The Flavors of cannabis

I was asked for an opinion on the flavors and smells, sometimes unpleasant, of certain samples of cannabis. First I would like to remind people of the difference of genetic inheritance in Cannabis and the incredible richness of flavors and perfumes that different plants could have, even from the same variety. Specifically telling about flavours, there are varieties of Cannabis with flavors that go from the one of the sweetest fruit to the most repulsing of spoiled meat, from the one like a pine scented cleaning product to the one like chocolate, and again to the one like children’s vitamins.
There are varieties of bud that can be tasted with flavors that remind you of every existing fruit, including strawberries, grapes, peaches, lemons, limes, raspberries, blueberries, mulberries, mangos, cherries, oranges, bananas, melons, tangerines, eggs, and flavors used to cook with like mint, basil, sage, rosemary and thyme.
In Cannabis there are approximately 120 terpenes, 60 terpenoids and 20 flavonoids, flying substances responsible for the flavours and the psycho active effects that, interacting with each other in different concentrated amounts, determine the different flavours.

The statement “You are what you eat…” works also with plants. If these are nourished with substances directly assimilated, without the need to be be transformed in different compounds from the enzymes and the other micro-organisms in the soil and in the roots, the same flavours will transfer to our plants. This fertilizing substances will surely be useful for a quicker growth, since they are immediately available; but if used for the whole life of the plant they will surely have an influence on the final flavour.

This factor is particularly visible in the case of hydroponic cultivations (where plants have to be nourished with directly assimilated fertilizers) with plants that get to the point where they don’t have that distinctive flavour of that particular variety anymore, but the flavour of that particular brand of fertilizers. To avoid that inconvenience from happening, a good thing to do is to use different kinds of brands and different forms of mixed nourishments, this way you won’t have flavors that are too “branded”, and you will avoid a pile up of single toxic substances.

The use of organic nourishments is definitely preferred as supposed to synthesis fertilizers: tests made from “biological” firms comparing fertilizers exclusively “bio” with others of synthesis, resulted in having plants grown “bio” that were definitely richer with terpenes and therefore with more marked flavours, even if the quantity of production was as a result lightly inferior to the plants chemically grown.

In a work of 1976 (Marshmann et al.) Jamaican plants cultivated with organic fertilizers and some others cultivated in a non-organic way were analyzed. The plants organically cultivated contained 79% more THC of the ones non-organically cultivated. The organic crops cause less laryngitis for smokers than the crops chemically fertilized (Clarke, 1996). The Cannabis cultivated in a hydroponic way, chemically fertilized, has a higher concentration of molybdenum than the crops coming directly from the soil (Watling, 1998). Not all organic fertilizers are non-risks…practically all liquid fertilizers from leaves, including fish emulsions, contain nitrates. Cannabis leaves convert nitrates into cancer-producing nitrosamines (Famsworth & Cordell, 1976), from Hemp Diseases and Pests, written by McPartland, Klark and Watson, ed CABI, 2004)

The most experienced growers realized that the use of synthesis fertilizers often creates unwanted flavours, also that the use of any fertilizer (also bio) in the last phases of development changes heavily the flavour. In this stage a washing of the plants with plenty water mixed to a fertilizer for flowering with ¼ of the recommended dosage will drive away, for the most part, the unwanted toxic salts from the roots. Specially if the plants are in a vase, a washing done 15 days prior to harvest time, followed with irrigations of just water is extremely important to “clean” the plant from weird flavours.

Other expert growers suggest the use of enzymes to degrade the organic substances added as fertilizers. Enzymes are necessary for “life” in the ground, some of them are necessary for the different fermentations, others degrade the organic substances in chelate minerals, that can possibly be immediately absorbed from the roots of the plants. The use of enzymes on “poor” grounds, or on loams, where the most of organic substance has still to degrade, allows to reduce drastically the use of fertilizers, because a lot of substances are available to plants that otherwise would remain in a non-assimilated form. Then of course there has to be enough nitrogen to allow enzymes and bacterias to reproduce themselves.

If a soil is in good conditions for fertility it will be full of enzymes, bacterias, microscopic fungi, all microorganisms that contribute to the creation of useful material for plants.
The answer of plants to all the substances that they come in contact with is a large field of research, that still has to be fully explored: the mycorrhizae (fungi that live in symbiosis with roots) increase the possibility of absorption for the roots. There are proteins that simulate attacks of parasites and stimulate the plant to grow quicker to fight them. The presence or not of these particular insects leads the plant to have different flavours and to emit some terpenes or some alkaloids; likewise the closeness of roots from other vegetable species, will make the plant produce substances that otherwise they would not produce.

It’s not true that a sample of Cannabis containing more THC gives a better or greater effect : sometimes there are herbs with 20% THC, but with unpleasant flavours, that have less effect than others with only 5-6% THC, but with winning flavours and aromas…Personally I’m convinced that the synergy of effect between some terpenes and cannabinoid is as much important as the quantity of just the substances considered curative (or simply psycho active).
A pleasant flavour and smell will surely contribute to a better effect, also because the inhalations will be deeper and we will try to keep longer a pleasant aroma as supposed to a flavour that does not satisfy us.

Do not ruin your plants with an over-fertilization (the main cause of unpleasant flavours), keep them healthy and parasites-free: the goal is not to have “monsters”, but some living being with whom we have to live in symbiosis; the better we make our plants feel, the better they will make us feel. Specially when we will be able to put a stop to the crazy prohibition.


Author of some of the main Italian publications dedicated to the culture and cultivation of cannabis, such as “Il Canapaio” and “Canapicultura Indoor”.

Published on Dolce Vita International 3