The cannabis plant's notorious skunky smell explained

Published Jan 29, 2019 03:03 p.m. ET
What does weed smell like? 

One of the most highly debated questions about cannabis is; why does weed smell like skunk? While it is true that many cannabis strains produce a pungent skunky aroma, there are many strains of pot that don’t possess this particular trait. Some can smell like lemon, orange, berry, or an earthier smell.

Why does weed smell like skunk?

The skunk smell so commonly associated with marijuana is produced by the same components that are responsible for other fragrances a cannabis plant could possibly contain. Marijuana plants produce something called Terpenes which have the most significant influence on the overall smell and taste of any individual strain. Terpenes are not just something marijuana plants produce. Any smelly plant like citrus, mint, or pine all contain various types of terpenes. With a large variety of terpenes that can be created, the smell and taste will be altered according to the amount of each one generally provided by a cannabis strain. For example, if you have a plant that gives off a citrus smell that what you are really smelling is called limonene which occurs naturally in almost every kind of citrus fruit.

Trichomes are also present and a primary contributor to the overall smell and taste of marijuana. Trichomes produce the various terpenes and will contain most of the chemicals that make a cannabis plant smell.

Common scent groups

The majority of these terpenes are also produced by the listed plants in nature.

Citrus - Citrus includes orange, lemon, lime, and pineapple aromas.

Red Berry - This group includes cherry, strawberry, and raspberry.

Dark Berry - Dark berry is a blueberry or blackberry scent.

Earthy - Earthy Aromas are described as smelling like dirt, trees, or plants.

Chocolate - Unfortunately, a chocolate aroma does not contain any real chocolate and is only an imitation type smell.

Bubblegum- Smells just like good old-fashioned Hubba Bubba chewing gum.

Sugar Sweet - The sugar sweet category tends to smell like candies or baked goods.

Pine - Also naturally occurring in coniferous trees like pines or evergreen trees.

How to make weed smell stronger

If you are looking for ways to improve and increase the aroma that your cannabis plant will produce, there are a few neat tricks that you can try out.

1. Nutrients and supplements

The only hassle with supplements is that you must be sure you are using the correct one for your plant’s current growth stage. During the flowering period, it is best to use formulated supplements that contain low amounts of nitrogen. Avoid chemical supplements or nutrients whenever possible and always perform a rise cycle consisting of at least six weeks that the plants are no longer receiving the nutrients before harvesting.

2. Increased light exposure

UVB lights are specifically marketed for their ability to enhance a plant’s smell. Any improvement in light conditions will not only increase the potency of your plant but they will also improve the smell and taste.

3. Living soil

AKA super soil is full of microorganisms that will help to break down and feed nutrients directly into your plant as it grows. The more nutrients a plant receives the more trichomes and terpenes the plant will in turn produce.

4. Climate control

Temperature and humidity are two of the most controllable variables when growing indoors. When growing outdoors, the specific temperatures are more critical because there is no way to intervene. A cannabis plant requires an average temperature of 24 C and should drop no lower than 15 C at night.

5. Cure time

Curing if done too quickly can degrade and destroy the precious terpenes you are looking to improve on. Drying should be done very slowly at a consistent temperature of 70 F. The preferred method of curing is in glass jars, in a dark, room temperature space with lower than 30% humidity levels.

6. Pick a strain

Every single one of these tips will improve a marijuana plants overall health, therefore, increasing its ability to produce some of the healthiest and strongest smelling buds, but none of them will alter a plant’s genetics. To get the most enjoyable potent smelling plant you will want to start with a strain that is known for its ability to produce an aroma that you would enjoy most. This part comes down to individual preference. Luckily most online seed banks advertise all the characteristics of a plant as it grows including the smell and flavor it will likely give off.

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