Like most plants, cannabis is green — except when it is purple. Some varieties develop odd purple coloration on their leaves and buds, which makes these strains feel special. Some breeders believe that purple strains are more potent, with higher concentrations of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Other breeders assert that purple strains are purer than green strains, or that they are particularly good at generating a sedative effect that will quickly and efficiently put users to sleep.
There are too many rumors surrounding purple weed, so most people don’t truly understand the facts. Here is the truth about why some cannabis turns purple and what that means for consumption.
Cannabis Is Purple Thanks to Anthocyanins
Most plants are green thanks to chlorophyll, the molecules responsible for the process of photosynthesis which gives the plant energy to grow and thrive. Chlorophyll absorbs the red spectrum of light to create energy, and the green spectrum gets reflected into a viewer’s eyes.
However, some plants do not appear green; plants can come in all manner of colors, from blue to purple to red to black. This is largely due to water-soluble pigments present within various plants. One of the most dominant groups of these pigments is called anthocyanins, which is what alter the color of blueberries, black beans, acai fruit and — of course — purple weed. The color produced by anthocyanins can vary from blue to black to purple and red thanks to the pH level of the plant, which affects the pigmentation.
Typically, plants only express anthocyanins in certain circumstances. For instance, the richest anthocyanin pigmentation is typically present in a plant’s fruit, either to attract or ward off pests. Some plants express anthocyanins as their chlorophyll degrades during colder months, turning those plants red, orange and purple to conserve energy. Sometimes, genetic modification can force plants that do not naturally express anthocyanins to do so, to create an unusual or exceptional visual experience.
Cannabis strains that are genetically primed with anthocyanins can be induced to turn purple under certain growing conditions. Most often, purple cannabis strains are nigh indistinguishable from regular green cannabis until growers decrease the temperature around their crop partway through the flowering phase. Colder temps put some stress on the plant, reducing the plant’s ability to absorb phosphorus through the soil, and that stress causes cannabis to exhibit red or purple color, especially in the buds and leaves near flowers. Experienced growers don’t recommend placing too much stress on cannabis plants because improper temperature can cause plants to die or reduce the quantity of a harvest.
Purple Cannabis Isn’t Notably Different From Green Cannabis
Unfortunately, that’s essentially all there is to purple cannabis — anthocyanins which are expressed under certain environmental conditions. Though some breeders claim that there are links between the genes that code for anthocyanin expression and genes that provide enhanced cannabinoid development or particular terpene profiles, science can’t confirm these theories. In fact, studies on purple cannabis have found that most purple strains have lower THC content than green strains, perhaps as a result of rampant inbreeding.
Additional studies on anthocyanins themselves have yielded little insight. It is possible that the pigment molecules could have a slight anti-inflammatory effect, but this effect only manifests when anthocyanins are ingested — generally in the form of foods like blueberries or eggplants. Plus, there is such minor anthocyanin content in purple cannabis that most users seeking anti-inflammatory properties would do better to seek out CBD products or strains bred specifically for pain relief than to rely solely on purple weed. Patients can certainly talk to knowledgeable budtenders to find such offerings; even a medical dispensary in Fayetteville, AR has targeted solutions for inflammation and pain.
Purple is an exciting color to see, especially in a plant that isn’t typically purple. Purple potatoes, purple carrots, purple cauliflowers and others feel more exotic and typically demand higher prices at the supermarket — even though they don’t offer any unique flavor or nutrients besides those available in regular vegetables and fruits. Purple cannabis is a fun change of pace for consumers who are accustomed to buying only the sticky green stuff, but medical patients and other users shouldn’t expect anything particularly different in the purple pot products they purchase.