What Gives Marijuana It's Various Flavors? Why Terpenoids, Of Course.


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By Mark Stone

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Master growers manipulate terpenoids to give their prized buds amazing aromas.

Master growers manipulate terpenoids to give their prized buds amazing aromas.
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" Terpenoids are more than just pretty smells. "

High-performance medical marijuana gardeners have been hearing a lot about terpenoids lately. Terpenoids are responsible for the various aromas found in cannabis. Curious growers who dig into the subject, however, can quickly find themselves lost in a world of chemistry jargon. While all the science is interesting, what people really want to know is, "why do terpenoids matter in their ganja garden?"

To answer that question we first need to understand that cannabis, like its cousin hops, is a terpenoid producing machine. Most plants known to produce terpenoids, like eucalyptus, rose and lemongrass, only make a handful of different types. Cannabis can produce hundreds of types of terpenoids, making the number of combinations ostensibly limitless. This trait alone makes growing cannabis more interesting than growing almost any other plant. Terpenoids are more than just pretty smells though.

Vitamin A, Beta-Carotene, Lycopene and Lutein are all terpenoids. They range in their activity from simple smells, to essential nutrients, to the very building blocks of our DNA. Some terpenoids can regulate and modify human emotions. Even the much loved cannabinoids are a product of a reaction between two terpenoids (Geranyl pyrophosphate and Olivetol). But all terpenoids start in a similar fashion: isoprene building blocks.

Isoprene is found in almost all lifeforms and is considered one of the basic building blocks of biology. Specifically, isopentenly pyrophosphate or IPP... but that hardly matters. What matters is that this basic chemical "skeleton" is modified time and time again to make all the various terpenoids. Supporting this sort of complicated chemical process is no simple task. Most nutrient supplements used to improve quality are trying in one way or another to improve the rate at which your plants can produce these compounds. With this information in hand, it's not hard to see why supplements like enzymes and carbohydrates provide the building blocks needed for an increase in potency and aroma.

Various forms of hummus and compost contain these "building blocks" in high numbers. Gardeners can even control what "blocks" their ganja has available by making composts out of different plants high in certain terpenoids. This doesn't mean you can completely change the terpenoids and smells produced by your favorite strains directly, but you can influence them. In other words, making a compost out of apples and feeding it to your favorite girls won't guarantee they'll come out smelling like apple, but it could make a noticeable and somewhat predictable effect.

Many of these terpenoids are almost identical in their chemical structure but smell very different. For instance, Myrcene, found in mango, pineapple and most cannabis, is chemically similar to Myrcenol, which is found in lavender. Mango obviously has a different smell than lavender. If a particular strain of cannabis makes a lot of lavender smells naturally, feeding compost made from mangoes would likely increase that plant's lavender smell. Here's a list of important terpenoids and where they exist in other plants. Maybe begin to experiment to see if you can inject some of these flavors into your buds:

Myrcene: Mango,  anise, pineapple, wild thyme, ylang-ylang, bay leaves, lemon, licorice, vanilla
Myrcenol: Lavender, hops
Linalool: Mints, laurels, cinnamon, rosewood, citrus fruits
Geraniol: Rose, geranium, lemon
Citral: Geranial (citral A) and Neral (citral B): Lemon balm, lemon myrtle, lemongrass, lime, lemon, orange
Citronellol: Rose, lemongrass, lemon balm
Limonene: Orange, lemon, grapefruit, currant, Muscat grape, aniseed oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper,  caraway, cardamon
Delta-Limonene: Coriander
Menthol: Mints
Alpha-Terpineol: Lilac, pine, hyacinth
Camphene: Basil, curry, tarragon, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, thyme, pepper, sage, anise, cedar.
Beta-Pinene: Pine, lemon, conifers (cone-bearing), rosemary, parsley, dill, basil, yarrow, rose, cumin
Alpha-Pinene: Pine, lemon, conifers, lemon, rosemary, eucalyptus

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