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The world of cannabis has just expanded slightly, with the discovery of a new terpene Hashishene, which gives high-grade Moroccan Hash that distinct taste and aroma.

A study was published on 28th November 2014 in the Journal of Chromatography entitled Multidimensional analysis of cannabis volatile constituents: identification of 5,5-dimethyl-1-vinylbicyclo[2.1.1]hexane as a volatile marker of hashish, the resin of Cannabis sativa L. 18 Months down the line scientists worked with French authorities to access samples of cannabis and hash seized to develop a device that could detect drugs without sniffer dogs. Analysing the samples they found a peak in the chromatogram which they then discovered had come from a new terpenoid – Hashishene

Previously these compounds had only ever been detected as a very minor constituent of Spearmint, but large amounts were present in the hash samples (around 14% of the volatile constituents, or 0.33% of the total mass of a sample of hash) but relatively little was found in dried cannabis buds.

This newly discovered compound is so unique to hashish that the discoverers decided to name it hashishene.

Hashishene
UV-light stimulated photo-oxidation of beta-myrcene in hashishene

The reason dried cannabis buds don’t have high levels of hashishene in them may lie in the difference between the bud drying processes between Africa and countries like the UK and US.

Scientests predict that beta-myrcene which is the most abundant cannabis terepene degrades to form hashishene when exposed to light and oxygen e.g. from sun-drying which may result in the ultraviolet oxidising beta-myrcene to hashishene. As the drying process can be different in Europe and the US it is unlikely that the buds would be exposed to this amount of sun when drying, and that could be the difference resulting in a lack of hashishene in cannabis grown in areas outside of Africa.

The scientists that wrote the paper also suggested that minor terpenes in cannabis may come from photo-oxidation of the main cannabis terpenes which are alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, beta-myrcene, pinene, linalool, humulene, terpinolene and caryophyllene. Beta-myrcene tops the terpene presence in cannabis buds with a whopping 16.8% of the aromatics on average, but  is only 4.3% on average in the tested hashish samples. Hashishene, on the other hand, made up 8.4% of the hash and only 0.36% of the bud tested.

High Times reports that: “Smuggled by the ton from Morocco to Spain and then the rest of Europe, Moroccan hash is the product of choice for much of Southern Europe, and many people prefer its mellow high to that off actual cannabis. Farmers in the Rif Valley of Morocco sow a yearly crop consisting of many different varieties of cannabis, many of which produce copious amounts of CBD, hence the mellow high from the hash it makes. The Sun dries these plants on the rooftops of the same shacks they use to process and package all their material. The unique, landrace strains, the rooftop drying and the hash production process all culminate into a slightly sticky, sweet-smelling substance.”

High Grade Moroccan Slate Hash
High Grade Moroccan Slate Hash

There are still mysteries to be solved, and High Times also reports that “the photo-oxidation reaction requires a special sensitizer compound, meaning something more complex lies behind the formation of these terpene derivatives, a mystery yet to be resolved. The genetic expression of different sensitizers that catalyse certain transformations, and not others, may underlay the aromatic differences we observe between strains.”

This exciting discovery once again highlights the amazing diversity of the wonderful cannabis plant. There are still potentially hundreds of terpenes and cannabinoids to be discovered, and with more cannabis research happening worldwide than ever before it is likely that we will see a lot of these discoveries within our lifetime. We look forward to reporting them where we can!

Read more on High Times Magazine

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