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The cannabinoid THC gets most of the attention when it comes to topics related to cannabis, including its medical efficacy and psychoactive effects. However, when one considers the healing powers of this special herb, the powerful role of terpenes must necessarily be considered. Terpenes are the special molecules that are most noted for the sometimes pungent odor they lend to cannabis. One such terpene is terpinolene.

Understanding terpinolene

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Terpinolene conveys a smoky, woody aroma and is known to be a strong antifungal and anti-bacterial agent, making the molecule an effective antiseptic. It also kills cancer, prevents heart disease, and is a great way to fight insomnia.

While terpenes are most noted for their presence in cannabis, they are produced by a wide variety of other plants in nature. In fact, more than 20,000 plant species produce manufacture terpenes as an evolutionary means of defending themselves against predators such as insects and animals.

Terpinolene is found in many other plants, including allspice, apples, conifers, cumin, lilacs, rosemary, and sage. It’s most common commercial use is an aroma agent in soaps and perfumes. It is also a component of some insect repellents.

Interestingly, terpinolene is sometimes used as a preservative because it helps prevent natural fibers from decaying when in storage. It is also an effective natural mosquito repellant.

Anti-cancer sedative

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Like other terpenes, terpinolene offers significant medical efficacy to patients with particular diseases and ailments. It has been used as an antiseptic for thousands of years.

When combined with lilac and lavender, it can effectively help treat insomnia and sleep disorders (the cannabinoid CBN is another effective sleep aid).

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Natural Medicines found terpinolene to be an effective central nervous system depressant (sedative) in experiments with mice. Concluded the researchers,

In [an] experiment using olfactory impaired mice, we further revealed that inhaled terpinolene exerted [a sedative] effect after nasal absorption into the body.

One of the most impressive medical efficacies of terpenes such as terpinolene is their ability to fight cancer and reduce – or even eliminate – tumors.

A 2012 study published in the journal Oncology Letters found that cancer cells treated with sage or rosemary extract containing terpinolene reduced a protein expression that helps promote the propagation of cancer cells in the body. Concluded researchers,

We found that terpinolene, a common component of sage and rosemary, markedly reduced the protein expression of AKT1 in K562 [cancer] cells and inhibited cell proliferation.

Terpinolene has also been found to help combat heart disease. A 2005 study published in the International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology found this terpene, when combined with Vitamins A and E, to prevent a condition called low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

LDL is the “bad cholesterol” of the lipid world and a major cause of coronary heart disease. Concluded the researchers,

This protective effect [of terpinolene] could possibly retard atherogenesis and, in consequence, avoid coronary heart diseases.

Interesting aberration

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Terpinolene is unique among the dozens of terpenes found in cannabis because it is neither an analgesic (pain killer) nor an anti-inflammatory. The majority of terpenes, especially major examples, are typically either good for the treatment of pain, an anti-inflammatory, or both.

When combined with other terpenes and cannabinoids, however (as occurs naturally in individual strains of cannabis), terpinolene shows great promise as both a primary treatment and also an adjunct to other cannabinoids and therapies.

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