Anyone who has ever taken a stroll through a pine forest (or sniffed a car air freshener) will be familiar with pinene. A bicyclic monoterpenoid, pinene is the most abundant terpene in the natural world and is responsible for the characteristic aroma of coniferous trees. Thought to help repel insects, the compound plays an important role in the health of numerous plant species, though its presence in cannabis also brings a number of medical benefits to users – as well as contributing to the flavour of cultivars like Blue Dream, Jack Herer, Harlequin and others.
Pinene And The Entourage Effect
As we’ve explained in some of our previous posts in this series, the numerous terpenes found in cannabis interact with cannabinoids and other compounds in order to contribute to the so-called entourage effect. When discussing this phenomenon, scientists often highlight the role that pinene plays in shaping the pharmacological and medical properties of various cannabis varieties.
For instance, pinene is thought to help balance out some of the uncomfortable effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), such as memory loss and paranoia. In one study, mice that inhaled an essential oil containing pinene displayed notable reductions in anxious behaviour, suggesting that pinene-rich strains may be of benefit to those who sometimes get a little edgy after smoking a joint[i].
Separate research has revealed that pinene inhibits the activity of an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase, which breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Because memory loss is often associated with a lack of this key transmitter, it has been suggested that pinene may not only counteract some of the effects of THC, but could also help to restore memory deficits in those suffering from dementia.[ii]
Other Benefits Of Pinene
Pinene can be described as something of a medical Swiss army knife, with research having shown that it could help treat conditions like cancer, inflammation, neuropathic pain and allergies, while also protecting the body against infectious diseases and harmful bacteria.
Interestingly, pine needle oil has been used as a folk remedy for cancer in certain parts of the world for hundreds of years, and a recent study revealed that the pinene present in the oil significantly inhibits the growth of liver cancer cells. It does this predominantly by acting upon enzymes called checkpoint kinases, which regulate the cell cycle and help to prevent harmful genetic mutations from arising[iii].
Another study indicated that pinene helps to kill certain bacteria that commonly cause food poisoning. Even microbes that have become resistant to antibiotics are unable to withstand the terpene, which alters their metabolism and disrupts their cell membranes[iv].
Exposure to low levels of pinene also causes our airways to dilate, which is why breathing in the forest air is so invigorating. This property also makes pinene useful in the treatment of bronchitis and other respiratory diseases, while the compound’s anti-inflammatory effect helps to prevent the development of such conditions.
The terpene has even been shown to protect cells against viruses that cause bronchitis[v], so if you’re having trouble breathing then pinene is clearly a worthwhile ally. The same goes for those who suffer from allergies, as pinene decreases levels of immunoglobulin E, a type of antibody that overreacts to allergens and is responsible for many of the symptoms associated with hay fever[vi].
Finally, a pinene extract that was created from a type of guava was found to reduce inflammatory and neuropathic pain in mice[vii], providing yet more evidence for the terpene’s sensational healing capacity. Now go get some pinene in ya!
[i] Satou T, Kasuya H, Maeda K, Koike K. Daily inhalation of α‐pinene in mice: effects on behavior and organ accumulation. Phytotherapy Research. 2014 Sep;28(9):1284-7. – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.5105
[ii] Miyazawa M, Yamafuji C. Inhibition of acetylcholinesterase activity by bicyclic monoterpenoids. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 2005 Mar 9;53(5):1765-8. – https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf040019b
[iii] Chen W, Liu Y, Li M, Mao J, Zhang L, Huang R, Jin X, Ye L. Anti-tumor effect of α-pinene on human hepatoma cell lines through inducing G2/M cell cycle arrest. Journal of pharmacological sciences. 2015 Mar 1;127(3):332-8. – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1347861315000110
[iv] Kovač J, Šimunović K, Wu Z, Klančnik A, Bucar F, Zhang Q, Možina SS. Antibiotic resistance modulation and modes of action of (-)-α-pinene in Campylobacter jejuni. PloS one. 2015 Apr 1;10(4):e0122871. – https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0122871
[v] Yang Z, Wu N, Zu Y, Fu Y. Comparative anti-infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) activity of (-)-pinene: Effect on nucleocapsid (N) protein. Molecules. 2011 Feb;16(2):1044-54. – https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/16/2/1044
[vi] Nam SY, Chung CK, Seo JH, Rah SY, Kim HM, Jeong HJ. The therapeutic efficacy of α-pinene in an experimental mouse model of allergic rhinitis. International immunopharmacology. 2014 Nov 1;23(1):273-82. – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1567576914003622
[vii] Quintão NL, da Silva GF, Antonialli CS, Rocha LW, Cechinel Filho V, Cicció JF. Chemical composition and evaluation of the anti-hypernociceptive effect of the essential oil extracted from the leaves of Ugni myricoides on inflammatory and neuropathic models of pain in mice. Planta medica. 2010 Sep;76(13):1411-8. – https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-0029-1240891