Welcome to Talking Terpenes: Behind the Blends, the evidence-based educational series that explores the biochemistry of the fragrant wellness molecules produced by cannabis, hemp, and 20,000 other plant species called terpenes.
The evolutionary function of terpenes—and their often intense aromas—is to protect and propagate a plant species by repelling pests and predators while simultaneously attracting pollinators (insects or human cultivators). It just so happens that these chemical compounds also deliver sometimes striking health benefits to humans and mammals.
Talking Terpenes teaches readers about the wide range of health advantages offered by these special compounds. Readers learn how terpene blends deliver enhanced medicinal efficacy and delicately layered, bold fragrances. Humans have been adding terpenes and terpene blends to food, beverages, and topical creams and lotions for thousands of years.
This edition of Talking Terpenes investigates the Extract Consultants Solvent Free G-Rilla Blend (also available in TasteBudds Flavor for Beer & Spirits). This mix’s formulation involved consideration of the biomechanical properties of each terpene, including their combined effects.
The terpenes featured in the G-Rilla Blend (renamed from Gorilla Glue #1) offer a powerful and enticing aroma profile that delivers unique notes of mocha coffee punctuated by earthy diesel undertones.
This cultivar emerged from the cross breeding of Chem’s Sister and Chocolate Diesel, two strains known for their fragrant aroma bouquets. The efficacy of this terpene blend is decidedly indica and known among cannabis consumers for its sedating qualities.
Alpha-pinene is one of two isomers of the pinene terpene that includes the considerably less common beta-pinene. Also dubbed α-pinene, this terpene holds the distinction of being the most common in nature (D-limonene is the second most common). Within cannabis and hemp, α-pinene is considered a major terpene, meaning that it is typically produced in significant quantities relative to other terpenes in the cultivars in which it appears.
Alpha-pinene delivers a fragrant and somewhat raw aroma that is earthy, fresh, and musky with a distinct undertone of pine. This terpene is made by more than 400 plant species in nature, including basil, cannabis, eucalyptus, frankincense, oranges, parsley, rosemary, and sage.
Like other terpenes, alpha-pinene delivers a range of wellness benefits. These include anti-inflammation, bronchodilation (the opening of bronchial passages in the lungs), anxiety reduction, and pain relief properties. Anecdotal reports claim that this terpene may counter some of the short-term memory impacts of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the infamous psychoactive cannabinoid produced by cannabis.
Medicinal Research on Alpha Pinene
A 2017 study entitled “Potential Protective Effects of Alpha-pinene Against Cytotoxicity” that was published in the journal Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy investigated the antioxidant characteristics of this common terpene.
The study results “indicated that alpha-pinene revealed an important antioxidant activity” and that it “significantly increased the survival of cells.” The investigators concluded that their findings “suggest that alpha-pinene can protect...cells against...oxidative stress.”
Notable Strains that Feature Alpha Pinene
- Durbin Poison
- GG#4 (Gorilla Glue #4)
- White Widow
- Northern Lights
- Fruity Pebbles
- Tahoe OG
- GSC (Girl Scout Cookies)
The isomer sibling to alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, is a minor terpene—meaning that it manifests in most cultivars of cannabis in relatively low volumes. This phytomolecule, also denoted as β-pinene, conveys an aroma profile involving green wood and pine and is abundant in pine forests. The fragrant tone produced by beta-pinene has been described as “fresh and earthy.”
Beyond its role in cannabis, beta-pinene is produced by hundreds of plant species, including basil, cedar, conifer trees, dill, eucalyptus, oranges, parsley, pine trees, and rosemary.
The medicinal value of beta-pinene is varied and includes analgesia (pain management) as well as antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neurogenerative properties. Like its sibling alpha-pinene, β-pinene conveys bronchodilation, making it a potential support agent for conditions such as allergies, asthma, and bronchitis. Both the alpha and beta isomers of pinene have been reported to deliver mental clarity and alertness.
Medicinal Research on Beta Pinene
A 2010 clinical trial study entitled “A Day Trip to a Forest Park Increases Human Expression of Anti-cancer Proteins” that was published in the Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents explored the ability of terpenes such as beta-pinene and alpha-pinene to contribute to the health of human test subjects.
The Japanese study reported that test subjects, 12 males aged 35-53, spent three days in a forest in which significant quantities of “alpha-pinene and beta-pinene were detected in the forest air.”
The study’s authors concluded that their findings “indicate that the day trip to the forest park” improved the health of the test subjects, specifically in terms of “production of NK cells and levels of intracellular anti-cancer proteins.” These benefits were found to last for at least seven days following exposure to the beta-pinene in the forest air.
Notable Strains that Feature Beta Pinene
D-limonene, one of two isomers that includes L-limonene, is a major terpene that delivers a fresh and fruity aroma dominated by tones of citrus in the form of lemon and lime. This terpene is produced by cannabis, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin, and orange and is the second most common in nature.
D-limonene delivers a range of wellness benefits, including reductions in anxiety and improvements in conditions based in anxiety, including depression. It also conveys antibacterial properties, may be an effective ingredient in treating heartburn and gastric reflux, and has been found to act as an antifungal. D-limonene may help improve the absorption of other terpenes when applied topically as a cream or lotion. This terpene is employed by the food industry as a flavoring agent. D-limonene is also commonly added to cosmetics to provide an attractive citrus-like fragrance.
Medicinal Research on D-Limonene
A 1998 human trial study entitled “Phase I and Pharmacokinetic Study of D-limonene in Patients with Advanced Cancer” that was published in the journal Cancer Chemotherapy & Pharmacology investigated several aspects of this terpene, including “the toxicity, the maximum tolerated dose (MTD), and pharmacokinetics in patients with advanced cancer.”
The study involved a group of “32 patients with refractory solid tumors” who completed “99 courses of D-limonene (0.5 to 12 g/m2 per day) administered orally in 21-day cycles.”
The researchers concluded that D-Limonene is “well tolerated in cancer patients at doses which may have clinical activity.” The scientists also noted the “favorable toxicity profile” of D-limonene and called for additional clinical investigations to collect more research data.
Notable Strains that Feature Limonene
Although common in nature, linalool is categorized as a minor terpene in the cannabis genome. It delivers a sweet aroma that is associated with lavender, with undertones of citrus and sometimes spice. Beyond hemp and cannabis, linalool is produced by basil, birch bark, lavender, mugwort, solidago, tomato, and more than 200 other plant species in nature.
The primary medicinal benefits of linalool are relaxation and a decrease in anxiety. This trait makes this compound of special interest to a number of patient populations, including those who suffer social anxiety and severe depression and the sleep disorders, including insomnia, that often result from these conditions. In fact, the soothing effects attributed to lavender, often employed in aromatherapy for its calming qualities, are caused by linalool.
In addition, linalool has been found to provide support for the treatment of epilepsy, pain, and Alzheimer’s disease, among other conditions.
Medicinal Research on Linalool
A 2018 study entitled “Antioxidant Activity of Linalool” that was published in the Engineering and Technology Journal noted the potential health benefits of this terpene, including “antifungal and antibacterial, in addition to antioxidant and anticancer activity.”
The study focused on “identifying and investigating the characteristics of linalool and the total antioxidant activity.” The researchers concluded that their study “demonstrated the high antioxidant activity of linalool” and that it confirmed that this terpene “can be used in the treatment of several types of diseases and cancer” due to its antioxidant activity.
Notable Strains that Feature Linalool
The terpenes that compose the G-Rilla Solvent Free Terpene Blend and G-Rilla TTB Approved Terpene Flavor from Extract Consultants—including alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, d-limonene, and linalool—offer a unique aroma profile dominated by mocha coffee that features heavy undertones of earth and diesel.
As revealed by peer-reviewed research studies dating back nearly three decades, this mix of terpenes offers a range of wellness benefits. These include anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, and neuroprotective properties.
Some of the terpenes, including linalool, may decrease seizure activity in patients with epilepsy. Overall, this blend is categorized as an indica due to its overwhelming properties of anxiety reduction and relaxation, although the presence of alpha-pinene and beta-pinene contributes to a sativa-like mental alertness and clarity.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Curt Robbins is a technical writer, instructional designer, and lecturer who has been developing science-based educational and training content for Fortune 200 enterprise companies for more than 30 years. He is Director of Course Development at Higher Learning LV™ in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Robbins began writing about the biochemistry and science of the various wellness molecules produced by plants such as hemp in 2003. He has since developed more than 600 educational articles about hemp and its health components—including terpenes, cannabinoids, flavonoids, and the human endocannabinoid system.