Terpenes: Contributing Beneficial Effects in Many Cannabinoid Products!

Terpenes: Contributing Beneficial Effects in Many Cannabinoid Products!

Recently, we reviewed Certificates of Analysis and dissected the many different aspects to these documents. One type of test performed on Cannabinoid Extracts provides a breakdown of the Terpene Profile. What are Terpenes? Why are these compounds important when discussing Cannabinoid Products? Let’s take a look at the value of Terpenes.

What are Terpenes?

The scientific community recognizes terpenes as a large and diverse class of organic compounds. A variety of plants and some insects produce these compounds. They often have a strong odor and may protect the plants that produce them. This odor deters herbivores and  attracs predators and parasites of herbivores.  These terpenes provide distinctive flavors like citrus, berry, mint, and pine. 

In fact, over 100 different terpenes identified in the cannabis plant lead to a plethora of varieties and strains. Each individual terpene exhibits unique effects. Some promote relaxation and stress-relief, while others promote focus and acuity. Linalool, for example, promotes relaxation, whereas limonene elevates mood. 

Common Cannabis Terpenes


Researchers attribute a variety of interesting pharmacological properties to α-pinene, including anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator, hypoglycemic, sedative, antioxidant, and broad-spectrum antibiotic activities. Commonly, this terpene exists in the oils of many species of many coniferous trees, most notably the pine. As a potent antioxidant, it inhibits prostaglandin E1 and NF-κB (inflammatory hormone-like compounds) thereby contributing to reported anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects (Miguel, 2010; Zhou et al., 2004).  Additionally, mechanistic studies have also shown neutralized production of pancreatic (TNF)-α, IL-1β, and IL-6, thereby negating the inflamogen induced inflammatory changes (Bae et al., 2012)

Data collected from studies carried out at the Centro Universitário Unichristus, Fortaleza, CE, Brazil  showed that the α-pinene exhibited significant antiulcerogenic activity. Also, researchers observed great correlation between concentration of α-pinene and gastro-protective effect of Hyptis species. In a recent study, Rufino et al. showed convincing evidence of the anti-inflammatory and anticatabolic effects of α-pinene by evaluating its ability to modulate inflammation and extracellular matrix remodeling in human chondrocytes. 


Psychopharmacological evaluation of linalool  revealed that this compound has dose-dependent sedative effects at the Central Nervous System. These effects included protection against pentylenetetrazol, picrotoxin, quinolinic acid (three compounds that induce convulsants). Notably, linalool exhibited protective abilities from electroshock-induced convulsions, hypnotic, and hypothermic properties as well. Consequently, this terpene gained much attention in the seizure community.

Relative to its mechanism of action, linalool behaves as a competitive antagonist of glutamate, and as a non-competitive antagonist of NMDA receptors in brain cortical membranes; additionally, linalool reduces potassium-stimulated (but not basal) glutamate release. Interfering with multiple mechanisms that underlie seizures, such as these may be necessary to effectively counteract epileptic phenomena.

Connsequently, a  physiological effect on sedation and anxiety-related behavior has been shown in several animal studies following inhalation of linalool with comprehensive analysis of mice in relation to anxiety-related behavior, social interactions, and aggression behavior (Buchbauer et al., 1993; Bradley et al., 2007; Linck et al., 2010; Souto-Maior et al., 2011).


Commonly produced in the oils of Citrus fruit, this compound is popular for aromatic use. Limonene has numerous medicinal benefits demonstrated in human and animal studies. For example, researchers observed Limonene  exhibiting antioxidant and anticancer properties. Limonene has therefore been suggested as an excellent dietary source for cancer prevention (Aggarwal and Shishodia, 2006). Additionally, anxiolytic effects in a mouse maze model were comparable to diazepam (Lima et al., 2013). Previously, results also demonstrated antidepressant activity via the 5-HT1A receptor pathway (Komiya et al., 2006). Limonene has anti-inflammatory effects in models of osteoarthritis (Rufino et al., 2015) and asthma (Hirota et al., 2010, 2012). Researchers observed multiple modes of anticancer activity, including chemoprevention (Crowell and Gould, 1994). Limonene is metabolized into perillyl alcohol, which is also a subject of numerous cancer-related studies (Thomas Prates Ong et al., 2012).

Being an excellent solvent of cholesterol, d-limonene has been used clinically to dissolve cholesterol-containing gallstones. Because of its gastric acid neutralizing effect and its support of normal peristalsis, it has also been used for relief of heartburn. D-limonene has well-established chemopreventive activity against many types of cancers. Evidence from a phase I clinical trial shows a partial response in a patient with breast cancer. It also exhibited stable disease for more than six months in three patients with colorectal cancer. (Altern Med Rev 2007;12(3):259-264)


Myrcene, better known as the active sedating principle of hops and lemon grass, is also found in Myrcia sphaerocarpa, a medicinal shrub from Brazil traditionally used to treat diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, and hypertension (Ulbricht, 2011).   At very high doses, myrcene in mice was a sedative comparable to phenobarbital (Gurgel do Vale et al, 2002); the effect was increased by simultaneous administration of citral, a mixture of other terpenes. Al-Omari (2007) demonstrated that myrcene improved glucose tolerance in alloxan diabetic rats comparable to metformin, without an effect on glucose levels in normal rats. Myrcene also showed powerful anti-inflammatory and anticatabolic effects in a human chondrocyte model of osteoarthritis(Rufino et al., 2015).


This terpene is different from previously reviewed terpenes as it has the distinction of being also considered a “dietary cannabinoid,” a common component of food that has GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status and approval from the FDA for food use.  In fact, this compound contributes to the spiciness of black pepper; it is also a major constituent of cloves, hops, rosemary, copaiba, and cannabis. It was one of the first cannabis-derived compounds other than THC, CBD, and CBN shown to bind directly to endocannabinoid receptors (Gertsch, 2008). β-Caryophyllene has now been shown to be directly beneficial for colitis (Bento et al., 2011), osteoarthritis (Rufino et al., 2015), diabetes (Basha and Sankaranarayanan, 2014), cerebral ischemia (Chang et al., 2013), anxiety and depression (Bahi et al., 2014), liver fibrosis (Calleja et al., 2013; Mahmoud et al., 2014), and Alzheimer-like disease types (Cheng et al., 2014).

 Additionally, in cancer studies, beta caryophyllene demonstrated synergy with the chemotherapy drug Paclitaxel on human tumor cell lines, and alone stimulates apoptosis and suppresses tumor growth (Legault and Pichette, 2007). In a Caenorhabditis elegans model, β-caryophyllene modulated stress-related genes and extended the lifespan of the organism (Pant et al., 2014). 

Check Product Certificates of Analysis

To determine the Terpene Profile, always request and review the COA for Cannabinoid Products. For more information on Healthy Hempies Product Terpene Profile, visit our COA Library here!