Terpene University: Part 6 – Terpineol

Cannabis plants contain hundreds of compounds and molecules, and they exist within the trichomes in varying concentrations. Even the smallest amount of a terpene will affect how a strain interacts with our endocannabinoid system. Terpineol usually tests at much lower concentrations than more dominant terpenes such as myrcene, β-caryophyllene, and pinene.

However, even at lower concentrations, terpineol still has many benefits to offer those who partake in medicinal and recreational cannabis. For commercial cultivators and cannabis manufacturers, understanding the whole plant is critical in producing products with deliberate effects and benefits.

What Is Terpineol?

α-Terpineol can be found almost everywhere. It’s biosynthesized by over 150 botanical species. These plants produce terpineol and its isomers for many reasons including:

  • Terpenes such as terpineol help ward off insects that are harmful to plants
  • Anti-fungal properties help protect the plant from botanical adversaries
  • Certain terpene profiles help attract insects that assist in pollination

As with many monoterpenes and hydrocarbons, the term “terpineol” can refer to one of four common isomers that share the same chemical formula, but with varying molecular configurations. The two most common versions are α-terpineol and 4-terpineol. The difference between the two is where their hydroxyl groups are located.

Chemical Structure of Terpineol
Terpineol has four common isomers that share its chemical formula but vary in molecular configuration. The difference between terpineol’s two most common isomers is the location of its hydroxyl group.

If the term “hydroxyl group” (-OH) sounds familiar, you may recall in our discussion about decarboxylating cannabis, we talked about carboxyl groups. It just so happens, the hydrogen and one of the oxygen atoms of that group (COOH) are bonded as a hydroxyl group (-OH). In the end, both the cannabinoids and terpenes are built from the same building blocks, so it makes sense to observe chemical parallels. We’re all made of stardust after all.

Monoterpene Alcohols

One of the most significant benefits of molecules containing a hydroxyl group, is that they are identified as alcohols. And alcohols are highly soluble in water. For example, one can draw similarities between carbohydrates and ethanol. Both contain hydroxyl groups and both dissolve in water with ease. In fact, your body will process the alcohol first because it is already easily absorbed into the bloodstream, whereas food must be broken down further before it can be used as energy.

The importance of this is to recognize that terpineol’s hydroxyl group designates it as a type of alcohol. As such, this terpene is considered a monoterpene alcohol.

  1. Monoterpene = contains two isoprene units
  2. Alcohol = contains a hydroxyl group

This is becoming increasingly relevant to commercial cannabis manufactures and cannabis kitchens. Molecular gastronomy is a culinary field where chefs focus on the science of cooking. This includes how the molecular characteristics and changes in their ingredients profoundly impact a recipe’s flavor and aroma.

Terpenes and the Cannabis Kitchen

Whether you are a chef practicing molecular gastronomy to perfect your menu items, or a cannabis processor manufacturing extracts or ingredients comprised of varying concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes — understanding the difference between ingredients that are alcohols, acids, or other molecular forms can impact how your final product will taste and be absorbed by your customers.

As we continue to understand the benefits that terpenes have to offer, a mastery of these compounds will be necessary to develop and design products that will increase your revenue and diversify your product offerings.

Where Can You Find Terpineol?

Terpineol is renowned for being produced by over 150 plants. Some of the most common include eucalyptus sap (resin), the blossoms of lime trees, bitter oranges, and lilac! Due to its floral fragrance, when the scent of this monoterpene can be isolated, it is frequently compared to lilac. This is because lilac is somewhat of a mascot for its relaxing, floral aroma.

Lilac plants contain Terpineol
Lilac plants contain many terpenes, one of which is terpineol. This terpene plays a part in the floral aroma of lilac. Lilac has been used in various foods and teas, allowing those who consume it to benefit from its medicinal properties.

Although often overshadowed by the terpenes and compounds accompanying terpineol, you’ve almost certainly consumed this terpene in a variety of dishes where it was added as a flavor enhancer. And if you’re a fan of fragrant soaps and cleansers, it’s likely been baked-in to many of your favorite, floral-scented products.

What Are the Benefits of Terpineol?

Much like terpinolene, terpineol is largely popular for its commercial applications. However, that’s not to say it doesn’t provide medicinal benefits as well. Toking, vaping, or ingesting cannabis strains containing terpineol can benefit from properties that include:

  • Anti-viral – sometimes used to treat respiratory infections
  • Anti-bacterial – assists in harmful gastrointestinal microbes
  • Sedative – provides relief from insomnia and stress

Commercially, terpineol is widely used as:

  • A flavoring agent for food products and beverages
  • An antibacterial agent for soaps and household cleaners
  • Adding depth to the fragrances of perfumes

α-Terpineol has already earned a reputation for being an effective compound across a multitude of uses. And so it comes as no surprise that it enhances the effects of CBD, as well as bolsters the entourage effect of cannabis strains containing terpineol.

Cannabis Strains Containing Terpineol

If you’re looking for a couple strains that showcase this lesser-known terpene, we’ve found a couple worth investigating. As terpenes tend to travel in packs, you’ll also find pinene and caryophyllene in most of these popular strains:

  • Harlequin – The origins of this strain’s name originates back to the 17th century. In Italy, Harlequin was a comedic, magical character that entertained the young and old while wearing a colorful, patchwork outfit. Much like its name’s sake, this strain is uplifting and perfect for treating pain and anxiety. Harlequin contains high amounts of CBD, countering THC’s psychoactive effects and leaving customers in a pleasant mood. A great strain for beginners and long-time cannasseurs alike.
  • Blue Dream – Unlike Harlequin, this strain has a high THC, low CBD ratio and is sativa-dominant. It’s cerebral “head-high” benefits patients and adult users that suffer from chronic pain and stress. Although not ideal for use before sleeping, its affects encourage productivity and has been used to treat PTSD and anxiety.
  • Jack Herer – We had to give this strain another shout-out due to its very diverse terpene profile. Terpineol is right at home adding its pine and floral notes to the entourage of other dominant terpenes found in Jack Herer. If you’re looking for genetics that are popular for daytime use, look no further than the world renown Jack Herer.
  • Jack Flash – This strain sounds a bit like a comic book hero, which might just be true given it’s bred using the genetics of Jack Herer and Super Skunk. Thanks to the genetics of Super Skunk, Jack Flash leans into indica territory. It has an aroma of citrus and earthy tones and provides recreational and medical users with more of a body high. The terpenes in Jack Flash work together to provide relief for those suffering from depression, ADHD, and even migraines. Sometimes “couch-lock” is just what the doctor ordered, and Jack Flash delivers.

Although each strain above is unique, they all convey the benefits of terpineol in their terpene profiles. For the sativa-heavy strains, terpineol adds balance. And for the indica strains, it enhances relaxation and pain relief.

A Closing Look at Terpineol

Terpineol may not be the first, second, or even third most popular terpene, however, even in small concentrations, this monoterpene packs a mighty punch. And its presence in a strain should not be overlooked when considering the cultivation of new strains. Let’s take a closing look at terpineol:

AromaLilac and floral aromas with hints of pine and citrus
Foods Containing PineneBitter oranges, green tea, blueberries, limes
Natural OccurrencesEucalyptus resin, lilac, linden flowers
Common BenefitsAnti-bacterial, anti-viral, analgesic (pain reliever), anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, sedative, and anxiety relief
Popular Cannabis StrainsHarlequin, Blue Dream, Jack Herer, Jack Flash
Terpineol may not be easily identified by smell alone, but it plays a significant role next to other terpenes throughout nature. Its strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial characteristics make it highly sought after for commercial applications.

Commercial cannabis horticulturists are becoming increasingly aware that the strains they cultivate have far more to offer than their THC content. Strategically leveraging the genetics of various strains when crossbreeding can allow for deliberate terpene concentrations aimed to treat specific ailments, conditions, and illnesses.

We may see the cannabis concentrate manufacturers begin to introduce terpenes, and not just for the enhanced aroma. Imagine a diversified product line of cannabis oils designed to treat specific conditions. Viral lung infections, insomnia, gastrointestinal complications, treating tumors – the possibilities are encouraging to say the least.

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