What is pinene?

Pinene is an aromatic compound commonly found in cannabis that smells a lot like–you guessed it–a forest of pine trees. But pinene may bring more to a strain’s experience than just flavor.

Terpenes like pinene are fragrant oils secreted in cannabis trichomes, and while they originally developed as an adaptive protection against predators, these compounds offer us humans a variety of potential benefits. And, fun fact: pinene can also be found in conifer trees, orange peels, turpentine, pine needles, rosemary, dill, basil, and parsley.

Terpenes like pinene are fragrant oils secreted in cannabis trichomes, and while they originally developed as an adaptive protection against predators, these compounds offer us humans a variety of potential benefits. And, fun fact: pinene can also be found in conifer trees, orange peels, turpentine, pine needles, rosemary, dill, basil, and parsley.

What is the difference between alpha-pinene and beta-pinene?

There are two forms of pinene: alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. Alpha-pinene is more prevalent in cannabis and the most abundant terpenoid found in nature. Researchers are studying whether alpha-pinene can treat or prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions.

What is pinene found in?

The aromatic pine terpene is found in dill, basil, rosemary, parsley, and the essential oils they yield. In addition, coniferous trees, including pine with their fragrant pine needles, are rich in pinene. Besides savoring the refreshing scent of pine trees on a winter day, you may have encountered pinene at your kitchen table. Pine nuts contain pinene oil, as do lime and orange peel. So, if you’ve had orange peel candy, a salad sprinkled with pine nuts, or a slice of key lime pie, you’ve tasted this terpene. In contrast, pinene is known to be highly unattractive to insects, so it’s an ingredient in many repellents.

Therapeutic properties of pinene

The predominant type of pinene in cannabis, alpha-pinene, is also the one that could offer the most therapeutic benefits. Potential alpha-pinene benefits are anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antimicrobial, in addition to respiratory and neuroprotective.

What is pinene

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Many plant essential oils that contain pinene have been shown to reduce inflammation. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine found that alpha-pinene exhibits a number of anti-inflammatory properties in animal cells. The authors of the study concluded that the terpene has the potential to treat various inflammatory diseases. Interestingly, pinene’s anti-inflammatory effects could make it an effective additive to sunscreen. It prevents skin damage caused by ultraviolet light according to a 2018 study published in the journal Life Sciences.


Many studies in animals and other models have concluded that both alpha- and beta-pinene have significant anti-tumor properties. In fact, when consumed together, both forms of pinene appear to have synergistic effects in reducing tumors, as observed in a 2018 study published in the medical journal Chemotherapy. The study also showed that alpha-pinene could be effective in treating prostate cancer in mice. 


Alpha-pinene and beta-pinene have also been studied for their antimicrobial effects. One 2012 study published in the Swiss scientific journal Molecules demonstrated that pinene was an especially powerful tool in combating Candida Albicans, a yeast fungus found in the human body that can become harmful if it grows out of control.


Patients commonly medicate with cannabis to elevate their mood, something that makes sense given the results of a 2012 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Beta-pinene, in combination with the terpene linalool, appears to produce effects in mice that are similar to those of antidepressant medications.


A 2011 study published in Molecules tested the ability of alpha- and beta-pinene to fight the infectious bronchitis virus in animal models. The study found that both types of pinene inhibited viral activity in cells, therefore making the terpene a potential aid in resolving bronchitis. The study also established pinene as a possible bronchodilator that could offer relief to those with asthma.


What is pinene

For starters, α-pinene has been found to be an effective bronchodilator. This means the terpene helps to open airways in the respiratory system. The therapeutic values of this mechanism of action can be applied to respiratory ailments such as asthma. These findings were published in the journal Inhalation Toxicology. Researches suggested, that these effects may be of benefit to office workers and workers who are involved in industrial cleanup operations.

Further research has identified pinene to be effective at protecting the lungs against certain types of viral infection. A study published in the journal Molecules details both α- and ß-pinene to be effective at inhibiting infectious bronchitis virus. The researchers suggest, that α- and ß-pinene could therefore be considered as potential pharmaceuticals against infectious bronchitis virus.

Another study published by Ethan Russo, MD really tapped into the true medicinal potential of pinene and fellow terpenes. Russo gives a brief breakdown of the nature of terpenes: “Terpenoids share a precursor with phytocannabinoids, and are all flavour and fragrance components common to human diets, that have been designated ‘generally recognised as safe’ by the US Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies. Terpenoids are quite potent and affect animal and even human behaviour when inhaled from ambient air at serum levels in the single digits.”

Russo points out, that the therapeutic potential of terpenes are vast, and that they have the ability to synergize with cannabinoids to create powerful medical effects, saying: “They display unique therapeutic effects, that may contribute meaningfully to the entourage effects of cannabis-based medicinal extracts. Particular focus will be placed on phytocannabinoid-terpenoid interactions, that could produce synergy with respect to treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections (including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).”

Perhaps some of the most staggering research involving α-pinene is found published in the journal Biologia. The study aimed to explore the anticancer properties of alpha pinene, and the results are further cause for further study into pinene as an anticancer agent. The researches concluded: “Overall our results suggest that α-pinene is of a limited therapeutic use as an anticancer agent.”

The Studies

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.

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