We
all know the smell of cannabis. Well, those who know… know.

Some
would describe it as pungent, others as delicious. Regardless of your stance,
the scent is undeniable. The smell of cannabis is easily detectable and
immediately noticeable. It is one of its most well-known features, even among
non-cannabis users. But why does cannabis smell the way it does? Why is it so strong? Why can it smell like
different things?

All
thanks goes to one organic compound that is found naturally within the plant.
Terpenes. Terpenes are hydrocarbons, a chemical compound consisting of just
hydrogen and carbon. They have been discovered in a lot of different plants,
like rosemary, mangoes, and cinnamon, just to name a few. Cannabis though, has
over 100 different terpenes.

Cannabis Magazine - Emiliano Vittoriosi photo

It’s all about the terpenes

Terpenes
are fragrant oils located within the trichomes of cannabis, trichomes are the
“frosty” mushroom-like crystals everyone loves to see on their bud. Trichomes
serve as a defense mechanism for cannabis in nature. The terpenes will give off
their smell, and protect the cannabis plant from animals or insects.

Cannabis
connoisseurs though, can smell these terpenes and determine a lot about the
kind of bud it is. For example, limonene is one of cannabis’s terpenes. It is
also the second most common terpene found in nature. Limonene kind of sounds
like the word “lemon”, and that is because this terpene is responsible for
giving some strains of cannabis its citrusy notes. Wedding Cake, Black Cherry
Soda, and Banana OG are just a few of the strains that are typically high in
limonene.

Myrcene,
linalool, caryophyllene, and pinene are all other examples of common terpenes
found in the cannabis plant. Their famous aromas, respectively, are: earthy,
floral, spicy, and piney. Myrcene and its earthy smell is the most common kind
of terpene found in the cannabis plant. One Swiss study showed that it is
responsible for up to 50% of the terpenes found in cannabis. You can find high
levels of myrcene in popular strains like OG Kush, Granddaddy Purple, and Blue
Dream. It is a common terpene in indica strains.

Not just the smell

Though
the aroma of terpenes is its most notable characteristic, each terpene also
comes with a host of its own effects and medicinal properties. Limonene can
provide users with an elevated mood and stress-relief. It is believed to have
anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties. Limonene has also
been shown to impair the growth of tumors in lab rats. Upon the discovery of
this information, human clinical trials were conducted using limonene as a
means to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors in humans. These studies have
shown great potential.

But
perhaps one of the coolest terpenes of the bunch is caryophyllene. It is the
only known terpene to also act as a cannabinoid, binding to CB2 receptors in
the endocannabinoid system. It provides anti-inflammatory effects and is also
found in black pepper and cinnamon, hence it’s “spicy” smell.

Well, friends. There you have it. The reason behind the smell. Terpenes. And it’s been terpenes all along. Who knew? They protect the plant from harm and provide us with some pretty awesome benefits, too.


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