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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.

Darkest purple weed

Strain Name: Black Dragon

Grade: A

Type:100% Indica

Looks:mainly dark purple leaves; as well as lime green and orange hairs

Smell: a very sweet/strong “grapie” scent

Taste: same as smell. more of a sweet flavor w/a “grapie” after taste. One of the best tasting buds for me. due to good harvest.

Effects: Nice relaxing and long lasting effect. “Body high”. GREAT for ANY kind of pain, or discomfort

Potency: A high 9 out f 10.

Reviewed by: D_I_L

Good Strain For:sleeping/insomnia, relief of pain, and lighting you mood.

OG Darth Vader

Strain Name: O.G. Darth Vader

Grade: A

Genetics: Kush x Afghani backcrossed on the Kushmum.

Type: Indica Dominant

Looks: A very beautiful dark violet strain with dense bud. I’ve never seen a bud so dark purple. A really marvelous bud from the dark-side. The name comes from it’s dark color. There are some tightly packed orange hairs in there.

Smell: Has that “purple” smell with a slight sour scent, still sweet, but more sophisticated smelling. A smell I love to bask in.

Taste: Tastes a bit Skunky, has that Purple Kush taste. Pretty flavorful if you ask me, since it has that unique grape taste.

Effects: All the power of the dark-side, but this herb won’t leave you feeling like going to the dark side. It will have you smooth and relax, TV watching may become a bit hazy, but it truly is a journey one would want to explore. Let out those light-saber lighters, and take a good hit!

Potency: Highly Strong. Recommended for the fans of Skywalker.

Reviewed by: HighCrow

Good Strain For: pain blocker, body comfort and a pleasure to smoke, body stone, couch-lock, anxiety, appetite, insomnia, muscle pains, nausea, and a goodnight toke.

Purple Power

Strain Name: Purple Power

Grade: A

Type: Sativa

Looks: Dark Purple, almost black Nugs with dark green and orange hairs throughout. The nugs are fluffy and covered in crystals

Smell: sweet and fruity

Taste: The taste is flavorful with sweet and tangy on the exhale. If purple had a taste this would be it.

Effects: Dreamy effect last for a few hours them leaves your body with a mellow ending. Overall moderate high

Potency: 7/10

Reviewed by: Scully

Good Strain For: Best strain for WAKE AND BAKE

Gracie Slick

Strain Name: Gracie Slick

Grade: A

Type: Indica

Grown: Organic

Looks: Exotic looking! Colors remind me of Halloween. Rich dark purple with neon bright orange hairs. 10/10

Smell: When the jar is cracked it has a very skunk smell with a dash of purple. When it’s broken up it smells like skunky grapes. Smell is not as good as the taste. I don’t think this batch of gracie slick of cured properly because the smell is a bit off. 8/10

Taste: Has a very skunky, musty, earthy taste on the initial inhale. After the initial skunk taste, it transitions into a delicious crisp earthy grape flavor. Does not have the traditional “purple” taste. Absolutely delicious taste, even with the smell being a bit off! 9/10

Effects: Day or night time use. Excellent medicinal effects with a totally clear head. Very good for socializing without being in a haze. 10/10

Potency: Strong 8/10

Reviewed By: Volcanobis

Good For: Social anxiety, depression, relaxing, stress, anxiety, creativity, nausea, socializing, clear head

Notes: All 3 volcano bags tasted delicious, the flavor does not run out after one bag.

Moolah

Strain Name: Moolah

Genetics: Og kush x Belladonna x Sensi star (Friends personal blend)

Grade: AA outdoor

Type: Indica dominate hybrid

Looks: Strong dark purple/green color many crystals 8/10

Smell: Smells piney, with a slight og kush (diesely smell)

Taste: Very heavy on the OG Kush taste. In fact its all OG Kush when it comes to the taste of this strain. If you have tasted real Og then you know.

Effects: Strong high lastin 1.5 to 2 hours

Potency: Very pleasing high, more one of those “At night” Herbs

Reviewed by: Tokentheaces

Darkest purple weed Strain Name : Black Dragon Grade : A Type: 100% Indica Looks :mainly dark purple leaves; as well as lime green and orange hairs Smell : a very sweet/strong