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Super Class Terpenes: Alpha-pinene

Updated: Jan 19

An October 2022 study entitled "Effects of Super-class Cannabis Terpenes Beta-caryophyllene and Alpha-pinene on Zebrafish Behavioral Biomarkers" that was published in the journal Scientific Reports suggested the existence of a special subclass of terpenes that it dubbed super class terpenes.

"There are more than fifty cannabis terpenes most commonly found in North American cannabis strains, eight of which predominate to form a 'Terpene Super Class,'" explained the study.

The eight super class terpenes identified by this pinnacle study include alpha-pinene, beta-caryophyllene (BCP), humulene, limonene, linalool, myrcene, ocimene, and terpinolene. Higher Learning LV investigates each of these important terpenes in our Super Class Terpenes series.

  • Read our exclusive summary of this peer-reviewed research study here.

  • Listen to the C3 Podcast episode regarding this study here.

"More than fifty cannabis terpenes are commonly found in North American cannabis strains, eight of which predominate to form a 'Terpene Super Class.'"


Alpha-pinene Overview

Alpha-pinene holds the distinction of being the most common terpene on earth. It is produced by hundreds of botanical species beyond cannabis (more than 400, actually), including basil, big sagebrush, camphorweed, conifers, dill, eucalyptus, frankincense, juniper, orange peels, parsley, pine nuts, rosemary, sage, and spruce.

In cannabis cultivars, the effects of alpha-pinene are often influenced and muted by myrcene, one of the most common terpenes produced by cannabis.

This distinctive terpene delivers an aroma that is fragrant and raw, with a fresh and musky body. As its name suggests, alpha-pinene produces a piney fragrance—with notes of turpentine. Its flavor has been described as "woody, dry, and resinous."

"Alpha-pinene's flash point is only 91° F—an excellent example of how terpenes are among the most volatile and delicate molecules in nature."

PubChem from the U.S. National Library of Medicine describes this compound as "a clear colorless liquid with a turpentine odor." Alpha-pinene's boiling point (the temperature at which vaporization occurs) is 314° F—an example of how terpenes are among the most volatile and delicate molecules in nature and that they break down at relatively low temperatures. "Less dense than water and insoluble in water [as are all terpenes and cannabinoids]. Vapors are heavier than air. Used as a solvent." reports PubChem.

Alpha-pinene's potential medicinal benefits include antibacterial, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antibiotic efficacy. It is commonly used to treat pain, inflammation, and anxiety and may offer efficacy for neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's disease.

Alpha-pinene Fast Facts

  • Aroma: Piney, turpentine-like

  • Flavor: Woody, dry, resinous

  • Boiling point: 314° F (157° C) (PubChem)

  • Molecular: Bicyclic monoterpene

  • Source cultivars: Blue Dream, Grape Ape, Harlequin, Vanilla Kush, Blue Haze

  • Medicinal efficacy: Pain, inflammation, anxiety; antioxidant and antibiotic

  • Producing plants: Cannabis, conifers, camphorweed, juniper, spruce

  • Uniqueness: Most common terpene on earth; powerful insect repellant

Research Studies

Peer-reviewed scientific studies have revealed a range of potential positive medicinal outcomes delivered by alpha-pinene, including dominant antibacterial, antioxidant, and anxiety-reducing actions.

A June 2022 study entitled "Potential Antibacterial Action of α-Pinene" that was published in the journal Medical Sciences Forum investigated "the antibacterial activity of α-pinene." The study's authors claimed that their data "points out that α-pinene has wide potential in antimicrobial therapy in order to inhibit the growth of bacteria as an isolated result or as a synergist of antibiotics."

"Terpenes stand out as active pharmaceutical ingredients as their antimicrobial effects."

The study reported that "the indiscriminate use of antibiotics has led to the development of microorganisms resistant to drug therapies" and that this warrants the search for alternative approaches to combat bacterial diseases.

Among these alternative approaches are terpenes, which the study's authors noted "stand out as active pharmaceutical ingredients as their antimicrobial effects are known as a result of their action on the function and structure of microbial cell walls and membranes."

"The present study demonstrates that α-pinene has antibacterial properties when applied to certain microorganisms," concluded the scientific investigation. The researchers reported that the antimicrobial effectiveness of alpha-pinene "is directly linked to its concentration."

An October 2021 study entitled "α-Pinene: A Never-ending Story" that was published in the journal Phytochemistry explored the biochemical characteristics of alpha-pinene. It stated that the "synergistic interaction of α-pinene offers a great potential in different therapeutic areas."

"Based on their various chemical structures and biological properties, terpenes have raised the attention of medicinal chemists as potential fragments, new lead compounds and active pharmaceutical ingredients," reported the research study. It described alpha-pinene as "important and of high interest for medical use, but also of high industrial and commercial value."

Pinene features a "low production cost, high natural abundance, and various biological properties" that make it valuable in the discovery of novel drugs and therapies.

The study reported that α-Pinene is "volatile and hydrophobic properties" (does not mix with water; mixes with oil or fat) with a "fresh pine scent and woody flavor." It noted that alpha-pinene features a "low production cost, high natural abundance, and various biological properties" that make it a valuable player in the discovery and formulation of novel drugs and therapies.

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