While alcohol may be the ingredient that gives wine its mellowing, sedative effect, for wine lovers there’s more to it than that. The aromas and layered flavors mean the appeal of wine is much very nuanced; the chemistry of fermenting grapes gives alcohol only one role in a chorus of ingredients.
Similarly, different strains of marijuana have distinctive flavours and smells. While, like alcohol, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, may get a lot of attention, it’s only one compound in a mix that can yield unique experiences.
When it comes to the distinctive flavours and aromas of marijuana strains, organic compounds called terpenes are what make one lemony and another like refreshing pine.
But more than good smell and taste, terpenes are also increasingly thought to impart a wide range of medicinal benefits, like calming consumers or energizing them, reducing inflammation and improving mental focus.
While more research needs to be done on terpenes’ health benefits, some studies on non-cannabis terpenes indicate that terpenes may have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.
One of the terpenes that gets a lot of attention is pinene. As its name suggests, it imparts a distinctive earthy, pine smell. Pinene isn’t just found in cannabis, but the fragrant oil is also present in:
- Pine trees
And it’s said to help a long list of health conditions such as:
- Crohn’s disease
How Pinene & Terpenes Work
Like THC and cannabidiol (CBD), terpenes interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to impart their effects. This sophisticated network of receptors responds to both endocannabinoids produced by the body and to the nearly identical cannabinoids present in cannabis.
So, it’s thought that major terpenes, such as pinene, can also affect cells and tissues throughout the body.
There are actually two types of pinenes:
- Alpha-pinene, which is the most commonly occurring terpene around the world and the one most prevalent in cannabis.
- Beta-pinene, which gives herbs like parsley and dill their aroma.
The Health Benefits of Pinene
Sleep Hill Labs, a cannabis science and technology company that focuses on testing, research and development, claims that alpha-pinene “has been used for centuries as a bronchodilator in the treatment of asthma; ever notice how your lungs seem to open up when hiking through a pine forest in the warm summer? Alpha-pinene is also anti-inflammatory. It’s found in conifer trees, orange peels among others, and known for its sharp sweet odor.”
Pinene has also shown its medical muscle with anti-inflammatory effects, helping with conditions such as acute pancreatitis.
The terpene may also provide some benefit for conditions due to or involving inflammation, such as:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Chronic pain
There’s also evidence to suggest that pinene terpenes may inhibit cancer cell growth, though all studies on cancer and pinene have been conducted in labs and not in actual humans. A study published in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, states: “The results show that liver cancer cell growth was inhibited obviously with inhibitory rate of 79.3% in vitro and 69.1% in vivo.”
Other health benefits of pinene may include:
- Counteracting the negative effects resulting from consuming too much THC, such as short-term memory loss as well as feelings of fear and paranoia
- Shielding cells from excessive oxidization
- Protecting the lining of the stomach and other parts of the gastrointestinal system against inflammation and lesions
- Pain relief
All of this information sounds very promising, but you should be aware that the science backing pinene’s benefits is still in its infancy. People who believe in the power of cannabis terpenes and cannabinoids working together to impart health benefits—also known as the entourage effect—and those who are skeptical all agree that more double-blind clinical trials need to be done.
“I’m not against marijuana. I want to study it carefully. We know it can affect pain and appetite, but the large majority of what’s being said is driven by anecdotal marketing,” neurobiologist Margaret Haney told Scientific American.
Some High-Pinene Marijuana Strains to Try
If you’re interested in learning more about the potential benefits of pinene and other terpenes for a variety of medical conditions, you may want to talk to a knowledgeable health practitioner.
But if you’re ready to introduce more pinene into your cannabis consuming regimen, here are several high-pinene marijuana strains worth trying:
- **Jack Herer: ** An ideal sativa marijuana strain that’s mellow but invigorating, Jack Herer addresses a variety of medical conditions, including mild to moderate pain.
- **Romulan: ** Named after a warrior people in “Star Trek,” Romulan is a powerful, indica-dominant hybrid, often used by medical marijuana patients who experience pain and stress.
- Dutch Treat: With a sweet, earthy pine aroma, Dutch Treat is a sedating, indica marijuana strain with strong body effects that can help those suffering from arthritis and migraines.
- Blue Dream: High in pinene, Blue Dream is a hybrid cannabis strain with a relatively high THC content. It addresses a number of mood and physical ailments.
Once you start seeking out pinene-rich cannabis, you may soon realize that it’s more than a pleasing aroma.
Photo credit: Igor Tichonow/Shutterstock.com