Pinene is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant, known as a terpene. Over 100 terpenes exist in the cannabis plant but that isn't the only place that they are found. Pinene, for example, it is found in rosemary, pine trees, and coniferous trees. There are two different versions of pinene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene. Since alpha-pinene (a-pinene) is more commonly found in nature, I will be focusing on a-pinene in this article.  Terpenes work together to give each cannabis strain its unique flavor profile and smell. However, those aren't the only important factors that terpenes give cannabis. Terpenes pair up alongside cannabinoids to change how each strain affects the brain. Terpenes and cannabinoids create varied effects as they react to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in our endocannabinoid system (ECS) within our brains. The combination and volume of each compound matters; to make things more complicated, everyone’s brain reacts differently to different substances. The research behind how each terpene and cannabinoid affects the brain is still limited (which could be due to legality issues regarding cannabis research), but the research that does exist is encouraging. More research is needed to truly understand how each terpene affects the brain, but let's take a look at what we do know. 

Pinene terpene infographic. Source: Wikileaf

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Antimicrobial Properties of Pinene

In a study done in 2007 published in the Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, scientists wanted to see how b-pinene and a-pinene inhibited the growth of potential infectious endocarditis causing bacteria. It was shown that pinene did promote antibacterial activity, it was concluded that the data “[s] their possible and rational use in the antimicrobial therapy.”

3d illustration of cholera pathogens in dark blue water iStock / Christoph-Burgstedt
In another study published in the Chemistry of Natural Compounds, the antibacterial properties of the essential oil of fruit high in a-pinene were tested. It was concluded that “The essential oil remarkably inhibited the growth of the tested microorganisms. The results indicate that the fruits have the potential for use as an aromatic antimicrobial agent.” Since pinene is a naturally occurring compound, plants already use pinene to stunt the growth of certain unwanted bacteria. However, the results of the above studies suggest that we may be able to use the antimicrobial effects of a-pinene for the treatment of medical conditions or use in everyday products. 

Anti-inflammatory Properties

In a study done by the Journal of Natural Products, scientists wanted to expand on previous studies that concluded that pinene had anti-inflammatory properties. Out of all the compounds that were tested, it was found that a-pinene was the most effective at inhibiting the inflammatory and catabolic pathways. The study concluded that “....α-pinene (1) being the most promising for further studies to determine its potential value as an antiosteoarthritic drug.” 

Close up of examining of test sample under the microscope in laboratory. iStock / Kkolosov
Another study concluded similar results. Published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, it was found that, “[The] results indicate that α-pinene has an anti-inflammatory effect and that it is a potential candidate as a new drug to treat various inflammatory diseases.” This result came about when the inhibitory effects of a-pinene were tested on mouse macrophages (a large stationary cell in the form of tissue or a white blood cell). In short, researchers felt that since a-pinene was so effective at treating inflammation, it would be worth it to commit to future studies to investigate the potential use of a-pinene as a medical treatment. 

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Pinene and Memory

Because of Pinenes antioxidant properties, scientists from the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine tested pinene's ability to fight the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. For this study, the memory function on mice was tested by measuring their ability to find a platform hidden within a maze. The memory function of the mice that were treated with pinene improved more than the group who was not treated. The scientists concluded that "[The] findings suggest the possible neuroprotective potentials of APN for the management of dementia with learning and memory loss." Another study conducted by the Journal of Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry also found pinene to be effective. For this study, mice were put through a passive avoidance test after they were induced with amnesia. The group that was treated with an essential oil high in pinene ( A. koreana) showed a memory enhancement of 72.7% compared to the control group. The researchers concluded that "[The] results suggest that EO of A. koreana may be a useful therapeutic agent against such amnesia-inducing diseases as Alzheimer and vascular dementia."

Senior active couple running, walking and talking in the park. Healthy lifestyle iStock / Lordn
This may all seem very exciting, but don't get too excited just yet. Much more research is needed to understand just how pinene affects the brain and how we may use it to treat medical conditions. It's also important to note that the above results were achieved when mice were either being fed or injected with pinene directly. There has not been any research studying the effects of humans smoking cannabis strains high in pinene. Therefore, we have no way of accurately comparing the two until more research has been done. Although the cure for Alzheimer's Disease is still out of our grasp, the studies on terpenes and other natural remedies is an encouraging step forward for medical research.

Strains High in Pinene

Cannabis strains high in pinene typically have an evergreen fresh flavor profile. Straight from the Wikileaf database, try one of the following strains if you would like to give pinene a try! Bubba Kush: Bubba Kush is a heavy indica hybrid that enjoys very wide popularity. With a healthy fan base and immediate name recognition, Bubba Kush is a staple of the U.S. cannabis market. Its potency and solid indica genetics have crossbred into a slew of child strains like Blackberry Kush, Bubba’s Gift, and Madness. Definitely more of a nighttime strain, this aromatic smoke and relaxing high can be a great way to unwind after a long day. Chemdawg 91: The strain has an initially bracing head high, with pressure behind the temples that can lead to dry, red eyes. Users report a sense of euphoria and progressively cerebral thinking. This altered thinking can include the sensation of time dilation. The uplifting mental effects are matched by a subtle body high that lingers after comedown. Chemdawg 91 is especially beneficial for stress relief and may be best suited to early evening use. Trainwreck: Trainwreck is a Sativa-dominant hybrid strain of cannabis with a spicy taste reminiscent of pepper. Like many Sativa hybrids, Trainwreck provides a very intense cerebral high with effects that are mood-enhancing and euphoric. What makes Trainwreck different from many other hybrid strains is that it still displays most of its Indica effects as well - covering the body in a nice, warm, pain-numbing buzz.

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