Get to know about the smelly, fragrant and somewhat stinky medicinal terpenes in your marijuana.

Skunk smell means there are a lot of terpenes about.


"The answer very often is yes.  Strong smelling skunky weed is high in terpenes, many of which are highly medicinal, some stimulating, others super relaxing."


Happy or Sad - Choose the Right Cannabis - Marijuana


When entering a dispensary, the first thing that you notice is the strong skunky smell of marijuana.  Nearly all of the popular strains, Sour Diesel, OG Kush, Blue Dream, Jack Herer, AK-47, White Widow, contain large quantities of the same aromatic terpenes.  And it is true, that a strong smell correlates with potency.  Indica and dominant hybrids are especially skunky in their smell.


"Marijuana’s bouquet is a riot of perfumes (terpenes) which play an important role in THC's tricky psychoactivity."


David Watson, the "creator" of the original hybrid Skunk #1, was among the first to recognize the importance of aromatic terpenes that significantly contribute and modify the impact of THC. Terpenes, or terpenoids, are the ingredients in cannabis that give the plant its pungent smell. To be sure, THC and the other cannabinoids themselves do give off any smell - at all.  It is the unique combination of terpenes and terpenoids that give a strain its characteristic smell.


Watson and partner Bob Clarke broke new ground in marijuana horticulture when they crossed, double crossed and triple crossed thousands of cannabis strains, selecting only a few that demonstrated desirable traits.  One of the deciding factors in choosing to keep a new variant strain was the smell.  Generally speaking, the more pungent, the more terpenes that are present.  Watson went on to compare the effects of pure THC as compared to 50/50 THC and terpene infused resin.  It turned out that the THC with terpenes was significantly more potent than THC alone.

Terpenes or essential oils are small molecules, particularly abundant in flowers and plant oils, which readily float in the air and are detected in the nose, giving off an assortment of aromas, that of pine, petroleum, fruit, citrus, skunk, mint, dirt and berries.  Essential oils have been used a long time medically in the practice of aromatherapy.  

"Cannabis buds are flowers - and the scent of all flowers comes from its constituent terpenes and terpenoids."


Terpenes are ingredients in the human diet for thousands of years.  For what its worth,  the US Food and Drug Administration has declared the obvious, Terpenes are generally recognized as safe to consume.  


Many terpenoids dilate capillaries in the lungs, enabling smoked or vaporized THC to better enter the bloodstream.   


"Terpenoids and cannabinoids work in part by increasing blood flow, which enhances cortical activity to help kill respiratory pathogens – including MSRA, the antibiotic-resistant bacteria."

More than 20,000 terpenes have been catalogued.  There are several types, monoterpenes (5 carbon atoms), diterpenes (two bonded 5 carbon atoms) and sesquiterpenes (plenty of 5 carbon atoms). The five-carbon molecule in question is called isoprene, the building block of terpenes and many other organic compounds.

More than two hundred terpenes have been discovered in the cannabis plant.  Only a handful are in concentrations high enough to contribute to the smell.  The concentration of terpenes varies from strain to strain, which is reflected in the name of the strain, Sour Diesel, True Blueberry, smell just like they are labeled.


Terpenes in plants give them a competitive advantage.  They have antimicrobial properties; anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal. Flower terpenes also attract insects which assists in pollination.  Some terpenes burn the membranes or have a bitter taste which discourages insects and mammals from messing with the plant's family jewels.    


"We’ve seen a dozen of samples of Trainwreck, for example, that have a consistent terpene profile, and then we examine some bud purporting to be Trainwreck, but with a terpene content that differs markedly from what we know is Trainwreck. By testing for terpenes, we can often verify if the strain is what the grower or provider says it is.” - Werc Shop’s president, Jeff Raber

Weed - Can you judge a bud by its cover?



Natural pesticides are made from the oil of neem.  Neem is an effective insecticide for a multitude of pests.  Some crafty pot farmers spray the oil of neem an rosemary on their crops, while providing an extremely healthy working environment.  


Alpha-pinene (essential pine oil), the most common plant terpene in the world and is common in cannabis.  This evergreen, piney terpene is a bronchodilator, promotes alertness and memory. Chemically, pinenes help cognition by inhibiting the breakdown neurotransmitters that provide a vital spark in the brain.

trichomes. thc, strains and the mind

Myrcene is musky and earthy smelling found in abundance in many strains of cannabis, with effects contrary to pinenes.  Myrcene is a sedative rather than a stimulant, a muscle relaxant, analgesic and anti-inflammatory.  This musky terpene is implicated in the infamous “couch-lock” effect.


Nerolidol is another sedating terpenoid that can penetrate the skin, effectively reducing pain and treat some skin disorders.  

Limonene is the major terpene found in citrus and also certain varieties of cannabis.  This terpene has been used clinically to dissolve gallstones. It's also been used for heartburn and mood improvement.  It is an anti-microbial and kills pathogenic bacteria.  It's also been found to kill breast cancer in clinical investigations.  Strains bearing the name Lemon, such as Lemon Kush are particularly high in Limonene.


!!! "Igimi H, Tamura R, Toraishi K, Yamamoto F, Kataoka A, Ikejiri Y, Hisatsugu T, Shimura H. Dig Dis Sci. 1991 Feb;36(2):200-8 Medical dissolution of gallstones. Clinical experience of d-limonene as a simple, safe, and effective solvent.  Shionogi Research Laboratories, Shionogi & Co., Ltd., Osaka, Japan. "



It is the thiols (Sulfur + Hydrogen) that is attached to different terpenes and terpenoids that account for the skunk like smell.


the components of skunk weed


sulfur = smelll = skunk


Linalool, is a the main terpenoid of lavender and has a piney floral smell.  It is found in significant quantities in some cannabis strains as well.  This terpene is known to counter anxiety,  stress by amplifies serotonin-receptor transmission.  Linalool is a strong anticonvulsant and is a folk remedy for acne and burns without scarring.

Beta-caryophyllene is the famous ingredient of black pepper oil, oregano, as well as in cannabis and some leafy vegetables. It has gastro-protective properties, which are good for treating some kinds of ulcers.  This terpene reacts with the CB2 receptor which might account for its ability to treat some kinds of autoimmune disorders.  


“Terpenes could produce synergy with the cannabinoids in the treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal, and bacterial infections.”

The pharmaceutical industry has produced synthetic THC, which lacks terpenes and other cannabinoids that modulate and enhance its effects.  This is why, 90% plus patients prefer natural herb.


“A terpene analysis is like a fingerprint, it can tell you if it’s the same strain under different names. We can see strains going by different names that have the same terpene profile. We now know those strains are identical.” - Werc Shop’s president, Jeff Raber

the terpene wheel of fortune


The cannabis industry has to look at the fact that in processing, the oil extraction process, most of the terpenes are lost with heating.  This is the type of problem with traditional food processing, the natural ingredients are altered, degraded and nutritional components are destroyed.  


To compensate, artificial flavor, sweeteners, pretty packaging and other tricks are used to convince a gullible public that their product is wholesome or even "organic".  With that said, the cannabinoids themselves are "tough" and are not lost during any kind of reasonable heating process,  To be sure, cannabinoid acids - like THCA and CBDA convert to a more bioactive form.  THC after heating as we all know becomes psychoactive, while the raw herbal form THCA does nothing to the CB1 receptor, which means it is entirely non-psychoactive.


Back to terpenes.  The theme that is revealed over and over again, a mixture of terpenes and cannabinoids are more medicinal than THC alone.  It is strongly recommended that manufacturers of cannabis based medicines find ways to use lower temperatures to extract the cannabinoids.  When heating is required, a process should be used to collect the volatile terpenes and infuse them back into the final product.  



An interesting and cost effective way to add back the terpenes is to use mixtures of essential oils collected from other plants as well. Customized mixtures of terpenes could be prepared to meet the unique needs of individuals.  Add just a few drops to your weed or oil and off you go.


the terpene wheel of cannabis


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D-limonene Dissolution of Gallstones

Retained gallstones in the bile ducts account for 60-70% of all the cases of postcholecystectomy syndromes. A solvent d-limonene preparation was injected directly to the biliary system of 200 patients to dissolve or disintegrate the retained gallstones. The outcomes were: retained stones completely disappeared in 96 cases (48%); partial dissolution in 29 (14.5%); chelating agent was also used with partial dissolution in 16 (8%); ineffective in 59 (24.5%). To make this method more effective, several guidelines should be observed including an in vitro trial dissolution test. Cautious observation for possible side effects and frequent hepatic and pancreatic function tests during the treatment with this preparation also should be performed.


D-Limonene: Help for Digestion, Metabolism, Detoxification, Anxiety & Breast Cancer Prevention

An eye opener, a must read for anyone interested in the benefits of health.


Cannabis’ Entourage Effect: Why THC- and CBD-Only Medicines Aren’t Good Enough

THC-only medicines primarily refer to synthetic renderings of THC, the two most popular being Marinol (dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone). These are legal pharmaceuticals primarily prescribed to treat cancer-related nausea, but their efficacy is questionable. A 2011 survey on forms of consumption found only 1.8% of 953 patients prefer synthetic THC pharmaceuticals over inhaled or infused......



It is becoming increasingly apparent, terpenes and other ingredients of medical alter the effect of THC. Weed that devoid of balancing terpenes and cannabinoids such as CBD, can cause anxiety and paranoia, rather than cure it.  A simple home experiment by Neil Young, who is in his 60s discovered that the terpenes in black pepper stopped paranoia.  Young's findings went viral and attracted attention to many studies about terpenes in marijuana, that were collecting virtual dust in the internet medical annals...


The founding father of Cannabis Based Medicines - Dr. Raphael Mechoulam

"We discovered and named the entourage effect quite a few years ago. But it has never been investigated in a clinical trial. I believe that it is of value. But so is CBD alone." - direct quote of Raphael Mechoulam:  How about Strains high in THC - up to 35%?

"They are very valuable for the growers. Much less so in the hands of recreational users." - Dr. Raphael Mechoulam



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