Terpene Tuesdays: Everything You Need to Know about Pinene Flavor, Fragrance, and Health Benefits
In this post:
- Types of pinene
- Pinene research
- Sources of pinene
- Cannabis strains with pinene
- Reported pinene benefits
Pine is one of the most intense scents that instantly teleports your mind to thoughts of the holiday season and your favorite kitchen cleaners. But do you know what gives pine trees and Pine-Sol their iconic scents? Pinene.
Pinene is a terpene named after its most recognizable source–pine trees. But this aromatic compound is also the most abundant terpene in nature, which means it occurs in various substances, including herbs, citrus, cleaning products, and cannabis.
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about the powerful benefits of pinene, its variations, and how it affects your favorite cannabis strains.
What Do Terpenes Like Pinene Do?
Terpenes are chemical compounds responsible for giving plants their unique scents, from the sharpness of black pepper to the fragrance of a pine forest. They also help plants attract pollinators like bees while keeping away predators.
There are thousands of terpenes in nature, and over 150 of them occur in the cannabis plant. Every cannabis strain has a unique terpene profile that develops throughout its growth, and these compounds work alongside cannabinoids like CBD and THC to produce specific, desirable physiological effects. Different levels of terpenes across chemovars explain why our cannabis experience varies from strain to strain.
Types of Pinene
Pinene may be the most abundant terpene globally, but that’s partially due to its structural varieties–alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. The two have slight anatomical differences, but the main distinction is alpha-pinene is water-soluble while beta-pinene is not.
- Alpha-Pinene (α-pinene)
Alpha-pinene also referred to as simply “pinene,” is the compound responsible for the iconic smell of pine needles, as well as herbs like rosemary. This variation is more common in cannabis and clinical research.
- Beta-Pinene (β-pinene)
Beta-pinene has a slightly different pine scent, which is responsible for the aromas of herbs like dill, basil, parsley, and hops. This variation is less common in cannabis and less researched, although preliminary studies show beta-pinene may have similar benefits and properties to alpha-pinene.
Pinene Terpenes and the Entourage Effect
When it comes to cannabis’ full spectrum of therapeutic compounds, together is better. Known as the “entourage effect,” this concept refers to the way the plant’s chemical compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids synergize to enhance its healing properties. In the past, most people attributed cannabis’ benefits to singular cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Now research tells us that the entire profile of compounds is critical to the overall effect.
Terpenes are a vital part of the entourage effect, comprising between 10 – 20% of the resin on the flowers. Pinene’s role is to help increase lung capacity and counter the effects of potent THC strains, like short-term memory loss. It also interacts with CBD to strengthen the strain’s anti-inflammatory properties.
The benefits of pinene are far-reaching. A 2019 review concluded the benefits of alpha and beta-pinene included antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, antioxidant, gastroprotective, and neuroprotective properties.
- Pinene acts as a bronchodilator, relaxing muscles in the lungs and widening the airways to increase lung capacity. Pinene is so potent that simply being in a pine forest allows you to breathe better.
- A 2011 study found that alpha and beta-pinene worked well against Anti-infectious Bronchitis Virus or IBV. IBV is a family of viruses that affect your lungs, including different types of coronaviruses.
- Alpha and Beta-Pinene have antioxidant properties. The presence of pinene increases cell viability and reduces cell death.
- Alpha-Pinene has anti-cancer properties and can shrink tumor sizes by significantly decreasing cancer cell reproduction.
- A study done in 2011 found that pinene has anti-inflammatory properties in low levels, while in higher doses, it works like a broad-spectrum antibiotic.
Do Terpenes Like Pinene Get You High?
No. Isolated terpenes like pinene will not get you high. But terpenes are a crucial part of the entourage effect we mentioned, which means the presence of terpenes like pinene can directly affect the type of psychoactive experience you have.
Pinene is a bronchodilator, which means it expands your lung capacity, even when smoking. So when you inhale cannabis, you’re able to take deeper, fuller breaths, which can increase the high experience.
Sources of Pinene
Like all terpenes, pinene can enter your system through aromatic compounds in the air or your food. But pinene is such a beloved scent that it pops up in a variety of other places too. Here’s where you can find it:
- Pinene is common in herbs like basil, dill, parsley, and rosemary.
- You can incorporate more pinene in your diet through pine nuts and orange and lime peels.
- Coniferous trees are the primary source of pinene in nature, including cedar, juniper, hemlock, and redwood trees.
- Turpentine, the extract of coniferous trees, contains pinene and is used as aromatics in soaps, perfumes, and cleaning agents.
- Pinene is unattractive to insects, so it shows up in many bug repellant sprays and candles.
Which Cannabis Strains Have the Most Pinene?
Pinene is common in cannabis, but it’s rarely the most dominant terpene (that honor goes to myrcene). It is, however, commonly the second most abundant terpene in cannabis, meaning you can find pinene in some of your favorite strains:
- Big Smooth. This OG Blueberry and Cookies and Cream combination is a rare pinene-dominant strain that offers a delicious terpene profile and euphoric high with earthy and blueberry notes.
- Cannatonic. The CBD-dominant strain has earthy pine flavors and produces a short-lived, mellow high to get you powerfully relaxed.
- Cotton Candy Kush. This hybrid strain has bold cherry flavors with floral under notes. It produces a euphoric and relaxing high and is a favorite for medical patients with chronic pain.
- Remedy. A CBD-heavy strain with minor psychoactive effects, Remedy is popular with medicinal patients and produces a state of mellow relaxation.
- Kosher Tangie. This hybrid strain boasts a skunky citrus smell and delivers an uplifting high that’s perfect for a night after work with notes of orange and pine.
- Grape Ape. An indica strain named after its distinct smell, Grape Ape, offers a relaxing, mellow high that’s perfect for drifting off to sleep.
Reported Pinene Benefits
- Anti-inflammatory properties: A 2012 study examined alpha-pinene’s effect on acute pancreatitis. Scientists found that pinene can improve pancreatitis symptoms by bolstering immune support, reducing organ inflammation, and preserving long-term organ function.
- Antibiotic properties: A 2015 study looked at α-Pinene’s ability to fight the bacteria Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning. They found pinene increases your natural antibiotic resistance while destroying the cells of the bacteria.
- Increases Lung Capacity: Pinene works as a bronchodilator to widen airways and relax lung muscles. Increased lung capacity delivers more oxygen to your brain, increasing energy and focus levels and regulating your nervous system’s stress response.
- Neuroprotective properties: Pinene increases sleep quality and protects brain cells against oxidative damage. Poor sleep quality and prolonged oxidative stress contribute to early signs of aging and health problems, like heart attacks and strokes.
- Reduces Tumors: A 2015 study found that pinene reduced liver cancer cell growth by up to 69%.
The Bottom Line
Pinene is abundant both throughout nature and in cannabis. Its unique ability to help you breathe better makes it an essential terpene in your favorite strains (and a good reason to get outside in wooded areas). But pinene is capable of so much more, and we’ve only just scratched the surface.
If you’re looking for pinene dominant strains, make sure to check the COA (certificate of analysis) before you buy. Every cannabis product you spend your money on should have a COA from a verified testing laboratory.
All COAs list the cannabinoid contents and safety information, but the best brands go further to include the terpene profile as well. Ask your budtender about which brands test for terpenes to find a product that fits your specific needs.