Terpene University: Part 5 – Terpinolene

α-Terpinolene is a lesser terpene that’s a bit of an underdog in the world of terpenes and cannabis. Unlike most terps, terpinolene (TPO) does not exhibit anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving properties. And it is frequently found in lower concentrations, often considered to be one of the least common terpenes produced by the cannabis plant.

Even so, TPO has much to offer and has a role to play in the synergistic effects of many cannabis strains. It may not be the most popular terpene on the block, however, it’s not a terpene to be overlooked!

What Is Terpinolene?

This monoterpene (contains two isoprene units) commonly goes by the name δ (delta) -terpinene. Plants biosynthesize TPO for its anti-fungal properties, as well as its ability to ward off insects. If the chemical structure looks familiar, it’s because terpinolene has a big family! Terpinolene has three isomers (immediate family) and is part of the pinene family of terpenes as a whole (a large extended family)!

Terpinolene's Chemical Structure
Most terpenes are constructed of isoprene units, which contain five carbon atoms. Terpinolene is a monoterpene containing two isoprene units and shares the same chemical formula as many other monoterpenes – C10H16.

Although the chemical properties of terpinolene may have medicinal benefits, it is primarily known for its commercial uses in everyday products such as soap, insect repellants, and turpentine. And as nature produces this terpene in small quantities, it is often synthesized from α-pinene.

Where Can You Find Terpinolene?

As with most monoterpenes, terpinolene can be found throughout nature in a variety of plants such as herbs and tree resins. In fact, its woody, fresh, nutty aroma can be experienced in parsnips, nutmeg, and pine cones. Terpinolene can also have hints of sweet citrus fragrances.

Terpinolene in Nutmeg
Nutmeg is a spice primarily harvested from the evergreen tree, Myristica fragrans. Its nutty flavor is used in making wine, tea, and various desserts. Nutmeg contains several beneficial plant compounds including terpinolene.

Unlike pinene, limonene, and myrcene, it can be difficult to identify terpinolene by its aroma alone. This is in part due to TPO inducing a wide variety of scents. Its piney scent is overcome by the larger concentrations of pinene that almost always exists in the presence of terpinolene. It has hints of many of the primary terpenes and blends into the cannabis strain’s aroma like a ninja.

And this is fine. Terpinolene is perfectly happy taking a backseat to other terpenes, adding its therapeutic benefits to the entourage effect of any strain lucky enough to contain small amounts of TPO.

What Are the Benefits of Terpinolene?

Most terpenes are well known for their ability to fight inflammation and reduce pain. However, that’s not how TPO likes to roll. Terpinolene could be considered the “paladin” terpene. It protects its host from excessive fungal growth, repels insects that would otherwise consume the plant, and even staves off herbivores with an aroma many animals find unpleasant.

For those who consume cannabis, strains containing α-terpinolene offer the following advantages:

  • Antioxidant
  • Sedative, analgesic
  • Reduction in the growth and spread of cancerous cells

These benefits play nicely with those of accompanying terpenes present in the strain. And characteristics of TPO towards commercial applications include:

  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Insect Repellant / insecticide
  • A flavoring agent
  • Used in solvents such as paint thinner

Note: Although terpinolene is used as both a flavoring in food and a compound in commercial turpentine products, never consume or inhale hydrocarbon products inappropriately as they may contain additional ingredients that are harmful to humans.

The benefits of TPO are great. That said, terpinolene can be toxic to animals and insects. So next time you’re riding a high and get the urge to pass the joint to your furry family member, keep that dank bud to yourself. And don’t worry, pets rarely hold their cannabis-using owners accountable for breaking toking etiquette.

Cannabis Strains Containing Terpinolene

After reviewing the medicinal benefits of TPO, one can understand why this terpene is worth including in your latest strain’s terpene profile, we’ve found a few strains worth checking out:

  • Jack Herer – Possibly one of the most popular strains, Jack Herer was cultivated by Sensi Seeds in honor of the “hemporer,” Jack Herer. This strain is popular for its cerebral high, often used to spark creativity. Terpinolene adds to Jack Herer’s aroma and complements the strains dominant terpenes.
  • XJ-13 – The name of this strain looks to be something out of 1980’s science fiction. XJ-13 is the bud baby of Jack Herer and G13 Haze and is labeled as a hybrid. This strain contains caryophyllene, terpinolene, and ocimene, which all contribute to it’s uplifting effects.
  • Golden Pineapple – This aromatic bud is a cross between Golden Goat and Pineapple Kush. The strain is known in the medicinal cannabis community to have uplifting and relaxing effects. The terpinolene in Golden Pineapple comes from the Pineapple Kush’s genetic contributions.
  • Dutch Treat – This indica-heavy strain is brought to us from our Canadian cultivation friends. It’s highly effective in treating insomnia and pain. As with many strains containing an earthy, pine scent, Dutch Treat also contains terpinolene.

Although you may find it difficult to identify terpinolene’s aroma in the strains above, that’s the nature of a terpene that hides in the shadows. However, the calming, sedative effects will be more prominent in the entourage effect of each strain.

A Closer Look at Terpinolene

For your convenience, the table below helps summarize many of the highlights covered in this article. If you enjoyed what you’ve read, feel free to bookmark this page so you can easily reference the characteristics of α-terpinolene when contemplating which strains to clone or crossbreed:

AromaPiney, woody, citrusy, slightly sweet, and herbal
Foods Containing PineneParsnips, apples, sage, nutmeg
Natural OccurrencesTea trees (Melaleuca alternifolia), pine, fir, and other coniferous trees
Common BenefitsAntioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, anxiety relief,
Popular Cannabis StrainsJack Herer, XJ-13, Golden Pineapple, Dutch Treat
Terpinolene works in tandem with the other, more dominant terpenes to produce calming effects. And commercially, the compound is widely used in manufacturing household products and solvents.

The antifungal and antibacterial characteristics of terpinolene are widely known. And its calming, sedative effects have been gaining attention for the last decade. If you’re looking to differentiate a strain and add depth to its aroma, terpinolene pairs perfectly with most indica and hybrid strains.

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