The Cannabis Terpene Terpinolene


Terpinolene is a common terpene present in the cannabis plant that is recognizable for its woody aroma along with citrus and floral notes. Also referred to as alpha terpinolene, the terpene's effects may be mild to moderately sedative.


Terpinolene occurs naturally in sage, lilac, rosemary, conifer trees, apple trees, and tea trees and is a constituent of many essential oils. Early research shows terpinolene benefits may include antifungal, antibacterial, and anticancer properties in addition to potentially calming the central nervous system.


While some cannabis terpenes, like phellandrene, are known to have energizing effects, terpinolene may induce minor drowsiness with its sedative properties. These sedative properties may, in turn, reduce anxiety as the body and mind simultaneously calm. As such, lilac-scented body lotions and oils often contain terpinolene, as do therapeutic essential oils like tea tree oil.


The terpinolene terpene has also proven useful as an element in soaps and other cleaning agents, as well as fragrances and insect repellents.


If you've ever picked up a pine cone and sniffed its fresh woody aroma, then you have experienced the terpinolene smell, which is found in coniferous trees. Likewise, if you have stirred sage or rosemary into a sauce, then you have also experienced terpinolene. As essential oils, sage and rosemary also emit a fresh aroma, partially credited to terpinolene.


Like many terpenes, such as cedrene, the terpinolene terpene has been researched as a potential weapon against cancer and cancerous tumors. In addition, terpinolene has been investigated for its possible antifungal, antibacterial, and sedative usage.


As a component of essential oil, terpinolene has demonstrated antibacterial and antimicrobial activity, according to a 2010 study from the journal Natural Product Research. The researchers found that the test oil containing terpinolene at a level of six percent (6%) inhibited the growth of Bacillus subtillis, a bacterium found in soil and the gastrointestinal tracts of humans.  


One 2013 Turkish study that was performed on animals explored a possible connection between terpinolene and the destruction of cancerous cells. The researchers wrote, “Our findings clearly demonstrate that TPO (terpinolene) is a potent antiproliferative agent for brain tumor cells and may have potential as an anticancer agent, which needs to be further studied.” These results indicate that terpinolene may also provide defenses against inflammation and oxidative damage, which are both associated with cancer. That said, much more research is needed.


The Journal of Natural Medicines featured a 2013 study conducted on animals in which terpinolene was an active ingredient of essential oil. The subjects of the study inhaled the essential oil and consequently experienced a sedative effect after nasal absorption into the body.


Some consumers have reported an easing of migraine symptoms when smoking cannabis high in terpinolene. This beneficial side effect may be due to terpinolene's potential ability to relax the nerves and even decrease anxiety. The terpinolene in cannabis may serve as a natural remedy or complementary treatment to insomnia as the terpene may mildly depress the central nervous system and offer sedative properties.


A terpene with a potentially strong sedative effect, terpinolene in tea tree oil may also be effective as an antifungal agent and as a shield against various bacteria. Still, much more research is needed to come to any conclusions.


Learn more about Terpinolene and other terpenes found in cannabis at WeedMaps 

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