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    Why does marijuana smell like a skunk? Scientists reveal the reason behind the apparently unmistakable smell of cannabis

    Date: 07-Dec-2021

    Tustin, California-(StudyFinds.org)-As marijuana becomes legal in more and more places, even non-users have to get used to a specific aspect of the drug-its smell. Although many marijuana users may like this pungent skunk smell, it may be disgusting for others. Now, a new study has discovered the cause of the unique aroma of cannabis.
    Curiously, the compounds that produce this odor in marijuana do have a lot in common with the odor that skunk sprays on enemies. A team from Abstrax Tech in California discovered a new prenylated volatile sulfur compound (VSC) that produces this odor.
    Scientists have discovered that the cannabis plant produces more than 200 unique aroma compounds. Previous research on the smell of cannabis has focused on substances called terpenoids. These molecules have a variety of odors-from fuel to wood, to citrus or floral scents.
    Different varieties of cannabis will produce different mixtures of these molecules, giving each brand a unique fragrance. So, terpenoids also produce skunk smell, right? Incorrect. Although terpenoids make up most of the aroma compounds in cannabis, the study authors state that there is little evidence that they actually produce a potential odor.
    Since the skunk uses several VSCs in its malodorous spray, lead study author Iain Oswald and the researchers suspect that these particles also play 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 odor detectors.
    After analysis, a team of four ranked the pungency of each cannabis variety on a scale of 0 to 10. The results showed that Bacio Gelato, the most spicy cannabis variety, also had the highest VSC concentration. In addition, the study authors detected seven different VSCs in this particular cannabis flower. The team also found some in other cannabis varieties tested.
    Overall, five of the VSCs have a skunk-like or sulfur smell. One of them, 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol (or VSC3), is the most common VSC detected in cannabis plants, and the team of four ranked it as the most smelly brand. Interestingly, VSC3 is a compound that scientists associate with the taste and smell of “stinky beer” or beer that has deteriorated after exposure to ultraviolet light. The team also found stinky VSC3 in cannabis concentrate, which is a common ingredient in cannabis e-cigarette products.
    Through greenhouse experiments, the study found that the intensity of prenylated VSC increases as the cannabis plant approaches the end of the flowering period. It reaches its maximum effectiveness during the curing stage, when cannabis growers place the buds in airtight containers to maintain its flavor and aroma.
    When it comes to the smell of VSC, it’s not all bad. The researchers said that the molecular structure of these compounds is similar to that in garlic, and can provide anti-cancer and heart protection benefits. The team added that these prenylated odor molecules may also have medicinal properties that scientists can extract, just like others have done with CBD, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis.
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