What are Amino Acids and How to Use Them to Grow Cannabis?

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Added 29 October 2022

Since the beginning of space research, astronauts have been trying to find signs of life in space. One of the signs they look for is the presence of amino acids, and they have successfully found them on the Murchison meteorite, the moon, and comet 67P. 

This is because amino acids are believed to be the building blocks of proteins — life itself. 

Surprisingly, amino acids not only helped a single-celled organism evolve into your cuddly cat, but they can also help organisms get healthier. This is why bodybuilders use amino acid supplements.

And what if we told you that you can use amino acids to help your plant grow better, too?

Amino acids are organic compounds containing amino and carboxylic acid functional groups. And these compounds can help your cannabis plant in various ways — they can help cannabis grow faster, develop bushier buds with longer shelf life, protect itself against pests and diseases, and even improve soil activity. 

So, what are amino acids and how can they help you grow cannabis plants? Find out everything about amino acids, including the best type of amino acids for cannabis and how to use them in this article.

How do Amino Acids Help You Grow Cannabis Plants?

How do Amino Acids Help You Grow Cannabis Plants?

For a cannabis plant, the three most important nutrients are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus — the three macronutrients also known as NPK. Apart from these nutrients, cannabis plants also need other micronutrients like iron, magnesium, and manganese.

However, many growers overlook one of the most essential micronutrients — amino acids — that help you grow healthy cannabis plants with big, resinous buds. 

You probably haven't even heard of amino acids being used for plants, and that's okay. You aren't alone. We usually hear only about the main macro and micronutrients and ignore the rest. But it's never too late and you can use amino acids now. 

Think of amino acids as the building blocks or foundation of proteins that your plant uses to grow well. Just like your body, even cannabis plants need a high amount of protein so they can grow tall and bushy. Protein helps the plant in various ways, such as:

  • Helps the intracellular plant structures grow well
  • Encourages the generation of energy
  • Stimulates metabolic processes
  • Aids with the absorption and transportation of nutrients within the plant

But unlike us, plants can’t get proteins from the external environment. They have to create their own proteins. And this is where amino acids come into action. In short, they help the plant build said proteins.

Benefits of Using Amino Acids for Cannabis

Advantages of amino acids

Amino acids don't just produce proteins. They also help the plant in various ways, such as the following.

1. Amino Acids Improve the Photosynthesis Process

Did you know that amino acids are an essential component of chlorophyll — the organ that drives photosynthesis? So, by administering amino acids, you can help your plant get better at photosynthesis as the concentration of chlorophyll increases. 

The result? Your plant will harness more energy, growing taller and bushier!

2. They Make Nitrogen in the Root Zone More Available 

As mentioned earlier, nitrogen is one of the three essential macronutrients your cannabis plant needs to grow well. It is responsible for the plant’s development, especially during the vegetative stage, and it makes up a crucial part of chlorophyll, without which the plant would fail to produce enough energy to grow.

And fortunately, amino acids can come in handy here. They are one of the best water-soluble sources of nitrogen. This is because amino acids contain a lot of nitrogen. 

As proteolytic enzymes metabolize the organic matter, the nitrogen within becomes available in the root zone as a water-soluble component. And being water-soluble is important here as it can be easily absorbed by the roots.

Another benefit of having water-soluble nitrogen in the root zone is that it will aid the microorganisms in the soil to mineralize over time. Thereby, nitrogen is converted into other forms like ammonium and nitrate, which have a low molecular weight. This process also helps maintain a balance between positively and negatively charged nitrogen molecules.  

Plus, nitrogen within amino acids creates a feedback loop, which helps the plant create more amino acids. A total win-win situation, isn’t it?

3. They Make the Plant More Stress Resistant

Throughout its life cycle, your cannabis plant is likely to encounter some amount of stress like high temperatures, humidity issues, pests, overwatering, underwatering, etc. Whether it is due to unpredictable weather or grower error, stress can affect your plant’s growth significantly. Furthermore, it can slow down your plant’s metabolism, stunt its growth, and even hamper the quality of the buds. 

If you apply amino acids before, during, and after these stressful conditions occur, you can help your plant be more resistant and recover quickly. Amino acids can supply your plant with the necessary elements that are related to stress physiology. 

For example, amino acids like cysteine can work with antioxidants (like glutathione), which can help your cannabis plant deal with oxidative stress usually caused due to wrong nutrient solution, high-intensity light, or higher levels of CO2 in the environment.

Another problem your plant may face during a stressful event is the failure to produce its own amino acids. The synthesis of amino acids is a high-energy process, which may not occur efficiently when the plant is experiencing stress. So, administering amino acids to the plant can prevent such instances.

4. Amino Acids Serve as the Precursor to Auxins

Auxins are a group of hormones in cannabis plants that are produced in the apex of the stem — meristem — where new stems and leaves grow. Auxins are crucial for your plant’s development because they activate genes that aid plant growth by kickstarting various vital plant functions.

Essentially, auxins determine how the plant grows — its size and architecture. They also influence the growth of roots, branches, and flowers and regulate cannabis’ photoperiod responses. Amino acids help the cannabis plant produce these auxins more efficiently.

5. They Increase the Absorption Rate of Calcium

Amino acids are chelating compounds that aid in the absorption of various nutrients. Once your cannabis plant absorbs the minerals, the rest is either decomposed and turned into organic nitrogen or used directly as an amino acid. 

This chelating process can significantly help your plant’s health due to the increased rate of calcium absorption since calcium is a vital micronutrient for cannabis plants. When your plant has access to more calcium, it can grow strong with a better vascular system that further helps the plant transport energy within. 

Apart from that, calcium also helps cannabis absorb more nutrients and water, and fight pests and common diseases. Calcium can also help the plant prevent mold infestation by keeping the cells strong and free of excess water that attracts mold. 

6. They Help Fruit Formation

Almost all cannabis growers aim for the biggest yield from their plants — that’s why we grow cannabis, isn’t it? Here, you can use amino acids to grow bigger flowers. Essentially, amino acids increase the germination of the pollen and the length of the pollinic tube, which leads to better flower development

The same process also helps the flower develop stronger cell walls, leading to longer shelf life, improved terpene production, and a better flavor profile.

7. They Help the Stomata of the Plant

The stomata of cannabis not only function due to light, temperature, and relative humidity but also due to various internal factors like amino acids. Here, amino acids can help the stomata of the plant be more efficient at controlling the moisture balance and facilitation of gases like carbon dioxide.

8. They Limit Your Reliance on Traditional Fertilizers

Many growers these days are limiting the use of traditional fertilizers for various reasons including preventing the buds from tasting bitter to making their gardens more eco-friendly. If you want to limit your reliance on traditional fertilizers, amino acids can help you and your plant. 

Amino acids can help your plant get all the essential nutrients while also aiding your plant against external stresses, so you don’t have to use chemical pesticides or harmful fertilizers as much. 

Don’t Plants Synthesize Their Amino Acids?

Yes, plants do synthesize their amino acids, but you may still want to consider administering amino acids to your plant. This is because your plant may face various conditions that may hamper amino acid synthesis. Here are some of the stresses that can affect your plant’s ability to synthesize amino acids:

  • Poor irrigation or drought conditions
  • Extreme temperatures, either hot or cold
  • Poor soil health or improper growing medium
  • Diseases and pest attacks
  • Improper lighting conditions
  • Spacial limitations for the canopy
  • Poor root health 

So, if you want your plants to reach their full potential and grow big, resinous flowers, you should consider using amino acids. When you make amino acids available to your cannabis plant, your plants will be able to grow big and bloom well instead of focusing their energy on synthesizing amino acids.

Do You Need to Add Amino Acids to Cannabis Plants?

Do You Need to Add Amino Acids?

Many growers use amino acids regardless to ensure the plant’s best health, but if you don’t use amino acids in your cannabis garden, you may want to use them in specific situations, such as the following:

1. Your Plant’s Soil Quality is Not Good Enough

The most important reason to use amino acids is if you're using soil of low quality as it can improve your plant’s health significantly. Healthy soil is dark, porous, and thriving with microbes. If that isn’t the case with your plant’s soil, it is of low quality.

2. If the Plant’s Leaves Turn Yellow or Pale

Apart from low soil quality, another reason to use amino acids is if the leaves on your plant start turning yellow or pale. This is a sign that your plant is experiencing a photosynthesis problem, perhaps due to excessive fertilizer use, drought, nitrogen burn, etc. 

3. There is Excess Nitrogen in the Grow Medium

The next reason is if there is too much nitrogen in the growing medium, which can burn the roots and cause a nutrient lockout while also altering the medium’s pH balance. You can prevent this problem by adding amino acids in the growing medium to maintain the pH between 5.8 and 6.2, increase the absorption rate of nutrients, and encourage microbial activity within the soil. 

In such cases, it is advisable to use amino acids on your cannabis plant if you don’t want to use them as a part of the growing routine. 

How to Choose Amino Acids for Cannabis Plants?

How to Choose Amino Acids for Cannabis Plants?

Amino acids are the foundation of proteins in cannabis, and without that, your plant may experience a lot of problems. Here is how amino acids become available to your plant and help them grow.

Specialized microorganisms in the growing medium, specifically the soil, metabolize and break down dead animal and plant proteins and turn them into short-chain polypeptides and amino acids. This process occurs with the help of protease, a protein-specific enzyme. 

And this process is not quick — it takes a lot of time, and when amino acids do become available for your plant, it’s hard to guess just how much of it is available for your plant. 

Additionally, you must also note that plants can only use a specific type of amino acids — those in the L-amino acid structure. Amino acids in D-amino acid form don’t get assimilated by cannabis. 

The natural, organic decomposition is too slow and plants can only use a specific type of amino acids, in which case, it is ideal that you use amino acid supplements for cannabis plants. This will not only mimic the process but also speed up enzymatic digestion. 

When purchasing amino acids, choose products that contain L-amino acids, such as the following:

  • Alanine
  • Arginine
  • Aspartic
  • Cysteine
  • Glumatic Acid
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Tyrosine
  • Valine

What are the Best Types of Amino Acids for Cannabis?

seaweed extractBefore we get into how to use amino acids for cannabis, let’s explore the various types of products you may find in your local horticultural store.

1. Protein Hydrolysates

To crease amino acid biostimulants and fertilizers, manufacturers use a process known as enzymatic hydrolysis to speed up the digestion of animal and plant proteins. During this hydrolysis process, the proteins are treated with particular enzymes in an environment with specific pH and temperature, which causes them to break down into short-chain polypeptides and amino acids. 

This resulting product is called a protein hydrolysate, and the two common products you will find in your local gardening store are fish protein hydrolysate and soy protein hydrolysate. These compounds are L-amino acids, which your plant can utilize properly and even contain a small number of other nutrients. 

2. Seaweed Extracts

Additionally, you may also find seaweed-based amino acids. This is because seaweed is rich in a broad spectrum of amino acids. And many growers choose seaweed-based cold-processed amino acids to be the best — seaweed for your weed!

3. Dried Animal and Plant-based Organic Fertilizers

You can also use dried animal or plant-based organic fertilizers as they contain amino acids too, but these products take a long time to decompose before being beneficial for your cannabis. 

4. Synthetic Amino Acids

The last type of products you may find is synthetic ones that are produced in labs or factories. Whether they are healthy for your cannabis plant or not is up for debate, but you can choose them if you want to. 

Types of Amino Acid Products to Avoid

On the other hand, there are a couple of types of amino acid products that won’t work well for most growers, such as the following:

  • Fertilizers that contain amino acids as their chelating agent
  • Bloom boosters that contain amino acids

This is because these products use only a few amino acids, so your plant won’t benefit from the whole spectrum of amino acids and the results will be subpar at best. 

How to Use Amino Acids for Cannabis Plants?

How to Use Amino Acids for Cannabis Plants?

There are two ways your cannabis plant can absorb amino acids — either through its roots or the leaves. And you should consider using amino acids both during the plant’s vegetative and flowering stages. 

Here, plants tend to absorb amino acids the fastest via their leaves, so you can apply amino acids as a foliar spray, too. Many veteran growers also believe that using amino acids as foliar also improves transpiration, boosts photosynthesis, and enhances nutrient transportation in the plant. 

For most growers, it is recommended to use amino acids as foliar. But when doing so, remember to carefully measure the quantity of fertilizer as overfeeding amino acids can affect your plant’s health in a bad way.

But if you choose to use amino acids in soil, you can. Just remember to make the solution slightly more concentrated and stronger than you would a foliar spray of amino acids. This is because it does not take too much amino acid content in foliar application to bridge the amino gaps, and in soil, the roots aren’t the only ones that use amino acids. 

There are various ways to use amino acids in cannabis, although the two mentioned above are the most common. Amino acids are water soluble and easy to incorporate in your cannabis garden, so you can explore more ways that work best for you. 

Also note that amino acids are rich in nitrogen, and since they are highly soluble, they double up as a nitrogen fertilizer. So, you must also adjust your nutrient solution/routine to compensate for the excess nitrogen in amino acids. Otherwise, your plant may experience an overload of nitrogen, which can lead to problems like inferior buds, low potency, impacted photosynthesis process, etc.

These tips are mere guidelines. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the best results. You should also learn about the nutrient supplements you use on your plant to see if they contain amino acids, too. As with anything, too much of amino acids can be bad, so you want to avoid that.

Best Time to Use Amino Acids for Cannabis

For optimal results, it is recommended to use amino acids once every two to three weeks if you're applying amino acids in soil. On the other hand, if you are applying amino acids as a foliar spray, you should apply it more frequently — once every five to seven days. 

For stages of the plant’s life where it does not require any extra nitrogen, you can still use amino acids. Here, it is recommended to apply to dilute amounts of it via fine mist sprays more frequently. This will ensure your plant gets to enjoy the benefits of amino acids without absorbing too much nitrogen. 

Summary: What are Amino Acids and How to Use Them to Grow Cannabis?

It can be argued that amino acids are the foundation of life. So far, scientists know that in all life on earth, including plants, there are over 100 amino acids that act as building blocks for the millions of proteins that form life on earth as we know. Fun fact: only 20 of these amino acids are found in humans. 

Whether you want to grow bigger flowers, protect your plant against stress, or want to give it a nitrogen boost, amino acids can help you like nothing else. Amino acids help build stronger and healthier cells of the plant, leading to benefits across all the parts of the plant. And they help your plant produce more energy more efficiently. 

Plus, with amino acid supplements, your plant won’t have to use its own energy to create amino acids. Instead, that energy can be directed to growing well and developing bigger flowers.

So, even if you don’t use amino acids as a part of your plant’s nutrient routine (which you should), you should still consider using amino acids in some cases as mentioned above. It can significantly benefit your cannabis plant.

Lastly, whichever type of amino acid you use, ensure the product contains amino acids in L-shape, otherwise, it won’t be as effective at helping your plant. And follow the manufacturer’s recommendation on using them for the best results.


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