Pinene is a bicyclic monoterpene, and it is the terpene we find most wide-spread throughout nature. The two structural isomers of pinene, α-pinene and β-pinene, are the main constituents in turpentine, are known pest repellants in plants, and both play a role in many chemical communications between insects. While both isomers of pinene are present in many cannabis strains - as are more than 100 other terpenes - here we focus on the attributes and effects of α-pinene alone.
This organic compound is present in the sticky resin of pine trees and other conifers, giving them their distinctively fresh aromas. Pinene is also found in citrus plants and herbs such as sage, basil, rosemary, ironwort, and camphorweed. In cannabis, we find high levels of pinene in several strains, such as Bubba Kush, Chemdawg, Jack Herer, Trainwreck, and Super Silver Haze.
The medical effects of pinene include increased energy, alertness, mental focus, and memory retention, and it's known to have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Pinene acts as a bronchodilator (which improves airflow to lungs) and an expectorant, making cannabis strains with high levels of the terpene candidates for treating asthma and bronchitis, which is one of the most difficult bacterial infections to cure.
However, pinene's most exciting prospects lie in its potential to fight cancer cells. Traditional Chinese medicine has a long history of using plants with high levels of pinene as an anti-cancer agent, and in recent years this terpene has caught the attention of researchers. The March 2015 issue of Journal of Pharmacological Science included a report from researchers at the Guangdong Pharmaceutical University in China which stated that “α-pinene is a natural compound...which has been shown anti-cancer activity” and that it inhibited liver cancer cell growth significantly.
We know that pinene plays an important physiological role in plants and animals, principally as a compound that reacts with other chemicals to create other substances, including other terpenes. In cannabis, pinene also plays a part in the development of some cannabinoids. As studies into pinene continue, we learn a little more every day about how this terpene works, how it interacts with other chemical compounds found in cannabis, and how it can benefit our health and well-being.