Cannabis Science

21 April 2020

What is cannabis terpene alpha-pinene, and what are its effects?

Chemically defined as a bicyclic monoterpene, α-Pinene was reported as the most widely distributed terpene in nature and the dominant monoterpene in most essential oils as well as one of the most abundant terpenes in cannabis. It is synthesized through a reaction leading to cyclization of geranyl pyrophosphate, a precursor common to both cannabinoids and terpenes synthesis. 

Plants that contain Alpha-Pinene

α-Pinene can be found, together with a brother compound, the isomer β-pinene  in the essential oils of many species of coniferous tree (pine), cannabis, rosemary, lavender, and turpentine. It is one of the purest commercially available and has one of the lowest boiling points of all monoterpenes, and therefore the most diffusive odor and poorest tenacity.

The fragrance and aroma of Alpha-Pinene

Its fragrance is characterized by a warm, resinous piney scent with earthy woody notes and fresh nuances of camphor and herbal lifts. It has high bioavailability via inhalation (60%) with rapid metabolism and redistribution.

The entourage effect of α-Pinene

Cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, CBN and THC in whole cannabis demonstrated to enhance the overall effect of α-pinene through synergistic actions, with the result of a powerful entourage effect which potentiates the pharmacological properties of this flavoring compound.

The medicinal properties of α-Pinene terpene

This extraordinary terpene is reported to have a broad spectrum of biological and pharmacological activities:

  • Anti-inflammatory – via activation of prostaglandin PGE-1.
  • Antibiotic and antimicrobial- with an efficacy profile equivalent to that of vancomycin, against Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and other resistant bacteria and fungi (C. albicans, C. neoformans, R. oryzae). Furthermore, combined with commercial antimicrobials, α-pinene has shown an additive and synergistic antibiotic effect.
  • Bronchodilator- by promoting lung oxygenation.
  • Improving learning and memory as well as to counteract the THC’s short-term memory impairment effect by inhibiting of acetylcholinesterase through an entourage effect with two other minor cannabis terpenes: 1,8-cineole (or eucalyptol) and camphor.
  • Calming agent by acting in a synergistic way with THC to counteract the agitation state in patients suffering from dementia.
  • α-pinene has also shown to have a preventive role against UVA skin-damage (photoaging) in test-animals.
  • Anti-cancer, with anti-proliferative and/or cytotoxic effects on neuroblastoma cells.

Inhaling α-Pinene for improving health

Inhalation of α-pinene has demonstrated to have beneficial effects on health, known in Japan as “Shinrin-yoku” or “forest bathing”. Such properties include:

  • Anxiolytic effect (at a concentration of 10 μL/L), which was maintained after inhalation for over 5 days.
  • Protective effect of 69% (at a concentration of 2 μg/mL) against hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-induced cell death in specific cells called “astrocytes” surrounding neurons.
  • Antiproliferative effect on melanoma (in ambient air at a dose too low to directly affect tumor)

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