Scientists Have Found Some New And Unique Molecules That Give Cannabis Its Pungent, Distinct Odor

A new study has come and revealed the discovery of an entirely new family of sulfur compounds that explains the unique smell experienced coming from these molecules. They have a similar structure to the molecules present in garlic.

 In this study, the focus is kept on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD). Besides them, there are also plenty of other molecules in this deeply complex plant. It specifically targets cannabis’ distinct pungent odor.

Usually, terpenes are the substances that are responsible for cannabis’s aroma that makes it smell like pine or lavender. However, all of the substances responsible for its odor were never found before.

“To ameliorate this issue,” the researchers explain in their newly published study, “we employed a custom-built comprehensive 2-dimensional gas chromatography (2DGC) system with three detectors operating simultaneously: A time-of-flight mass spectrometer (TOF-MS), flame ionization detector (FID), and sulfur chemiluminescence detector (SCD).”


The research worked on volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) that bring unique smells for plants like hops and garlic. The stinky spray of skunks is also containing VSCs majorly.

“The combination of multiple detectors, in tandem with 2DGC to analyze cannabis, gave us the tools needed to parse through data and identify trends between certain compounds and the aromas of various cannabis cultivars,” explains lead author on the new study, Iain Oswald. “Our data conclusively establishes a link between this new family of VSCs in cannabis and its pungent aroma.”

“I have suspected for years now that we were missing something in our understanding of this plant,” says another co-author on the study, Josh Del Rosso. “Although terpenes have been hailed as the major source of the pungent scent of cannabis, we now know that it is this new class of VSCs.”

“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,” notes Del Rosso.

A look at the molecular similarities between these newly discovered cannabis compounds and those found in garlic

The plants were found to have the highest levels of VSCs when the plants were at the end of their growth cycle. The climax was reached at the end of an 11-day curing process after harvest. Once the plant gets stored, the levels drop fast.

“These results prove that cannabis producers are racing against time when it comes to getting quality products into customers’ hands,” says Koby. “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 the shelf.”

The new research was published in the journal ACS Omega.

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