously poor indicators of weed’s actual lineage.
Is Purple Weed Any Different Than Green Weed?
You may have gotten high on purp weed without even noticing it. Indeed, there’s nothing in purple weed that makes it any more unique than any other strain when it comes to effects. In general, there’s nothing that makes it better or worse than any other type – it’s just different. Also, the idea that purple weed is stronger than green weed is just a myth.
That said, purple strains could tell you some things about the cannabis’ genetic lineage. Because purple tends to appear in strains grown in cooler temperature, weed that’s purple often has genetics that trace back to shorter, bushier indica plants that originally grew in the cooler Asian climates. Purple Kush, for instance, is a classic indica strain that demonstrates this principle.
While it might not have a clear impact on the quality or strength of your smoke, not enough research has been conducted on purple cannabis to say otherwise. Some have theorized that the anthocyanin that makes your pot purple is the same thing that makes some fruits and vegetables purple. As a result, your weed might have some of the same antioxidant qualities that are found in those fruits.
But don’t take the lack of proven benefits as a reason to discount purple bud or to see its color as irrelevant. The aesthetic look of the bud – its trimming, how tight or fluffy it is and its color – are all the result of choices made by the grower. Presentation matters, similarly to why you often pay more at a high-end restaurant. So next time you come across a sticky, purple bud, take some extra time to appreciate all the complex shades you can see in the bud. Even if you’re not smoking a purple strain, be sure to check for other colors, as it’s one of the many things that make every cannabis strain unique.
Have you tried purple weed before? Let us know your favorite purple strain in the comments below!
Grandaddy Purple. Purple Kush. Purple Haze. If you’ve ever been into a dispensary you might have seen some of these strain names and noticed that the cannabis community has a fascination with the color purple. Purple strains, which are sometimes grouped together and called
Why Does Weed Turn Purple? Truths and Myths about Purple Cannabis
Thursday April 5, 2018
I n these modern times of cannabis consumption bad information still runs rampant, and few things in the world of weed have as large a mythic standing as purple bud. This seemingly simple topic can actually be a bit convoluted, starting with, what is purple bud? The short answer is cannabis flowers that exhibit a darker, purple-tinged hue. However, it is not always the shade most people think of as “purple.”
Purple cannabis can be a tricky concept. Just stop for a moment and contemplate the timeless line, “roses are red, violets are blue.” A modern sensibility would correct that the color of violets is none other than violet. Similarly, purple weed is not always “purple.” It can have a wide range of presentation, from dark green to even black.
Why is Some Cannabis Purple?
Consider that what we call a blueberry is also usually quite purple. This is because the very thing that makes blueberries “blue” is the same as what makes purple nugs “purple,” anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments present in many plants. Despite the “cyan” in “Anthocyanins” referring to their blue nature, these molecules occur in a range of colors from red to purple to dark blue, or black, depending on pH level.
Anthocyanins are part of a larger class of substances known as flavonoids, which aside from how the name sounds, have very little to do with flavor (and are astringent to the taste). In fact, the “flav” in flavonoids comes the Greek word for yellow, flavus.
This can be a bit linguistically confusing; a blue-named class of molecules that presents as red or purple is a subset of a class of yellow-named molecules. It begins to make sense when we consider that a complex interaction of anthocyanins and other flavonoids is what causes leaves to change their color among such a brilliant spectrum in the fall.
When cannabis presents as purple, we are seeing a similar phenomenon as fall leaves, allowing purple bud to have a wide spectrum as well. Like other plants for cannabis, colors, and changes in color, have purpose. The stressed plant is changing pigment in order to achieve a goal before wilting in the cold, such as conserving energy or increasing chances for pollination.
For cannabis strains, the ability to present darker pigments, and to what degree, is wholly dependent on the plant’s genetics.
Without a predisposition to purpling, a given strain cannot be induced to turn purple. Certain strains will have more naturally occurring anthocyanins than others, and when switching to the “winter” cycle of flowering, will start to express those purple pigments innately according to their genetic predisposition interacting with the unique chemical and environmental factors in which the plant is grown.
Is Purple Marijuana Better?
Visual appeal aside, is there reason to believe that these royal-toned flowers are better than the green hues more common to the plant? The science leans towards no.
According to the European Food Safety Authority, there is no substantive evidence anthocyanins have any effect on human biology or diseases – though they contain a higher concentration of anti-oxidants, which would theoretically only be beneficial if one were eating buds. There is some minor proven correlation to anthocyanins as an anti-inflammatory, but again, would probably be more active if ingested. Seeking a strain with higher CBD content would be a better source for anti-inflammatory effects than purple hue.
In general, purple bud has a tendency for lower THC content than its greener counterparts. That’s not to say high-THC purple is not possible, we’re sure we’ve all seen or smoked an exception to the rule. That is because most purple bud that we see today is not a result of stressing the plant, but genetics.
To better understand this connection, I spoke with veteran grower and concentrate connoisseur Matt Gosling about the popularity of purple cannabis. While purple bud can be fantastic, he explained, it’s usually due to good breeding and genetics, and not much else.
“Purples are memorable. If you have a good high with purple bud, it’s going to stand out. Then if you’re a grower and you have the ability to then reinforce those genetics you’re going to, and it propagates itself from there.”
Anything beyond breeding could detriment the plant. “Any energy the plant spends pushing out that purple pigment is going to be drawn from somewhere else and is going to hurt overall. It’s just not worth risking the quality for a chance a slightly better bag appeal.”
Myths about Purple Weed
Some people believe that there are growers out there who bring out purple hues by manipulating the plant, however, the prevalence of such practices seems to largely be a myth. I rattled off a list of alleged techniques for inducing purple bud to Matt, such as affecting nutrient levels or flash freezing, and he quickly declared them bunk.
That’s not to say attempts at purpling don’t occur at all, “I’ve seen some people use ice water to do their flush,” he told me, “some other tweaking with light timing, but I don’t recommend any of it.”
In speaking with growers, budtenders, flower reviewers and other cannabis journalists, the consensus among the industry is to treat each harvest as unique–smoke what appeals to you. If the effects of purple strain are appealing, go for it.
Furthermore, no one is wrong to feel that the visual appeal of a flower can enhance the smoking experience. However, ultimately, the mere presence of the pigment is unrelated to the resulting effects. If the flower is good, by all means smoke it, in any spectrum of the rainbow.
What are your thoughts on purple weed? Do you find it to be better than green cannabis?
Matt Mongelia holds an MFA in writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has worked in the cannabis industry in various roles for 4 years, from dispensaries, production and retail to events, content and marketing. He is a writer for the comic Dark Beach, and has previously covered music and cultural content for SOL REPUBLIC.
Everyone cannabis enthusiast has a place in their heart for purple weed. Learn about why cannabis turns purple and some of the truths and myths behind it.