Scientists initially found that terpenes were responsible for cannabis’s smell and taste. However, more recent studies suggest that terpenes, like linalool, contribute to the user’s overall high and potentially add many of their own medical benefits. There are hundreds of terpenes but most of them are only present in trace quantities. The individual effects of molecules are difficult to interpret because they are in such low concentrations. But, several compounds appear in large quantities where their individual effects may be apparent. Linalool and myrcene, for example, are among the most prevalent terpenes and may work alongside THC to offer a unique high.  While pure linalool is not psychoactive (it will not get you high), it seems to work alongside other compounds to produce a sedative effect.

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What is Linalool?

When cannabis has a lavender scent, it is specifically due to the presence of linalool in that strain. While there is mixed scientific evidence supporting linalool’s effects in cannabis, it is presumed to add sedative or relaxing effects to the user.  Linalool is a naturally occurring compound found in 200 different plants, including jasmine, lavender, rosewood, basil, or thyme. This compound is so abundant in nature that the average person eats two grams of it per year. Unlike the molecule THC, which binds to fat tissue and can be detected several weeks later, linalool moves through the body rather quickly. Even in large quantities, linalool is a safe, organic, non-toxic compound that may offer its own beneficial effects.

Linalool terpene infographic. Source: Wikileaf
Linalool actually refers to two different compounds known as R-linalool and S-linalool, also known as licaerol and coriandrol, respectively. These two different compounds are known as enantiomers and the easiest way to understand this difference is by looking at your hands. While the left hand and the right hand are essentially the same, they are mirror images of each other. The structure of licaerol and coriandrol are also mirror images but such differences alter their neural effects; meaning, their scent changes. Like their names suggest, licaerol is abundant in lavender and provides its soothing aroma, and coriandrol is commonly found in coriander which offers a pleasant but different scent. Both of these compounds are found in cannabis, and are collectively referred to as linalool.

How is it Made Naturally?

Linalool is found in hundreds of plants because it offers them an environmental advantage. In nature, plants are under constant bombardment by pests and must produce their own defense mechanisms. One tool that has developed throughout evolution is to produce an internal insecticide. Illustration of cannabis, mint, vanilla, poppy Linalool is a naturally occurring insecticide that will kill fleas, cockroaches and fruit flies. Most of the plants that produce linalool derive from the same common ancestor that manipulated its metabolic pathway to protect it against predators. Today, pest professionals utilize linalool because in its concentrated forms, it can kill invading insects without being environmentally damaging.

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What is it Used For? 

Besides an insecticide, linalool provides lavender with its indistinguishable scent which has been used in soaps, perfumes and aromatherapy treatments. Linalool is the main smelling compound found in lavender and, in its purified forms, has been shown to reduce anxiety in mice. While this finding has only been recently supported by science, lavender has been used for centuries for its aromatic appeal. In cannabis, linalool will provide particular strains with a stronger lavender scent. Two strains that have such a scent are Master Kush and OG Shark. Both of which are recommended to user’s that want a relaxing or sedative high because linalool, among other benefits, has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety.

What Effect Does Linalool Have in Cannabis?

Recall cannabis is composed of hundreds of molecules, and since most appear in such trace amounts, it is difficult to understand how they individually impact the user. However, it has been shown that these trace molecules add up to a collective effect — known as the entourage effect — that provides different benefits between purified THC and cannabis extract.  There is no strong research that illustrates the amount of linalool in cannabis can produce any psychotropic effects, but there are several accounts of anecdotal evidence that suggests a more relaxed effect when strains are high in linalool. This could be due to the strong lavender scent given off when smoking that calms the user, or it could be that strains high in linalool are also high in other sedative compounds like CBD or myrcene.

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Linalool Against Cancer

Linalool has been shown to interrupt communication pathways that allow cancer to propagate which suggests it plays a role in reducing cancer’s spread. Cancer occurs when a group of cells are able to rapidly divide without the body recognizing and deterring them. As a cancer therapeutic, linalool has been shown to arrest cell division through well known cancer causing pathways, and allow the immune system to come and clear out the infection. While the dosages needed for these benefits are beyond that in cannabis, this research illustrates the benefits of cannabis’s botanical compounds in purified forms.

research Marijuana: Bad plants or alternative herbs iStock / Witthaya Prasongsin

Linalool Against Alzheimer's Disease

Linalool may also have therapeutic properties in delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease. A 2016 study published in Neuropharmacology found the following results, "Together, our findings suggest that linalool reverses the histopathological hallmarks of AD [Alzheimer's Disease] and restores cognitive and emotional functions via an anti-inflammatory effect. Thus, linalool may be an AD prevention candidate for preclinical studies." For this study, mice were genetically introduced with a Triple-transgenic model of Alzheimer's disease and were orally treated with linalool over the course of three months. It was found that mice treated with linalool showed stronger memory and other cognitive functions while completing a maze in comparison to the control group.

Portrait of happy senior woman embracing her husband IStock / InnerVisionPRO

Linalool as an Antidepressant

Linalool is a known antidepressant compound that has been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years, but the science behind such an effect is only recently being understood. Multiple reports suggest linalool plays a role as an antidepressant but it is unclear if it is the scent or if the molecule must be ingested. Dr. Guzmán-Gutiérrez found that the ingestion of linalool and Beta-pinene — two terpenes found in cannabis — directly impacts the levels of serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters to act as an antidepressant. However, Dr. Caputo’s team found that lavender oils did not help alleviate depression, but did stimulate sociability.

a Women with her head in her arms looking depressed on a bed Source: Shutterstock

Linalool as an Anxiolytic

Anxiolytics are therapeutic compounds that alter the levels of particular neurotransmitters to decrease anxiety, however many of these compounds have severe side-effects like alterations with mood, clinical effect delay or sedation. Linalool has been known to be anxiolytic, but Dr. Harada and others wanted to understand how it works in the brain. They found that as an inhalant, linalool can directly interact with known neurotransmitters (GABAA receptors) to reduce levels of anxiety. This study suggests a new and natural method to reduce anxiety and bypass the harmful side-effects common in anxiolytics.

Closeup of a women chewing her nails looking anxious Source: Shutterstock

Strains High in Linalool

Are you looking for strains with linalool? Try one of the following:

Amnesia Haze: Amnesia Haze has many of the great qualities that mark both indica and sativa varieties, although users may land on the more thoughtful (or even hyper-thoughtful) end of that spectrum. The high comes up almost immediately, inducing cerebral thinking and a sudden acute awareness of surroundings. In a positive set and setting, this mental sharpening can lead to a euphoric state of mind. The combination of strong mental and physical effects makes this strain a good choice for activities that involve both mind and body, including but not limited to exercise and sex.

More medically speaking, Amnesia Haze's sense of focus can be helpful for those with attention deficit disorders who have trouble concentrating on specific tasks. On the negative side, those prone to anxiety may experience some degree of paranoia due to Amnesia Haze's tendency to bring on a sense of frantic mind-race; as such, cannabis newcomers may want to temper initial dosage of this strain.

Cannabis herb and leaves for treatment broth, tincture, extract, oil. Selective focus. nature iStock / Yana-Tatevosian

Lavender: Its spicy Afghani hash-like taste is smooth and comes with a powerful euphoria. Its cerebral high is followed by a swirling body stone that calms and relaxes, causing most to feel lazy. Inexperienced users may quickly fall asleep. Negative effects may include the familiar cotton mouth, dry eyes, dizziness, and paranoia. Lavender may be used at any time of the day, but some prefer it in the evening or at night to help with insomnia. The strain is often used for pain relief due to its powerful indica effects. It is an effective medication for stress, anxiety, and depression and is prescribed for PTSD, adult ADD/ADHD as well as obsessive-compulsive behavior. Patients also use it to fight nausea and eating disorders such as anorexia. The high CBD content, reaching as much as 1%, may also help combat seizures.

LA Confidential:  Although this is a pure indica strain, a few users find its cerebral effects bordering on the psychedelic. It may also be thought-provoking and mood-lifting. L.A. Confidential's powerful laziness is often accompanied by sleep an hour or two after consumption. Negative effects may include:

  • Cotton mouth
  • Dry eyes
  • Paranoia
  • Dizziness Headaches, especially with higher doses.

Recommended for evening and nighttime use, this strain may relieve insomnia though some find it makes them tired without actually bringing on sleep. The strong indica effects make L.A. Confidential suitable for easing chronic aches and pains. Users often choose the strain to help them deal with stress and anxiety, and some patients use it to induce appetite or calm nausea.