If you’ve ever savored the sweet scent of lilacs or enjoyed the tart flavor of limes, you’ve come across terpineol. This common terpene occurs in over 150 plant species, including cannabis.
Cosmetics and perfumes often contain terpineol to give them their fragrance. You can also find it in some foods; it’s a natural flavoring in spices like cardamom and in certain kinds of tea.
But terpineol also has potent medicinal applications that include pain relief, immune support and in lab tests, it’s even been shown to destroy cancer cells.
What Is Terpineol?
The many strains of the Cannabis sativa plant contain around 200 distinct terpenes—plant resins that combine to produce the different flavors and smells that characterize these different strains.
The specific effects of many of these terpenes aren’t yet known because researchers haven’t thoroughly studied them. But recent research has identified a group of 10 primary and 20 secondary cannabis terpenes with documented effects on the human body’s natural system of cannabis receptors.
Terpineol is one of those primary terpenes, a group that also includes abundant, potent terpenes such as:
Besides perfumes and food, you’ll also find terpineol in skin products. The terpene is what’s added to give them a pleasing scent. Terpene alcohols like terpineol are sometimes referred to as the friendly molecules for their benefits to the skin when blended in creams and salves.
That said, pure terpineol applied directly to the skin can cause irritation.
Along with these uses, a number of different studies have shown that it shares many of the therapeutic qualities of other cannabis terpenes and compounds. As well, it’s been found to work in synergy with them to produce even more potent health benefits.
Like other cannabis compounds and terpenes, terpineol appears to activate receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS responds both to cannabinoid-like chemicals produced by the body and cannabinoids from other sources, mainly the cannabis plant.
It also appears to support the healthy functioning of other systems, such as the immune system. For these reasons, it has a long list of documented health benefits, including:
- Pain relief: On its own, and in combination with other compounds in the whole cannabis plant, terpineol can be a potent analgesic. This can make it useful for relieving pain from chronic conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.
- Anxiety relief: Terpineol has a calming and relaxing effect that can help relieve anxiety and agitation. Some research suggests that terpineol could be responsible for the couch-lock effect of some relaxing marijuana strains.
- Antibiotic and antimicrobial effects: In laboratory studies, it appears to protect cells by killing a variety of different microbes. It may also act as an effective anti-inflammatory agent, which can even combat the effects of malaria.
- Gastroprotective properties: Terpineol can protect the gastrointestinal tract from irritation and inflammation. Some research indicates that it can help heal gastric ulcers.
- Anti-cancer properties: Some laboratory research on tumor cell lines suggests that terpineol can kill cancerous cells and encourage apoptosis, the programmed death of cells.
- Anti-seizure effects: A number of cannabis compounds can help reduce the number and intensity of seizures, and research reveals that terpineol can also be an effective treatment for seizure disorders.
How to Take It
You can take terpineol in a variety of ways. One way is to add its isolates to essential oils creams, salves and lotions for aromatherapy.
You can also add food-grade terpineol isolates to a variety of infused edibles or other foods or drinks.
You can buy terpineol isolates from a variety of sellers around the world, but it’s important to think about how you plan to use the terpene before you buy.
Not all terpineol isolates are food grade and safe for consumption. So, if you want to add it to any kind of food or drink, read labels and check seller information to be sure that the isolate you buy was processed cleanly and certified as safe.
The skin contains many cannabinoid receptors, and your skin can absorb products fairly quickly into the body. So, skin products can be an effective way to get the benefits of terpineol.
But used alone, terpineol isolate can irritate the skin. You’ll need to combine terpineol with a carrier oil or other skin-safe products to be able to use it directly on your skin.
Some marijuana strains are naturally high in terpineol, so that smoking, vaping or otherwise consuming them can provide the benefits of terpineol in combination with the full spectrum of other terpenes and cannabinoids.
These cannabis strains are typically relaxing and calming, and include:
- Fire OG
- Jack Herer
- White Widow
- OG Kush
It may not be as well known as other primary cannabis terpenes are, but it can provide a range of powerful health benefits. Whether you consume it alone or as part of whole-plant cannabis medicine, it can help relieve pain, ease anxiety and keep the immune system strong.
Photo credit: Luke Besley
If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 index of articles. And if you have questions about cannabis, ask them and our community will answer.