Scientists Just Figured Out What Makes Cannabis So Flavorful

A recently published study explores the genetics responsible for the flavors of different weed strains.

For some enthusiasts, one of the most enjoyable aspects of consuming cannabis is the taste of weed. Indeed the piney sapidity of a pungent sativa, or savory zing of a freshly harvested indica never gets old, and can set off one's olfactory and gustatory senses with an incendiary fervor.

Surmise to say: Weed is flavorful AF.

Though surely a unique zest is present among marijuana's myriad strains. Weed's multitude of flavors, musk and twang are determined by oils secreted by the plant, known as terpenes. And according to a just-published study in the journal PLOS One, conducted by University of British Columbia researchers, there are at least "30 terpene synthase genes that contribute to diverse flavours in cannabis.”

Think of said flavor-enabling terpenes that exist within weed plants as you would the genes in grapes that will later become wine. These terpenes “play a role in producing natural products like limonene, myrcene, and pinene in the cannabis plants.”

Image via University of British Columbia

This insight into the relationship between terpenes and taste also holds value for members of the legal cannabis industry––cultivators, distributors, retailers.

“The goal is to develop well-defined and highly-reproducible cannabis varieties,” study collaborator and UBC professor Jörg Bohlmann said to the UBC news. “Our genomics work can inform breeders of commercial varieties, which genes to pay attention to for specific flavour qualities.”

Terpenes influence what consumers, enthusiasts and connoisseurs love most about cannabis. According to study collaborator and UBC graduate student Judith Booth, “The limonene compound produces a lemon-like flavour and myrcene produces the dank, earthy flavour characteristic of purple kush.” 

As KINDLAND has previously covered, good weed would just be weed, if not for terpenes:

“Pinene is the most common terpene in all plants, smells like pine needles, helps asthma, and is prominent in Jack Herer and Super Silver Haze. FOCUS.

Linalool smells like spring flowers with a spicy hint, good for anxiety and is also found in lavender! LA Confidential and Haze are full of linalool and in oil form it’s great for burns and acne. RELAXING.

Myrcene is the most prevalent in cannabis, smells like cloves, treats spasms, insomnia, and pain, is found in mango and hops and in strains like White Widow and Pure Kush. SLEEPY.

Limonene is also found in the rinds of citrus fruits, smells like lemon, is found in rosemary and juniper, helps mood and gastrointestinal issues and can be found in OG Kush and Super Lemon Haze. ENERGY.

Beta-caryophyllene is the only terpene that interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, smells spicy, is good for anti-inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, is found in black pepper cloves and cotton, and is in strains like Trainwreck. BODY BUZZ.”

As cannabis evolves from an illicit drug into a mainstream commodity, the ability to differentiate between strains, and the factors that go into any variations among the different classifications of weed, is paramount for entrepreneurs who might aspire to patent unique marijuana products.

A certifiable genetic signature, hinted at by the smell and flavor of the strain, can make regulatory compliance processes less complicated, and provides additional merit to the data being input into seed-to-sale tracking systems. 

Image via Flickr

More so, the capability for retailers to verify that the product inside the packaging is labeled correctly, based on smell and taste, also provides peace of mind for those seeking specific elicited effects, a practice and preference that is trending among modern consumers.

“There is a need for high-quality and consistent products made from well-defined varieties,” Booth told the university press. Though he and his team also note the need for further studying the role of terpene compounds in regard to effects felt when consumed.

From Leafly:

“In the past few decades, most cannabis varieties have been bred to contain high levels of THC, and as a result, other cannabinoids like CBD have fallen to just trace amounts. This has led many to believe that terpenes may play a key role in differentiating the effects of various cannabis strains. . . Most importantly, terpenes may offer additional medical value as they mediate our body’s interaction with therapeutic cannabinoids.”

Next time you twist up a jay-bird and put it to your lips for a pull before it gets lit, and your tongue comes alive with the glory of ganja, think of the terpene compounds that made that moment possible.