Terpenes in Cannabis: Terpineol

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One of the most sought after terpenes in cannabis oil is terpineol. There are at least four naturally occurring isomers of terpineol in cannabis. These are alpha terpineol, (α-terpineol), beta terpineol (β-terpineol), gamma terpineol (γ-terpineol), and 4-terpineol (also sometimes called terpinen-4-ol). Alpha terpineol is the most common and best studied of the four isomers.

Terpineol has a very pleasant aroma with a scent resembling a combination of lilac flowers, lime tree blossoms, and eucalyptus sap. It also has faint notes of pine and nutmeg. This sweet smelling fragrance has made this terpene a popular component in perfume, scented soaps, body lotions, and other cosmetic products. However, cannabis strains that contain higher levels of terpineol also tend to have higher levels of pinene. The scent of pinene is very strong and often overpowers the more subtle terpineol in scent. However, the presence of pinene does not reduce the potency of terpineol in any way. The flavor profile of terpineol includes subtle hints of mint and anise.

In a June 2010 research study, published in the journal, Anticancer Research, alpha terpineol was found to be a potential anticancer agent by exhibiting strong antitumor activity in cultured cancer cells. It suppressed the protein complex, NF-kappaB, by interfering with the DNA transcription (replication) in several cancer cell lines in vitro. Alpha terpineol had the most powerful antitumor effect on the small cell lung carcinoma line of all the cancer lines tested, which could indicate a positive role for alpha terpineol in combating lung cancer.

Many people suffer from hyperalgesia, a heightened sense of pain (low pain threshold), often due to an inflammatory and or allergic response to pressure. This is true in people who have fibromyalgia and experience pain and tenderness in their muscles, bones, and joints. In a July 2016 study published in the Chemico-Biological Interactions, alpha terpineol was found to reduce inflammation and pain in mice in such a way as to be potentially useful in treating fibromyalgia. This may very well explain why so many people with fibromyalgia have reported relief with cannabis oil containing alpha terpineol.

A significant number of people have reported that the terpene terpineol, as well as cannabis oil containing terpineol, produces a relaxing and calming effect. People experiencing insomnia have also found it quite helpful in only small quantities. It has also been shown to inhibit acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme protein that is involved in creating and storing memories. In some strains of cannabis that have higher levels of terpineol, it is thought that this terpene counteracts the negative memory effects of THC. Many people also believe that terpineol shows great promise in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. In fact, some people use terpineol and or cannabis oil high in terpineol as part of an alternative treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Terpineol has been shown to have antimalaria properties against at least two common strains of malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum. This disease affects 214 million people a year according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Because the organism causing malaria has shown resistance to most traditional treatments, there is great interest in finding an alternative treatment to malaria and terpineol may fit that bill.