Welcome to Cannabis 101. Today’s lesson? The difference between shake vs. trim. What distinguishes them? Why should you care? What can you do with shake and trim? Is one better than the other? The answers to all those questions and more are below.
But first, a primer. To begin, let’s start with understanding the parts of the female cannabis plant that matter to someone who smokes weed. Female plants produce the potent flowers that are chilling out in your baggies and stash jars as we speak.
The Basic Anatomy of Cannabis
The main buds of the plant, the ones you smoke, grow at the top of the plant. The whole structure is called a cola, and that’s where tightly packed female cannabis flowers blossom.
Within the cola, there are the buds, of course, but also the calyx and the pistil.
Calyxes come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. And they hide out underneath resin coated leaves called “sugar leaves,” which surround them. The calyxes are the parts of the plant that contain high concentrations of trichomes. Trichomes produce the plant’s cannabinoids, like CBD and THC. That’s why we smoke them.
The Pistils are the orange, red, or white hairs that flare out from the buds. They look cool and have an aesthetic appeal. But their presence doesn’t mean much for potency or taste.
Finally, the entire cannabis plant is coated with a white crystal coat of tiny trichomes. These secrete the oils and cannabinoids that give weed strains their unique smells, tastes, and therapeutic effects. In their dried out form, trichomes go by the better-known name, “kief“.
Got it? Those parts define the differences of shake and trim, and what you can do with each.
Shake: What Is It?
What is shake? Where does it come from? And what can you do with it?
We’ll start with shake since this is bound to be the more common and well-known of the two. Anyone who smokes cannabis has come across shake, but not everyone deals with trim.
That’s because shake is what you’ll find, in varying amounts, at the bottom of any container of cannabis buds. Shake is what falls off of the trimmed cannabis buds due to, well, the buds shaking around in the container you store them in to keep them potent.
As cannabis buds dry, they become a bit more brittle, and the tightly packed flowers begin to fall apart. So shake will contain all of the parts that made up your nugs. A typical handful of shake will contain crushed flowers, broken calyxes, and sugar leaves that broke off the main buds.
Another way of looking at it is this: just think of shake as ground up buds. What you would do to your nugs anyway if you were packing a bowl or rolling a joint.
Shake: What To Do With It?
In fact, the shake at the bottom of the bag can be as potent as the nugs themselves. This is especially true if the shake has a lot of kief, or dried up trichomes that have fallen off the buds.
And this means that the best thing you can do with your shake is smoke it! You can roll a fat joint or pack a huge bowl with it, and you’ll get just as high as you would smoking ground up nugs.
Some strains of weed, though, produce more shake than others. Certain “shaggy” strains with lots of sugar leaves and less tight flowers can produce a ton of shake. On the other hand, more dense buds sometimes produce no shake at all.
If you want to get fancy, you can add a pinch of kief-rich shake to the top of any bowl for an extra kick. Many weed grinders offer “kief-catchers” for precisely this reason.
Or, you can save up all the shake from your different stash containers for a hybrid smoking experience that blends the flavors and sensations from all of your different strains. Like a shake-shake, or something!
Trim: What Is It?
The layperson might try to tell you that trim is simply anything you trim off of the cannabis plant. According to them, trim is anything from the leaves and stems up to and maybe including the sugar leaves. Everything but the nugs.
But let’s be clear. There’s trimming that counts as trim, and then there’s trimming that counts as little more than trash!
The difference is that trim should contain plant parts with some trichomes! However, the trichome concentration in trim is much lower than it is in calyxes.
If you or your grower are using male cannabis plants to pollinate the females, trimmings from the males can include little buds. However, they’ll also contain seeds. Trimmings from seedless female plants usually include the sugar leaves and maybe even the fan leaves near the base. But only if they have trichomes on them.
Trim can come in a wide range of quality and potency. Some trim is worth little more than lining the bottom of a hamster cage.
Sometimes, however, trim can rival the dankest buds. Trim can be beautiful: a bright florescent green, covered in a powdery sheen of trichome crystals, and sticky enough to form its own “buds.” And that type of trim is worth smoking, or better, for making edibles.
Trim: What To Do With It?
You can do a tremendous amount of cannabis-related things with quality trim.
In fact, this is something weed growers and dispensaries have known for a while. That’s why they offer trim at a lower price than nugs. Beyond that, you can expect some trim in any “pre-rolled” products or the poorly named “shake specials,” which are sometimes little more than shredded sugar leaves.
So what could you do with trim if you had any or decided to buy some?
You could smoke it, and many people do. But this is not advised. In the first place, you’d have to smoke at least double the amount of trim as you would nugs to get the same potency of effect. And that’s because trim has a lower concentration of trichomes and cannabinoids than flowers do. All that smoking, however, can be harsh on your throat and add more tar to your lungs.
So you’re much better trying out these other time-tested uses for cannabis trim.
First thing you’ll need to do is decarboxylate your trim. That means activating the cannabinoids in the leaves so that your body can actually absorb them. There’s a number of scientific ways to do this. But since trim is so plentiful, you can worry less about efficiency. Just toss some trim into a warm frying pan and toss it around for a bit, taking care not to burn it.
Now that you’ve got decarbed trim, you can use it to make any kind of THC or CBD concentrate you want, including hash.
Other popular uses involve ingredients for edibles. Since trim is much less expensive than cannabis flowers, you can make large, affordable quantities of cannabutter, oils, or milks for use in edibles or other cannabis-infused concoctions.
Shake vs. Trim: The Basics
Shake is the inevitable byproduct of storing cannabis nugs. Use it to its fullest potential!
Trim is the inevitable byproduct of growing cannabis. Use it to make amazing, mind-blowing edibles or other cannabis-infusions.
But whatever you do, just don’t throw it away!