Cannabis terpenes: Alpha-pinene and Beta-pinene

Published Oct 10, 2019 01:00 p.m. ET
iStock / MartinSarikov

Cannabis is known for its medical and therapeutic benefits. Cannabinoids, as well as terpenes, play an essential role in the medical and therapeutic properties of marijuana. You may have heard about cannabinoids before, but very few know much about terpenes.

Do you know what terpenes are?

Terpenes are compounds found in cannabis as well as other plants, and they are primarily responsible for giving these plants their aromatic properties. We know that there are different types of weed, usually referred to as strains, and that one particular terpene, pinene, is found in almost over six thousand (6000) strains of weed. This type of terpene is responsible for the 'pine' smell of cannabis. There are two types of pinene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene.

Benefits of Pinene

Apart from the usual and obvious aromatic purpose of pinene, there are also other medical benefits. There have been reported health benefits from strains high in pinene terpene, and some of these perks include:

  • The killing of cancer cells- terpenes aid THC in the process of destroying cancer cells. A 2018 study published in ‘Biochemical Pharmacology’ supported this theory.

  • Improvement in memory

  • Several prescribed antibiotics can be more useful when Alpha and Beta-pinene are added to it, as is supported by a study conducted in 2012 published in the journal called molecules.

  • Scientists have shown interest in the effect of terpenes on cannabinoids in their synergistic interaction, especially as it relates to therapeutic benefits.



Alpha-pinene is one of the two twin pinenes. Alpha-pinene, like other terpenes, usually works along with other compounds found in the cannabis plant.  This helps the other compounds such as cannabinoids to be more effective. Alpha-pinene is not uniquely found only in cannabis.  It can be found in other plants as well, such as pine trees and rosemary. There is limited scientific information on the interaction between pinenes and cannabinoids. However, there is evidence that the entourage effect of Alpha-pinene, as well as other terpenes, does significantly change the reaction of the two main cannabinoids, THC and CBD.


Beta-pinene is the other twin pinene. It is found in pine trees and most of the plants like Alpha-pinene. Although Beta pinene's level of concentration in these plants is lower than Alpha-pinene. Beta-pinene’s shape looks like a reflection of Alpha-pinene. Similar to Alpha pinene, the interaction between Beta pinene may cause changes to the interaction of CBD and THC.

Both terpenes are similar in many ways. They are both clear, colorless, and insoluble in water, which is a testament to their distinctive and strong aroma. On the other hand, these two terpenes are usually used as solvents to dissolve other chemicals. The concentration of Alpha and Beta-pinene in cannabis varies from strain to strain. Due to the small quantity of pinene in marijuana, there is no poisonous risk, as seen in other chemicals such as turpentine. Therefore, it is safe to purchase strains of cannabis with a high concentration of pinene.

Hopefully, as time progresses and marijuana legalization spreads around the world, more research will be conducted on chemical compounds such as terpenes found in marijuana to determine other new and exciting potential benefits.

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