Terpenes in Cannabis: Terpinolene


Terpinolene is a terpene abundant in cannabis. Naturally occurring isomers include γ-Terpinene and delta terpinene (δ-terpinene). There is also a synthetic isomer of terpinolene called beta terpinolene (β-Terpinene) which exhibits many of the same beneficial properties as the naturally occurring isomers but without the synergistic benefit of co-acting with other terpenes, i.e. it’s best to get terpinolene in a full spectrum CBD oil.

Terpinolene has a pleasurable conifer tree aroma with subtle sweet notes of floral and citrus. Therefore, it is no surprise that this terpene is also found in many spices, herbs, flowers, and trees that are highly prized for their fragrances. These include rosemary, sage, nutmeg, lavender, lilac, Monterey cypress, apple tree, and tea tree. It is likely too that these same strong fragrances are what make terpinolene such an effective insect repellent.

Terpinolene is well known to induce drowsiness, especially when working synergistically with cannabinoids like linalool and other terpenes. This makes it attractive to those who suffer from insomnia. A study showing the sedative effects of inhaling terpinolene in mice was published in the October 2013 Journal of Natural Medicines. In this study, terpinolene was isolated from the leaves of the Microtoena patchoulii plant but this plant contains the same isomers of terpinolene as is found in cannabis.

Related to its sedative effect, terpinolene is also known to have beneficial psychological effects. Those who use it report a significant reduction in anxiety and a general mellowing of mood. This could prove helpful to those who suffer from social anxiety such as being at ease at a social gathering or performance anxiety such as giving a public talk or making a sales pitch as part of one’s job.

Terpinolene shows great promise in the field of cancer suppression. In one study, published in the February 12, 2012 issue of Oncology Letters, terpinolene, isolated from sage and rosemary, the same isomers as is found in cannabis, was shown to inhibit the production of an enzyme called AKT (the AKT1 form in this study) in an in vitro line of leukemia cells called K562 cells. This prevented the leukemia cells from proliferating. This enzyme is also well known to be involved in the proliferation of malignant cells in many other types of cancer as well. It should be noted that sage and rosemary also contain good quantities of linalool and carnosol but this study proved it was the terpinolene, and not these other chemical components, that downregulated the AKT. Another study, published in the Croatian Journal, Archives of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology in 2013, showed that terpinolene was found to have potent anti-proliferative in rat brain tumor cells. Traditional Chinese medicine uses many herbs containing high levels of terpinolene to treat cancer.

People have reported several other benefits with Terpinolene as well. It has been shown in a research lab to have powerful antioxidant effects on cultured human lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that helps our bodies fight infection. It is also thought to aid in preventing LDL (the bad cholesterol) from building up in the arteries by preventing oxidation of this low density lipoprotein. Terpinolene has also been shown to have anti-microbial effects and to be effective at killing and retarding the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, E. colli, and other harmful bacteria.