Most people are familiar with the distinctive smell of marijuana — it’s almost always described as resembling skunk. As hemp is just another type of cannabis, its flowers have much the same smell. However, if you turn your attention to the aroma, you’ll notice that each type of hemp flower actually has its own distinct scent.
The Different Scents of Hemp Flower
In other many industries, it’s common to have a specific lexicon to aid in describing different varieties of a product. For instance, coffee has words like nutty, smoky, and berry-like; if you’re talking about wine, you use descriptors like tart, fresh, or crisp.
Although there is no official language for hemp flowers, it’s easy to argue that the same should be true for the CBD industry. There are, in fact, so many words that do accurately describe hemp flowers that it’s best to divide them into categories:
- Natural — earthy, herbal, woody
- Pungent — tea, sage, cheese
- Fruity — sweet, lemon, grapefruit
- Flowery — lavender, rose, violet
- Chemical — diesel, tar, ammonia
What Impacts the Aroma of CBD Flowers?
The smell of hemp flowers comes from terpenes in the plant. Terpenes are in all types of plants to varying extents — you’re experiencing the effect of terpenes when you smell flowers or fresh fruit, for example. They’re also the main ingredient in essential oils. Terpenes occur naturally to protect plants from predators and to attract insects to pollinate flowers.
Researchers have identified at least 100 terpenes in cannabis, but only some are present in a great enough quantity to be significant. These terpenes have a stronger odor when hemp flowers are left to boom for a long time. Harvesting CBD flowers early, in contrast, leads to flowers with a milder scent.
Why Smell Matters
The scent of CBD flowers is important because it influences how the person consuming the hemp feels about the product. It determines whether someone will be interested in trying the hemp flower in the first place and how much they are willing to spend.
In particular, people believe that hemp flowers have more CBD (and are therefore more expensive) when the smell is more potent. For the same reason, they are more likely to want to try the product. As terpenes are distinct from CBD, the potency of the scent cannot actually tell you how much CBD the flower has. It can, however, tell you something about quality.
When you smell a hemp flower, it should have a distinct aroma that you can easily describe. Detecting the nuances of the aroma does take some practice, but you should be able to identify the main scents. If a hemp flower lacks an aroma entirely or smells like hay, avoid it — this is an indication of low quality.
How the Smell Changes When Smoking Hemp Flowers
There are also differences in scent before and after you burn CBD flowers. The dried hemp flower already smells much stronger than most types of dried flowers. When you burn hemp flower, it gives off an even more intense smell, due to the smoke. You may find that you are able to better identify the terpenes. Bear in mind, there will also be an odor of fire, smoke, ash, and paper added to the mix.
Benefits of Terpenes
Terpenes not only produce a smell — they also provide specific health benefits. Sometimes they work with CBD or other cannabinoids to increase therapeutic effects of the hemp flower in what is called the entourage effect. Learning to recognize different aromas or even reading the profiles of hemp strains will give you a better idea of what to expect from various CBD flowers.
Some principal terpenes to look out for include the following.
Responsible for a pine scent, pinene is present in the wood of conifer trees as well as some hemp flowers. It acts as both an antioxidant and an antibacterial. It has also long been a staple in Chinese medicine, particularly for alleviating conditions like asthma.
Producing a lemon scent, limonene is a top choice if you’re looking for a solution for depression or inflammation. Limonene may also help with acid reflux and improve your mood. You’ll find limonene in many CBD products because it improves the absorption rate of other terpenes.
Although it has a mango scent, myrcene also contributes to the skunk smell in cannabis. It acts as a relaxant, helping with insomnia, pain, and inflammation. In addition to hemp flowers, myrcene is in mangoes, hops, and thyme.
Hemp strains with bisabolol can have a scent ranging from floral or fruity all the way to nutty. Some even smell like coconut. Bisabolol is useful for its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-irritant properties. It can also work as a relaxant.
The entourage effect is particularly pronounced in linalool, which has strong analgesic and antidepressant effects when combined with CBD. Found in lavender, the terpene contributes the same floral scent and calming benefits in hemp flowers.
Guaiol is another terpene that smells of pine, but this time with a touch of rose. Although it’s not one of the major terpenes in hemp flowers, guaiol appears frequently in other natural medicine as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. It also occurs in an evergreen tree called guaiacum and the cypress pine.
One of the most common terpenes in cannabis, caryophyllene has a peppery or spicy scent. You may recognize the aroma from cloves and rosemary. Caryophyllene is especially useful for treating chronic pain.
Another common terpene, humulene is also found in hops. It gives hemp flowers a beer-like smell. Strains with humulene are an excellent choice if you’re looking for an appetite suppressant.
Terpinolene is present in numerous flowers, trees, herbs, and fruits, providing a scent that has elements of citric, pine, and floral tones. You’ll rarely see terpinolene named as a main terpene in hemp strains, but it’s important to know about for all its health benefits. As well as being an antioxidant, anti-stressor, and antifungal, there’s evidence that terpinolene slows tumor growth, particularly of brain cancers.