With the dawn of legal cannabis in some US states, the number of Americans smoking, ingesting or applying the psychotropic drug has more than doubled in the last decade – and yet we are still lacking basic facts about the plant.
Only now are scientists getting closer to teasing apart which of the many chemicals in cannabis are responsible for different ‘strains’, and why they seem to give people unique highs when combined in different ways.
Until recently, we didn’t even know which of the hundreds of metabolites found in cannabis give the flower its iconic ‘skunky’ smell.
According to a recent analysis of 13 cannabis strains, it now appears this pungent odor comes from a family of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) which have not been identified in nature before, but closely match those found in garlic.
Other volatile organic compounds, like terpenes, have been found to give cannabis a distinct smell as well.
Terpenes are often found in other aromatic plants, like lavender and rosemary, but previous research suggests they only contribute about half of cannabis’ overall aroma, and there’s little evidence linking them to a skunky scent. High amounts of terpinolene in the OG Kush strain, for instance, tend to give the flower a woody or citrusy aroma instead of a sulfury one.
To uncover the chemical origins of the skunk scent in particular, researchers measured and analyzed the various strong-smelling metabolites found in cannabis flowers and also in concentrated cannabis extract. […]