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Beyond Super Class 8 Terpenes: Borneol

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

This article is brought to you by the Cannabis Commerce + Chemistry Podcast.

 

A variety of both favorable medicinal efficacies as well as potential adverse effects have been identified in the major cannabinoids, including CBD and delta-9 THC. To better understand the adverse effects of THC, see C3 Podcast No. 33.


In Higher Learning LV's Super Class Terpenes series, the eight most common (and therefore, most important) terpenes produced by North American cannabis cultivars are described. But what about the other terpenes? What about those that have been significantly investigated by science, despite the fact that they are less common in cannabis.


Although their commonality in cannabis and hemp might be low, many of these terpenes are produced in significant volumes by other botanical species.


Borneol History

The first recorded use of borneol as a treatment to improve heath was in 659 A.D. in the Tang Benacao during the Tang Dynasty (it was described as "bitter, acrid, and slightly cold, used to dispel pathogenic factors in the chest and abdomen"). In 1842, this terpene was named by French chemist Charles Frédéric Gerhardt.


Several research studies have revealed the wide range of potential benefits provided by the terpene borneol. Wellness benefits include bronchodilation, anticancer mechanisms, and anti-inflammatory effects.

Borneol molecular structure


Borneol for Cardiovascular Disease

A 2021 study entitled "Borneol in Cardio-cerebrovascular Diseases: Pharmacological Actions, Mechanisms, and Therapeutics" that was published in the journal Pharmacological Research explored "the pharmacological actions and possible mechanisms of [the terpene] borneol, which provides novel ideas for the treatment of cardio-cerebrovascular diseases.


The study reported that the incidence of cardio-cerebrovascular diseases (CVDs) is increasing and that they are "the leading cause of human mortality." It noted that the terpene borneol conveys potential anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-apoptotic (anti-cancer), and anti-coagulant activities. The research explained that borneol may also improve energy metabolism.


The study concluded that borneol "can protect the cardio-cerebrovascular system through its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-thrombotic, and anti-coagulant properties."

The research explained that cardio-cerebrovascular diseases are defined as "all heart and brain diseases related to vascular diseases," including atherosclerosis, hypertension, myocardial hypertrophy, and stroke. Data from the World Health Organization reveals that about 18 million people globally died from CVDs in 2016. This number reflects 31 percent of world-wide deaths—of which 85 percent were heart attack and stroke.


Statistics from the World Health Organization showed that the number of deaths due to CVDs reached about 18 million in 2016. It accounts for 31 percent of global deaths, of which 85 percent were heart attack and stroke. The study reported that those most likely to suffer CVDs are older or engage in tobacco smoking and/or alcohol drinking, suffer hypertension, may have diabetes, are overweight, or genetic influences (a family history of CVDs).

One of the most promising potential medical roles for this terpene, however, may be its ability to "promote drugs to enter the target organs or tissues through various physiological barriers," including the extremely selective blood-brain barrier (BBB), mucous membranes, and skin. Due to these characteristics, the scientists noted that borneol possesses "a significant therapeutic effect on various CVDs."


A promising role for this terpene may be to "promote drugs to enter the target organs or tissues through various physiological barriers," including the extremely selective blood-brain barrier.

The researchers explained that many conventional pharmaceutical and drug therapies carry with them a slew of negative side effects. "Hence, it is particularly urgent to look for alternative drugs for CVDs," reported the study.


The study noted that borneol (also called Bing-Pian or Long-Nao) is both botanically sourced and also synthesized. It is a bicyclic monoterpene that can be obtained from woody plants, the essential oil of camphor trees, or cannabis and hemp. It concluded that borneol "can protect the cardio-cerebrovascular system through its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-thrombotic, and anti-coagulant properties."


Borneol for Stroke

A 2019 study entitled "Borneol for Regulating the Permeability of the Blood-Brain Barrier in Experimental Ischemic Stroke: Preclinical Evidence and Possible Mechanism" that was published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity investigated whether the administration of borneol "exerted a significant decrease of blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability during cerebral ischemic injury."

The study also reported that borneol may improve neurological function.

The research reported that the terpene borneol is used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine as an "upper ushering drug" for a range of brain diseases. It noted that the BBB plays an an important role in maintaining a health brain and a "stable homeostatic environment." It noted that many diseases of the brain and central nervous system involve the destruction of the BBB and increasing BBB permeability (it becomes a less effective filter to keep potentially harmful chemicals out of the brain).

The study also reported that borneol may improve neurological function. This ability makes it, according to the study's authors, "a promising neuroprotective agent for cerebral ischemic injury, largely through alleviating the BBB disruption, reducing oxidative reactions, and inhibiting the occurrence of inflammation."


Borneol for Lung Inflammation & Pain

A 2017 study entitled "Terpenes from Forests and Human Health" that was published in the journal Toxicological Research investigated the role of borneol in reducing inflammation within the lungs. The researchers found that borneol "alleviated acute lung inflammation by reducing inflammatory infiltration."


"Borneol alleviated acute lung inflammation by reducing inflammatory infiltration, histopathological changes, and cytokine production."

The study found borneol to be effective in reducing lung inflammation. Reported the researchers, "Borneol alleviated acute lung inflammation by reducing inflammatory infiltration, histopathological changes, and cytokine production."


In addition, the study found borneol to be potentially effective in treating certain types of pain and observed that it might play a role in treatment regimes "as an anti-inflammatory agent for neuropathic-pain."


The report also noted the acute anti-inflammatory properties of other terpenes, including BCP, pinene, limonene, cymene, linalool, and terpinene. The study's authors concluded that a variety of terpenes, including borneol, "have presented important results in cell and animal systems according to their anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, or neuroprotective activities."


Borneol for Cancer

A 2013 study entitled "Borneol Potentiates Apoptosis in Human Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cells" that was published in the journal PLOS ONE explored the ability of the borneol terpene to combat certain varieties of cancer.


"We demonstrated that borneol significantly enhanced...antiproliferative activity...by induction of apoptosis [that kills cancer cells]."

The study reported that borneol is, in fact, "significant" in its ability to cause apoptosis in cancer cells. Apoptosis is the genetically pre-programmed and directed self-destruction of cancer cells. Wrote the study's authors, "we demonstrated that borneol significantly enhanced...antiproliferative activity...by induction of apoptosis [that kills cancer cells]."


The study's authors concluded, "borneol strongly potentiates...apoptosis in cancer cells by enhancement of cellular uptake and activation of ROS-mediated DNA damage. Borneol could be further developed as a chemosensitizer...in treatment of human cancers."


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