Understanding Terpenes: Pinene
Pinene, one of the most researched and documented terpenes found in cannabis, is available in two varieties: Alpha-pinene (sometimes denoted as α-pinene) and beta-pinene (β-pinene).
The alpha type carries a scent of pine needles and rosemary; beta-pinene conveys an aroma of basil, dill, hops, and parsley. The alpha variety is significantly more common in the cannabis herb and typically the variant being referenced if no distinction between the two is provided.
Pinene is the most common terpene in the plant world and produced in significant quantities by basil, cedar, conifer trees, dill, eucalyptus, oranges (mostly the rind), parsley, pine trees (mostly the needles), rosemary, and literally hundreds of other plants. It is even present in turpentine, which has been employed for thousands of years as a detergent, medicine, and paint solvent. This makes sense, however, given that turpentine is distilled from pine trees.
Pinene’s most pronounced medicinal efficacy is its power to deliver mental focus and energy. Ironically, it also helps asthmatics and patients who suffer lung conditions based on its role as a bronchodilator, meaning it improves airflow to the lungs. It is also an anti-inflammatory, making it of note for a variety of diseases and conditions involving inflammation, including arthritis and fibromyalgia. Pinene has also been used as an effective ingredient in topical antiseptics.
This terpene has also been found to counter the short-term memory loss associated with the infamous psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), making it a potential ingredient in a wide range of cannabis products. One of the most promising areas of pinene’s efficacy, however, is against cancer, a disease that resulted in more than 1.7 million new cases and killed more than 600,000 people in the United States alone in 2018.
Several studies have focused on various aspects of the efficacy provided by the terpene pinene for many conditions, from cancer and pain to depression and epilepsy.
A study published in 2013 entitled “Antioxidative, Anticancer, and Genotoxic Properties of α-pinene on N2a Neuroblastoma Cells” published in Biologia (a medical journal regarding cellular and molecular biology) revealed that pinene reduced cancer tumor size. “Overall our results suggest that α-pinene is of a limited therapeutic use as an anticancer agent,” concluded the researchers.
A 2011 study conducted by Russo and published in the British Journal of Pharmacology noted the anti-inflammatory properties of alpha-pinene and potential efficacy for inflammation-based patients, including those suffering arthritis, cancer, and Crohn’s. “It is anti‐inflammatory and is a bronchodilator in humans at low exposure levels,” reported the researchers, adding “Beyond this, it seems to be a broad‐spectrum antibiotic.”
Another study from 2011 entitled “Comparative Anti-infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV) Activity of Pinene” that was published in the Swiss journal Molecules. The researchers found that both variants of pinene may be valuable for a variety of patients. “Results presented here may suggest that α-pinene and β-pinene possess anti-IBV properties and therefore are a potential source of anti-IBV ingredients for the pharmaceutical industry,” concluded the study.
A study published in the journal Inhalation Toxicology in 2002 and entitled “Upper Airway and Pulmonary Effects of Oxidation Products of Alpha-pinene, D-limonene, and Isoprene” provided evidence for the effectiveness of pinene as an effective bronchodilator, making it of value to patients with asthma and other lung conditions.