skunk weed

The Science of Skunk Weed: Why Does Marijuana Smell Like That?

by Kasey Donovan

Despite the growing legalization, acceptance and popularity of weed, scientists are only beginning to comprehend some of the chemical compounds found in cannabis, including hundreds of cannabinoids and terpenes. One common question about marijuana is, “Why does weed smell like skunk?” And science has just discovered the answer.

The surprising findings, published by the American Chemical Society, show there are similarities in compounds found in both cannabis and garlic. Let’s dive deeper into the science of skunk weed.

Volatile Sulfur Compounds: What Are They?

Structural chemical formula of allicin molecule with raw garlic. Allicin is an organosulfur compound found in fresh garlic, has antimicrobial activity, reduce blood pressure, may help cut cholesterol.

According to the recent study, eye-poppingly titled “Identification of a New Family of Prenylated Volatile Sulfur Compounds in Cannabis Revealed by Comprehensive Two-Dimensional Gas Chromatography,” the odor of cannabis is due to chemicals known as volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). The unique VSCs detected in cannabis are similar to those found in garlic.

VSCs are also found in hops and — you guessed it — skunk spray. 

How VSCs Create Weed That Smells Like Skunk 

The analysis looked at cannabis flower and concentrates and found four unique VSCs, “which have not been identified in nature,” labeled as VSC3 through VSC7. These cannabis compounds share a strikingly similar structure to garlic-derived VSCs. This is significant because garlic VSCs may have some major health benefits. It’s not clear whether cannabis-derived VSCs possess the same health benefits, but the researchers are calling for further investigation on this topic.

“[I]dentification of the reported VSCs definitively confirms the chemical origins of the odor of cannabis and provides a new family of secondary metabolites that can be investigated regarding their biosynthetic pathways and medicinal benefits,” they write.

According to the study, VSC3 is the primary compound responsible for the skunky smell found in multiple cannabis strains. However, the smell can become stronger when paired with other VSCs like VSC5. This is notable because VSC3 and VSC5 are commonly found together in concentrates and extracts. Now we know why cannabis extract (not just flower) can smell like skunk.

What about Terpenes?

Terpenes aren’t VSCs; they’re classified as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In a similar way, terpenes help give cannabis its aroma — but they don’t seem to play a major role in weed that smells like skunk. Instead, terpenes are primarily responsible for cannabis aromas that can be described as citrusy, earthy, peppery, piny, floral and spicy. 

Extracting VSCs into Vape Oil

Can VSCs be found in cannabis vape oil? Well, not all vapes are created equal. Most extraction processes rely on high temperatures to capture THC while burning off essential terpenes and other delicate compounds. Then, terpenes are reintroduced artificially. 

On the other hand, Mistifi’s Hi-Phi Extraction technology provides a pure vape oil, complete with all desirable compounds found in the natural flower. Hi-Phi Extraction uses low heat and high pressure to preserve cannabinoids, terpenes and VSCs into the final product. The end result is an extra virgin cannabis oil full of rich compounds for a truly full-spectrum experience. 

Mistifi vape pens are created specifically for cannabis flower connoisseurs. Learn more about our premium vape pen and extra virgin cannabis oil.

Kasey Donovan is a copywriting specialist, music lover, and cannabis enthusiast. In his free time he is having fun with his son Atticus, wife Jesse, and two corgi-mixes, Zira and Ellie.


ACS Publications – Identification of a New Family of Prenylated Volatile Sulfur Compounds in Cannabis Revealed by Comprehensive Two-Dimensional Gas Chromatography

Molecules – Health Benefits of Plant-Derived Sulfur Compounds, Glucosinolates, and Organosulfur Compounds

Science Alert – Great News, Scientists Finally Figured Out Why Cannabis Smells ‘Skunky’

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *





Join the flower lover’s community by MISTIFI™. Designed with you in mind, you will receive exclusives first, special offers from MISTIFI™, news, and local event invites in your area. Subscribe now.
Congrats. You are now officially a part of the Exclusive MISTIFI™ Cannabis Connoisseur Club. Please check your email to confirm. We will be sending you news, events, special offers, and more very soon…
Exclusives Pop-up
Checkboxes *