What The Science Behind Cannabis Smell Reveals

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When it comes to the smell of cannabis, few things are as instantly recognizable as the pungent odour. The plant’s scent is a key element of its identity, so much so that it’s often referred to as ‘the smell of freedom.’ Scientists have known for some time that our sense of smell is deeply linked to memory and emotion. In fact, odour has been shown to influence mood in such an immediate way that it can even trigger or inhibit emotional responses. So what does this mean for your cannabis experience? From the moment you unpack your grow kit, to when you light up outside and during every moment in between, there are several factors at play with regards to how strong and distinct your smell will be when you consume cannabis. Here we explore everything you need to know about how cannabis smells and how this plays a role in your experience each time you light up.

What Does Cannabis Smell Like?

The pungent odour of cannabis plants is generated by several compounds including terpenes, cytoplasmic polymers and volatile amines. Terpenes are responsible for the plant’s specific scent, while volatile amines are what give cannabis its characteristic odour. When it comes to the specific blend of scents and flavours found in each strain, different varieties produce slightly different odours. And while the smell of cannabis can vary significantly between strains and even between different parts of the same plant, there are some general descriptions that can help you identify what you’re smelling.

  • Sour – Sour odours are often associated with sativa strains, which feature strong flavours of citrus, including orange, grapefruit, and lemon. Indica strains, by comparison, are often described as smelling earthy, with flavours of wood and sweet hash.
  • Herbal – Herbal flavours are often associated with indica strains, with some smelling of both herbs and cannabis at once.
  • Flavours – Some cannabis strains also have flavours of fruit, bread, or other foods. This can often vary greatly between strains.

Chemistry Behind The Catchy Smell Of Cannabis

There are numerous chemical compounds that create the aroma of cannabis, with volatile amines, terpenes, and cytoplasmic polymers all playing an important role. Volatile amines are what give the plant’s scent its characteristic odour. They’re produced by the breakdown of amino acids that occur naturally in the plant and are also thought to be responsible for the characteristic ‘skunky’ smell of nuggets and other aged, overly dry cannabis. Terpenes are essential oils found in many plants, including cannabis. They play an important role in the plant’s scent, contributing to the aroma by influencing the olfactory receptors in the nose and brain. Cytoplasmic polymers are an oddity—they’re not seen in the plant’s exterior, so how they affect the smell of cannabis is unclear. What we do know is that they’re produced by the plant and they could be playing a role in the scent that different cannabis strains produce.

How Lighting & Ventilation Affects Your Cannabis Smell

Your cannabis smell is affected by a number of factors including lighting, ventilation, humidity, and even the temperature in your grow room. Each of these things has an impact on the strength of your cannabis smell.

  • Lighting – The type of lighting used in your grow room has a significant effect on your smell. Too little light, and you risk producing skunk-like odour from your cannabis—a potent smell that’s reminiscent of old, dried-out bud. Too much light, however, can result in a ‘skunky’ scent, which is reminiscent of petrol or raw gas.
  • Humidity – Humidity is one of the factors that shapes the scent of your cannabis. Too high a humidity, and your bud will often smell sour or ‘skunky’ due to the increased presence of volatile amines and terpenes. Too low a moisture, and your buds will often have a bland or ‘woody’ scent.
  • Temperature – The temperature in your grow room is also a factor that affects the strength of your smell. Too low a temperature, and you risk your buds smelling ‘woody.’ Too high a temperature, however, and your cannabis may end up smelling ‘skunky,’ reminiscent of gas or petrol.

Summing Up

While the smell of cannabis is what’s most noticeable, it’s only one part of the equation. What’s really important to remember is that your taste buds, lighting, growing conditions, and flavour of your bud all have an impact on your cannabis experience. When it comes to how strong your scent is, it’s important to remember that the strongest scents aren’t always the best – especially if you’re looking for a strong and distinct smell that’s easy to identify from a distance. With this in mind, it’s important to take all aspects of your cannabis experience into account when choosing your next bowl.  Visit online dispensary for all your cannabis needs.


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