So you wanna grow funky, skunky smelling buds, but a few anonymous keyboard warriors on various grow forums have told you that all skunk weed has been wiped from the face of the Earth in the last 40 years by one man named Skunkman Sam.
They claim that this one breeder had the power to remove the acrid smelling scent of cannabis from everybody's gardens all over the world!!! (Insert evil laugh)
At least, that is how the story goes by a bunch of ne'er-do-wells who don't know Skunkman Sam or truly why they lost their skunky smelling weed.
In reality, Skunkman Sam, the breeder of Skunk #1 who favored the sweeter side of the (Afghan x Colombian Gold) x Acapulco Gold hybrid that he made in the mid 70’s and became famous world-wide, did not remove the acrid smelling scent of cannabis from everybody's garden, they did it themselves.
Growers worldwide muted the scent of cannabis on their own because they did not completely understand what they were doing. I would compare it to listening to modern hip-hop or rap with the bass turned off; it just ain't gonna hit right.
The truly guilty party that removed the skunky side of cannabis is the human condition of enjoying the sweet smell of a flower or fruit, over a skunk’s ass or pile of shit.
I would give the example that nobody walks down the street and sticks their nose in poo-poo, but they will stop and smell the flowers.
Olfactory selection is exactly what happened to cannabis over the last 40 years and through selection and breeding, almost everybody who was working with cannabis naturally moved away from the stinky varieties and reproduced the examples that smelled pleasant and tasted good.
It was that simple.
Recently, science has come to the understanding that thiols are what is responsible for the acrid smell of cannabis and hops. Thiols are the reason that some types of micro brewery beer smells skunky in sunlight. Thiols are also the reason why cannabis smells skunky around harvest time.
"Thiols are the sulfur analogue of alcohols (that is, sulfur takes the place of oxygen in the hydroxyl ( −OH) group of an alcohol), and the word is a blend of "thio-" with "alcohol"." From Wiki: Thiols
Thiols develop in the late stage of flowering on cannabis and hops and they are responsible for the acrid/skunky scent.
Thiols are a compound that humans can pick up in parts per trillion, it is usually a scent that tells us to avoid a fruit or vegetable because the sulfur compounds are released by the rotting food and it may make us sick or be poisonous.
I have a theory that the reason a lot of the cannabis in the 80s and early 90s smelled very skunky or acrid is because a majority of the cannabis was recently acquired by the growers who were growing it, and the thiols had not been selected away from the varieties - yet, but the thiols would be bred out over the next few decades.
In cannabis, the scent of cannabis ranges from fruity, spicy and incense-like in tropical/equatorial varieties to acrid and nasty in some Northern varieties from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Hindu Kush mountains.
When those Northern varieties started circulating around cultivators in the late 70s, a majority of them smelled acrid and when bred with the more tropical/equatorial varieties coming from Acapulco, Michoacán, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Southern India and Jamaica, the scents combined and modern hybrids moved away from the nasty to the sweet.
Also, the fact that homegrown bud was being harvested and sold within a short period of time would allow the thiols to still be present. Early kind bud was often moist and sticky and had to be cut up with scissors, which says to an experienced grower that it was harvested within the last two weeks.
Growers back in the 80s and 90s were under the threat of prohibition and because they did not want to over-dry the cannabis and lose the moisture weight, they would sell it as quickly as they could and the fresh buds would still have the pungent scent of stanky thiols combined with a strong terpene concentration.
Science is now showing us that thiols are incredibly volatile and evaporate away within 10 days of harvest and drying depending on the environmental conditions. In a high humidity environment, they would stick around a little longer, but in a very dry environment, they would be gone quickly.
Authentic genetics offers three varieties that make acrid smelling thiols:
Original Skunk #1 from the 1980’s. These seeds have only been reproduced twice since 1988, once by Mel Frank in 1996, and again by Authentic Genetics in 2020.
Purest Indica a.k.a. the Steve Murphy Afghan that started the entire Northern Lights line. It could be considered the true NL#1. These seeds have only been reproduced once by Authentic Genetics since the early 80s. I received them directly from Seattle Greg who told me that they were found in his sisters freezer after she passed. Purest Indica has very dense flowers that are extremely leafy, covered in trichomes and smells very acrid. This variety was never shared with The Holland Seed Bank because Seattle Greg did not want the Seed Bank to be able to make the Northern Lights hybrids without him.
The Northern Lights #2: These seeds have only been reproduced once since the early 80’s by Authentic Genetics. NL#2 was technically the first hybrid of Northern Lights using the Purest Indica crossed with a (Afghan x Afghan) variety. This variety went to The Holland Seed Bank as Northern Lights #1 because it was the first hybrid of the Northern Lights line. The variety is very pungent and stinks a very acrid scent.
All three of these varieties produce thiols and smell rather acrid under normal growing conditions, but recently, science has shown us that increasing and decreasing the thiol content in plants is possible. There has been a lot of focus on manipulating the thiol content in hops because the beer industries is working to make beer more skunky.
Basically, the science is showing that if you add sulfur to your medium, your plant will be able to both create and express more thiols. So if you want the cannabis you are growing to have a more acrid/skunky scent, try experimenting with adding sulfur to your fertilizer program.
Thiols are a class of organic compounds that in addition to their role in scent production, also have a number of potential medical benefits.
Thiols, also known as mercaptans, are found in a wide range of natural products, including fruits, vegetables, and herbs. In cannabis, thiols are produced by the plant in response to their environment and are believed to have a protective role in the plant's defense against pathogens and other stressors.
One of the most promising medical uses of thiols in cannabis is their potential as an anti-inflammatory agent. Inflammation is a complex process that is involved in a number of different diseases, including arthritis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease. Thiols have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties in a number of different studies, and may be a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of inflammatory diseases.
In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, thiols also have potential as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are compounds that help protect the body from oxidative stress, which can cause damage to cells and contribute to the development of a number of different diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease.
Thiols have been shown to have antioxidant properties in a number of different studies, and may be a promising therapeutic agent for the prevention and treatment of these diseases.
Thiols may also have potential as a neuroprotective agent. Neuroprotection refers to the ability of a compound to protect the nervous system from damage and degeneration, and is of particular interest in the treatment of neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.
Thiols have been shown to have neuroprotective properties in a number of different studies, and may be a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of these diseases.
Finally, thiols may also have potential as a pain-relieving agent. Pain is a complex process that involves a number of different pathways, and is a major symptom of a number of different diseases, including cancer, arthritis, and neuropathic pain. Thiols have been shown to have analgesic properties in a number of different studies, and may be a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of these diseases.
Thiols in cannabis have a number of potential medical uses, including as an anti-inflammatory agent, an antioxidant, a neuroprotective agent, and a pain-relieving agent. While more research is needed to fully understand the therapeutic potential of thiols in cannabis, the existing data suggests that they may be a promising therapeutic agent for a number of different diseases.
Please check out this 2021 article about thiols titled:
Identification of a New Family of Prenylated Volatile Sulfur Compounds in Cannabis Revealed by Comprehensive Two-Dimensional Gas Chromatography
For more information about sulfur fertilizer types, please check out this information from TSI; The Sulphur Institute:
Please also check out our article: What is Skunk weed?