Borneol: A Cancer Killing Terpene


Borneol is one of the 200 aromatic terpenes that may appear in a particular example of the more than 6,000 strains of cannabis on the market. Like other terpenes, it is characterized by a strong medical efficacy. Borneol has been found to relieve pain, slow bacterial growth, reduce inflammation, and even inhibit fungal growth. In addition, it’s an anti-oxidant, and even functions as an anticoagulant, meaning it helps prevent strokes. But that’s not all.

Borneol has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. Chinese doctors have employed it for millennia in acupuncture. Experimentation with borneol in western medicine was first conducted by Dr. Ralph Stockman at Edinburgh University in 1888.

Like all terpenes, one of Borneol’s primary functions is the conveyance of aroma. This special terpene carries an herbal, woody scent that is often described as resembling camphor or balsam.

The odor produced by all terpenes is an evolutionary defense on the part of the cannabis plant to protect it from predators and pests, most of which find it to be toxic or offensive (which is excellent, because it means more sun grown organic cannabis for the humans).

Like other notable medicinal terpenes – including pinene, linalool, and limonene – borneol has been found to be an anti-cancer agent.

Technically speaking, borneol doesn’t necessarily directly kill cancer cells. Instead, it sometimes delivers efficacy by helping other molecules reach cancer cells and do their damage.

In the case of liver cancer, borneol has been shown to encourage the anti-cancer activity of the natural compounds bisdemethoxycurcumin and selenocysteine.

A study published in the journal Acta Pharmacologica Sinica revealed that bornyl, a molecular cousin of borneol, killed breast cancer cells. The study noted that “bornyl caffeate exerts non-selective cytotoxicity against cancer cells.”

A study conducted at the College of Light Industry and Food Sciences at South China University of Technology revealed that borneol “could be further developed…in treatment of human cancers.”

In this study, we demonstrated that NB could synergize with SeC to induce apoptosis in cancer cells.

Apoptosis, also called “programmed cell death,” is the mechanism in multicellular organisms, like humans, in which cells commit suicide after sensing severe environmental stress. However, a special variety of this process, called

However, a special variety of this process, called extrinsic apoptosis, involves one type of cells directing another type to kill itself. It is through this extrinsic influence that borneol (and many other terpenes and cannabinoids) is able to defeat cancer cells and basically instruct them to shut down.

A study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology found borneol to be an effective stroke preventative. This research revealed that borneol, in synergistic combination with edaravone, was effective in treating ischemic stroke.

Borneol is just one more example of the medical efficacy of the complex mix of cannabinoids and terpenes found in various strains of cannabis. It helps prove that, instead of killing their brain cells, cannabis consumers are actually feeding their cells, repairing their bodies, and improving their health.


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