What are Terpenes?
To briefly re-tread old ground; terpenes are a diverse class of organic hydrocarbon compounds that are often used as a means of defence by plants and insects that produce them due to their strong aroma and anti-bacterial effect. They are a major component of “essential oils” and are often responsible for the unique smells of plants – pinene for example has ‘piney’ and ‘earthy’ tones, whereas limonene found in citrus fruits has a sharp and fruity aroma and flavour. For an overview of terpenes, go here.
Terpenes are produced by a wide variety of plants, far too numerous to list here but are also major components of the cannabis plant which has one of the richest and most diverse terpene profiles currently explored.
Within cannabis, terpenes are secreted alongside cannabinoids like THC and CBD. They are not only aromatic but may also alter or enhance the function of other cannabinoids as well as providing physiological effects of their own. Unlike CBD and THC which are abundant in extracts, terpenes like pinene are secreted in much smaller quantity. At the Dr. Ed labs, we isolate terpenes from multiple species of plants and add increased quantities to our broad-spectrum CBD oils.
What is Pinene?
Pinene is a monoterpene and the most abundant terpene found in nature. As can be guessed, pinene derives its name from pine resin produced by a number of conifer trees. Two structural isomers of pinene exist – a pinene and b pinene. The a isoform is the most abundant terpenoid encountered and is primarily used as a very potent insect repellent. As well as conifers, pinene can be found in sage and of course, cannabis.
Research into pinene and other terpenes is generally not as prevalent as cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. However, consumer and medical interest in the cannabis plant has fuelled increased interest into cannabis derivates and we are now seeing greater research effort placed on investigating the therapeutic effects of certain terpenes including pinene.
A study conducted back in 2007, although limited in scope, suggests both forms of pinene have potentially useful anti-bacterial properties as application in cultured bacterial cell lines reduced cell viability and was able to eliminate a culture of S. aureus, a common bacteria, in 24 hours.
A further study looking at potential anti-microbial properties seemed to support this previous work and showed that a volatile oil extracted from the fruit Ferula gummosa Boiss. (43.7% of which was b pinene) similarly reduced cell viability across number of cultured bacterial cell lines as well as two strains of fungi (note that the other approx. 50% of the oil solution could be contributing to the observed effects). Certainly interesting findings and worthy of continued exploration.
That terpenes like Pinene and others display anti-microbial properties is perhaps not surprising – our best theory is that terpenes primarily developed as repellents to protect plants from insect, fungus and bacterial intrusion.
Continuing to build on the suggestion that pinene possess anti-inflammatory/immune modulating properties, research carried out in 2014 suggests that a pinene in particular may find therapeutic use in the treatment of osteoarthritis as the terpene reduced the activation of key inflammatory pathways and markers. The study made use of cultured human chondrocytes, a cell involved in cartilage secretion and maintenance and of particular relevance in osteoarthritis which effects the bones and surrounding tissues.
A year later, a Chinese research group made use of murine (mouse) macrophages for another study examining the potential anti-inflammatory effects of a pinene. They showed that the terpene reduced the activation and secretion of a range of key inflammatory factors and molecules including TNF-a and NF-κB. They concluded that a clear anti-inflammatory effect was observed based on their data and that a pinene should be investigated further for its potential use in a range of inflammatory conditions.
Interestingly, more dated research examining the effects of inhaled terpenes suggests they are having a direct pharmacological effect on the brain, even at very low serum concentrations. A 1-hour air infusion of a pinene, for example, increased the activity of exposed mice by almost 14%. Yet the effects of this terpene do not stop there. One of the most commonly cited studies involving a pinene showed that the compound may aid memory and increase alertness via its function as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor in conjunction with other terpenes – potential use in dementia treatment perhaps? Aside from this, as far back as 1990, a pinene was shown to produce bronchodilation in humans which may have applications in breathing and lung disorders.
this is very early stage research using small studies and almost all conducted in cell lines. Early results do look promising but as always, we require more clinical evidence before firm conclusions can be drawn about the effects of pinene on human health. This is interesting but still early stage research using small studies and almost all conducted in cell lines.
Why we use Pinene
Both a and b – pinene are major components in the terpene blend of our Energy Oil. Not only does this provide an appealing and different taste to our products, but pinene’s anti-inflammatory effects and potential positive effects on activity levels and alertness make it an attractive ingredient in our ENERGY blend.
As always, if you are considering using CBD, gather as much information as you can before making a decision. Take a look at the peer-reviewed research about cannabinoids and terpenes, effects and side-effects on high-quality academic sites like PubMed.