Where does the special smell of weed really come from and why terpenes aren't enough

skunk skunk skunk

Identification of a new family of prenylated volatile sulfur compounds in cannabis

You have learned that cannabis terpenes are at the origin of the specific aromas of cannabis. Well, did you know that terpenes play an important role in this phenomenon as well, but the true origin of weed's unique scent seems much more complex. The best proof being that all attempts to imitate the smell of cannabis in certain products or terpene extracts, at best smell like your lemon scent toilet freshener. New research tells us more.

Where does the pungent, sweet and earthy smell of cannabis come from, which for some strains can reach the level of “stench” that has been called “skunk”. This term is generally intended to qualify cannabis that has a particularly potent and pungent odor, but why does cannabis give off that odor and does it really resemble the smell of a polecat?

La original variety, called Skunk, is an independent cannabis strain originally from the United States and first developed in the early 1970s. Cannabis from Central and South America and with strains from tropical Asia. This creates a strong variety that can grow outdoors, in hot or humid climates that exist in the United States such as northern California, and in greenhouses in the Netherlands or under lamps.

Why are terpenes alone not enough?

Previous research on the smell of cannabis mainly focused on substances called terpenes (or "terpenoids" as they are officially called). These are molecules with a wide range of smells - fuel, wood, citrus, flowers and more - that are responsible for the various aromas in cannabis and in fact exist in all plants and are responsible for their aromas as well.

Different strains of cannabis produce different mixtures of these terpenoids molecules, giving each strain its own unique scent. Although terpenes are the source of most of the scent and aromatic compounds in cannabis, the authors of the new study say it's unlikely that they are also the ones that produce this peculiar 'polecat' smell. .

The team tested flowers from 13 different cannabis strains using an advanced, customized system of three different types of scent detectors.

After the mechanical analysis, a panel of four people rated the spiciness of each strain on a scale of 0-10. The results showed that the pungent strain of cannabis tested, a strain called Bacio Gelato, also had the most. high concentration of sulfur compounds.

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In addition, the authors of the study identified seven different types of these compounds in the particular cannabis flower tested. In addition, the team also found several types of compounds in the other cannabis strains tested.

In all, five of the sulfur compounds found in cannabis strains smelled like skunk or sulfur. One of these, a compound called "3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol" (or VSC3), was most commonly identified in cannabis plants that the "scent" panel classified as having the pungent odor.

Even in a reverse experience

In order to prove that the sulfur compound VSC3 is indeed responsible for the smell of "skunk" in cannabis, the researchers carried out a "reverse engineering" experiment, in which they tried to artificially imitate the smell of the strain. Bachio Gelato, previously classified as having the most potent 'Skunk' aroma.

If the smell of cannabis was indeed determined only by terpenes as previously thought, then an artificial combination of these terpenes present in the flower was believed to produce the same odor. The researchers therefore analyzed the concentrations of the different terpenes in the Bachio Gelato cannabis flower, then concocted an artificial mixture of the 10 terpenes present at the highest concentration.

The ratio of the various terpenes in the artificial mixture was the same as their ratio measured in the cannabis flower, in order to mimic it as accurately as possible.

In addition, they created another mixture of terpenes, which was exactly the same as the first mixture, except that the researchers added the sulfur compound VSC3 to it at the same concentration that exists in the flowers of bachio gelato, a concentration of only 0,01%. This is a very low concentration, but it is a particularly powerful compound which produces a strong odor even at a very low dose. In fact, the minimum concentration of the VSC3 compound in the plant is exactly the reason why it has not been identified so far.

The researchers then asked the panel of scent judges to rate how similar the smell of the terpene blend they brewed was to the scent of real Bachio gelato flowers. The results of the experiment showed that the smell of the terpene mixture was somewhat similar to that of the cannabis flowers it was supposed to imitate, but still very different.

The researchers repeated this odor test once more, but this time with its blend of terpenes, they also added VSC3 at the concentration at which it is present in the flower. Unlike a blend that only contained terpenes, the blend that contained both terpenes and VSC3 was rated by odor judges as having a much more fragrant odor than the cannabis it was supposed to mimic.

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Terpene extraction doesn't do the job

The results of this reverse engineering experiment may explain why artificial products developed in recent years, designed to mimic the flavors and aromas of the cannabis plant and its various varieties, fail to do so with precision.

Terpenes have recently become an increasingly popular product and companies are producing on their basis, among others, filters, rolling papers, tobacco substitutes and various fragrance extracts believed to resemble specific flavors and aromas of different varieties of cannabis, The reason is probably that these products are all based on terpenes only.

For example, what is sold as a 'flavored tobacco substitute OG Kush Is actually a tobacco substitute (a blend of smoking herbs) to which the manufacturer has artificially added the same terpenes that exist in the OG Kush cannabis strain. The fact that these products are only based on terpenes and do not contain the compound VSC3, may at least partly explain the (big) difference in taste and smell between them and the cannabis they are supposed to mimic. It is also possible that in addition to terpenes and VSC3, there are other substances in the plant which have not yet been identified and which are also responsible for part of this shortcoming.

At this point, researchers wondered when cannabis gave off the strongest odor from these disgusting sulfur compounds. Through greenhouse experiments, the study found that the odor of the compounds is strongest towards the end of the flowering phase and reaches its maximum intensity at the stage where growers place the flowers in an airtight container, to preserve their flavors and aromas in a process called curing.

It should be noted that the sulfur compound is not only smelly but may also, according to the researchers, offer health benefits similar to molecules found in garlic plants.

Tags : medicinal plantsSearchSkunkterpene

The author weedmaster

Media broadcaster and communications manager specializing in legal cannabis. Do you know what they say? knowledge is power. Understand the science behind cannabis medicine, while staying up to date with the latest health related research, treatments and products. Stay up to date with the latest news and ideas on legalization, laws, political movements. Discover tips, tricks and how-to guides from the most seasoned growers on the planet, including the latest research and findings from the scientific community on the medical qualities of cannabis.