• The Growth Op avatar The Growth Op @growthop
homecannabis mediagrowthop

Why does weed smell like skunk? Company identifies new compounds responsible for distinctive scent

Nov 19, 2021
The company reports that its team has “uncovered an entirely new family of compounds responsible for this scent.” What researchers found were volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs) “th ...

Stronger Community

Connect With Us On Social Media

Also In Channel

Also In Section

Everyone knows cannabis has that skunky smell and taste. Now, California-based ABSTRAX, which studies and produces cannabis and botanically derived terpenes, believes it has pinpointed the chemicals responsible for the distinctive scent.

The company reports that its team has “uncovered an entirely new family of compounds responsible for this scent.”

What researchers found were volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs) “that directly correlate to the pungent aroma of cannabis,” notes a statement from the company. These compounds include some familiar players when it comes to weed, namely thiols, sulphides and even disulphides.

Each compound does its individual part to contribute to the characteristic skunk-like aroma, but when they team with other aroma compounds such as terpenes, the result is “the unmistakable and potent scent of cannabis.”

It was mostly believed that terpenes were associated with the distinctive scent, but ABSTRAX maintains “there is no combination of these compounds that can generate the unique and characteristic skunk-like aroma.”

Carrying out indoor greenhouse experiments to monitor how the compounds evolved over the plant’s lifecycle and throughout the curing process, “we found that the concentrations of these compounds increase substantially during the last weeks of the flowering stage, reach a maximum during curing and then drop after just one week of storage,” notes the study.

Each compound does its individual part to contribute to the characteristic skunk-like aroma. /

“Our data conclusively establishes a link between this new family of VSCs in cannabis and its pungent aroma,” says lead author Dr. Iain Oswald.

Of course, that was no mean feat given that “cannabis presents a uniquely complex case due to the wide variety and number of aroma compounds present,” the company reports.

Calling the identification a first, ABSTRAX suggests the new knowledge offers “the opportunity for researchers to investigate the properties of these new compounds.” Because only certain cultivars may produce these compounds, it may be worth researching “if this is due to genetic differences or otherwise.”

In the study, the authors point out that there is a chemical similarity between the newly identified family of VSCs and those found in garlic. That being the case, there may be “an opportunity to also investigate their potential health benefits.”

Co-author Josh Del Rosso found that correlation particularly exciting.

Similarities between cannabis and garlic. /

“These VSCs in garlic offer some of its strongest health benefits and suggest that the VSCs in cannabis may likewise possess similar activity,” Rosso says. “I hope our results can act as a springboard to help other researchers determine if these compounds endow cannabis with even more medicinal properties than we ever imagined,” he adds.

Medical News Today reports that the health benefits of garlic relate to, among other things, potentially being a powerful antibiotic, offering heart protection and possibly combating high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

But it’s not all about flower. The study shows the smelly “compounds can translate from the flower state to extracts such as butane hash oil,” the company reports. “We confirmed that cannabis extracts can indeed contain these compounds in reasonable concentration if processed correctly,” explains Kevin Koby, chief science officer of ABSTRAX.

Given all the findings, “hopefully our results will establish a new standard for cultivators and distributors to help preserve and protect these key compounds — regardless of the rigors of processing, packaging and time on shelf,” Koby offers. “Most importantly, it will help brands maximize their products and literally push cannabis quality to the next level,” he contends. 

Subscribe to Weekend Dispensary, a new weekly newsletter from The GrowthOp.