Scientists reveal cause of characteristic cannabis odor

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TUSTIN, Calif .– ( – As marijuana becomes legal in more and more places, even non-users have to get used to one particular aspect of the drug: its smell. While the pungent skunk-like smell may appeal to many cannabis users, it can be downright foul-smelling to others. Now a new study has discovered what makes marijuana give off this distinctive aroma.

Oddly enough, the compounds that produce that skunk smell in marijuana really have a lot in common with the stench that skunks spray on their enemies. A team from Abstract Tech in California has discovered a new family of prenylated volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) that create this odor.

Scientists have discovered that the Cannabis Sativa plant produces over 200 unique aromatic compounds. Previous studies of the smell of marijuana have mainly focused on substances called terpenoids. These are molecules that have a wide range of smells – from fuel to wood, citrus fruits and flowers.

Different varieties of cannabis produce different mixtures of these molecules, giving each brand a unique scent. So, it’s the terpenoids that also create the skunk smell, right? Wrong. Although terpenoids make up the majority of the aromatic compounds in marijuana, the study authors say there is little evidence that they also produce the underlying skunk odor.

VSC3 is the key to the smell of marijuana

Since skunks use multiple VSCs in their smelly spray, lead author of the study Iain Oswald and researchers suspected that these particles also played a role in the smell of cannabis. The team examined the flowers of 13 different types of cannabis plants using a custom 2D gas chromatography system with three different types of odor detectors.

As a result of the analysis, a panel of four people rated the spiciness of each marijuana strain on a scale of 0-10. The results show that the pungent cannabis strain, Bacio Gelato, also had the highest concentration. higher of CSV. Additionally, the study authors detected seven different VSCs in this particular cannabis flower. The team also found some of those in the other cannabis strains tested.

Overall, five of the VSCs had skunk or sulfur aromas. One of these, 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol (or VSC3), was the most commonly detected VSC in cannabis plants that the four-person panel ranked as the most fragrant brands. Interestingly, VSC3 is the same compound that scientists have linked to the flavor and smell of “skunk beer” – or beer which deteriorates after exposure to UV. The team also discovered skunky VSC3 in cannabis concentrates, which is a common ingredient in marijuana vaping products.

So when does this foul odor smell the most?

Using greenhouse experiments, the study found that prenylated VSCs increase in strength as cannabis plants near the end of their flowering stage. It reaches its peak potency during the curing phase when marijuana growers place the buds in an airtight container to preserve their flavors and aromas.

It’s not that bad when it comes to the smell of VSCs. Researchers say the molecular structure of these compounds is similar to that of garlic, which can provide anti-cancer and cardioprotective benefits. The team adds that these prenylated scent molecules may also have medicinal properties that scientists can extract, just as others have done with the non-psychoactive substances in marijuana. CBD ingredient.

The results are published in the journal ACS Omega.

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