Welcome to the fourth in a series of answers to queries directly from readers—all of which come in at exactly 420 words (out of respect to your time).
To set the mood, just listen to Cab Calloway tell you how it is…in 1932 (five years before cannabis became illegal in the United States).
Today’s cannabis query comes from Danielle Muggli, an actor and advocate for cannabis legalization in Montana. Danielle asks: “Do you know if there is a specific terpene that smells skunky or if it is a combination of terpenes?”
Great question, Danielle.
For queries regarding the chemistry of cannabis, I turn to my friends who are extraction wizards. In this case, I inquired with Sean Gee, founder of Medusa Labs in Los Angeles. Medusa Labs is an innovative startup that produces top-shelf cannabis extracts, including distillates. The company synthesizes its own terpenes and injects them into the distillate, with a focus on quality and medical efficacy.
I guessed that more than a single terpene is responsible the “skunk” aroma of some strains of cannabis. With 111 cannabinoids and 200 terpenes possible in an individual strain of marijuana, one must remember that this chemistry gets relatively complex. (In addition, expert Mara Gordon estimates there are 6,000 strains of cannabis.)
“You’re right on the money: It’s a mix of terpenes, led by myrcene, carophyllene (BCP), limonene, linalool, and pinene. These are all bonded together by the metabolic compound called Pre-ACOA (Acetyl Coenzyme A).
“That specific compound is hard to study because it’s a byproduct. In order to find the skunk-specific compound within the larger terpene compound, one must isolate that specific byproduct in relation to the terpene compounds that exhibit flavor and smell.”
By the way, there are chemicals in cannabis other than cannabinoids and terpenes that influence how humans perceive the herb. Chiefly, there are flavonoids, which—as their name implies—convey flavor.
One must always remember the issue of subjectivity whenever considering cannabis efficacy. Sativa strains typically are energizing and uplifting, while indica strains may cause lethargy or couchlock (although they’re typically better at things like killing pain). Some patients and consumers, however, react very differently.
There you are, Danielle: Many terpenes delicately co-mingle in a complex dance to create a unique aroma or flavor in a particular strain of cannabis. Sometimes this mix results in a “skunk” aroma.
Click here for a list of 18 articles I’ve written about terpenes for a variety of media outlets.
All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003-2017 Gooey Rabinski. All Rights Reserved.
Gooey Rabinski is a technical writer, photographer, and compliance documentation specialist for cannabis businesses who has contributed feature articles to magazines and media outlets such as High Times, CannaBiz Journal, MERRY JANE, Emerald Magazine, Grow Magazine, Herb.co, The Kind, Skunk, Cannabis Culture, Whaxy, Heads, Weed World, Green Flower Media, Cannabis Health Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself.
He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle.