Pinene: the smell of the forest in cannabis

The terpene in this article is one of the main protagonists of any pine forest. Pinene, a volatile compound produced in large quantities by pines and other conifers, which is also widely present in cannabis.

Pinene is actually two terpenes: alpha-pinene and beta-pinene, each with its own unique characteristics and effects. We invite you to know the curiosities of this aroma of marijuana in this post.

Pinene: What is it and what effect does this terpene have on cannabis?

Introduction to pinene terpene and its aromas

To discover the scent of pinene, we will enter a lush forest. After a long summer day, we went for a walk to enjoy the last hours of daylight, taking advantage of the good late afternoon temperature. A gentle breeze can be felt moving the branches and leaves.

The pines stand majestically, stretching their branches toward the sky. Its stinging leaves and green pinecones adorn each branch, bringing freshness to the landscape. In the trunks, a treasure is revealed in each furrow: the resin that flows, like amber-colored tears. Under the faint light of the sunset, the golden glow of the resin glints mingles with the play of shadows among the trees.

The air is impregnated with a characteristic scent: the fresh heady perfume of resin and green wood. The entire forest whispers in silence and we immerse ourselves in its serenity. We inhale deeply to fill ourselves with that pleasant smell. It is like a balm for the soul that fills us with calm. We are here and now nothing more. Attentive and calm.

We got home, opened a bag of CBD Gorilla Glue and we are surprised by the same fresh, woody and resinous aroma… Pineno we don’t see you but we feel you, explain us in this post why you are capable of so much good.

What is pinene?

Pinene is a terpene found mainly in pine trees, to which it owes its name. It is also found in certain varieties of cannabis and, although it is not the predominant terpene of a strain, it provides woody, resinous and fresh undertones.

Pinene is actually two different terpenes: alpha and beta pinene. Although they are very similar, they have subtle differences in their aromatic sensations.

Pinene has a fresh and woody aroma, evoking notes of green resin and pine. In addition, there are subtle differences between the aroma of alpha pinene and beta pinene.


Pinene is a bicyclic monoterpene and therefore one of the lightest, most volatile and agile terpenes to reach our sense of smell first, which is why it is one of the first aromas we notice.

Alpha and beta pinene have the same molecular shape (their number of atoms is identical), but they have different structures, and are what is known in chemistry as isomers. What interests us is that, depending on its structure, this bicyclic monoterpene will have slightly different properties.

These variations can also be seen in their odor. Although both have a similar aroma, they have subtle differences in nuances.


Pinene smells, first and foremost, of pine. It is not for nothing that conifers, which are the botanical family of trees that produce pine cones, such as pines, cedars and firs, are the top pinene producers in the plant kingdom par excellence.

Let’s think of a walk through a pine forest, that fresh aroma of green pine wood, earthy and resin-tinged. Visualize the pinecones, the sticky amber-colored resin slowly sliding down the trunk, and the green of the needles on the branches. Can you imagine the fragrance of the image? Can you smell it? This is the predominant aroma of pinene.

Differences between alpha and beta pinene

Alpha-pinene, also known as α-pinene, is found mainly in the resin of pine trees (Pinus spp.), but also in eucalyptus, frankincense (Boswellia frereana), juniper pitch and rosemary essential oil.

But what it certainly stands out for is that it is the main component of turpentine (the distillate of pine resin), and gives it that characteristic fresh and penetrating aroma of freshly cut green wood, resin and pine, with balsamic notes more prominent than beta pinene. It is also the main compound responsible for the forest odor. In cannabis, this isomer is usually more abundant than beta pinene.

Alpha pinene has a fresh, earthy aroma of green wood, resin and pine, with prominent balsamic notes.

In contrast, beta-pinene, also called β-pinene, although also found in abundance in pine trees, is also very present in the essential oil of some herbs and spices, such as parsley, coriander, celery, bay leaf and nutmeg, and in a very characteristic fruit: the blackcurrant.

The aroma of beta pinene is fresh and woody, with notes of pine and resin, but, unlike alpha pinene, it is more aromatic and herbaceous, earthy and has a spicy undertone of pepper and nutmeg.

Beta pinene has a fresh and woody aroma, with herbal nuances and spicy notes of black pepper and nutmeg.

Where are alpha and beta pinene found?

All trees of the conifer family produce both alpha and beta pinene in their leaves (needles) and in their sap or resin. Can you imagine the smell of freshly cut pine wood, with its resin drops still fresh? This is the purest aroma of pinene.

In fact, the word terpene derives from has its etymological origin in the Greek word terebinth, which is the ancient name for turpentine, composed mainly of alpha and beta pinene(alpha pinene is usually more abundant than its beta isomer). Beta pinene predominant plant chemotypes are rare.

The same is true for other plants such as cannabis: the alpha form is more frequent, and most of the strains analyzed that are rich in beta pinene also contain a high content of alpha pinene.

Which CBD flowers are rich in pinene?

Like all other terpenes, pinene in cannabis is produced in that part of the plant where the magic happens: cannabis trichomes, the resinous glands produced in the flowers of female plants, which are secreting cannabinoids and terpenes, including alpha and beta pinene.

The varieties of CBD flower varieties pinene-rich varieties of Cannactiva are:

The flowers richest in alpha pinene are the CBD Gorilla Glue flowers, Sweet Spot (Watermelon CBD x Zkittlez) and The Elder (Space Queen). The varieties richest in beta pinene are, again, Gorilla Glue (Funky Monkey) and The Elder (Space Queen).

Visit our CBD flowers section to see the entire catalog.

Pinene-rich marijuana varieties

There is a lot of bibliography published by the connoisseurs of cannabis flowers whose expert sense of smell of taster orients correctly towards the buds rich in pinene. And all these empirical tests agree on one thing: varieties with pinene as the predominant terpene are scarce: pinene is rare, but when it is present, its presence is unmistakable.

When smelling a cannabis flower we notice a woody and resinous aroma in the background , which we quickly associate with wood, we are dealing with a strain with pinene levels. If you have smelled the mythical Moby Dick you know what we are talking about. Another mythical genetics that appears again and again in the lists of pinene-rich varieties is Critical. This strain so highly valued in Europe, and with a Made in Spain denomination of origin, owes part of its success to these resinous undertones.

How to preserve pinene in cannabis?

Pinene, as a monoterpene, is a more volatile and lighter element than other aromatic compounds in cannabis. More volatile, lighter, preserving it intact is no easy task. As always, humidity, heat and light can play tricks. Namely: evaporation of α-pinene occurs at 156 degrees (ºC), and evaporation of β-pinene at 163 degrees (ºC). Exposed to a higher temperature they degrade.

What effect does pinene have on cannabis?

The so-called entourage effect or the synergy that different cannabis compounds exert on each other, explains how pinene can enhance the activity of other terpenes and the cannabinoids themselves.

It is known that alpha-pinene and beta-pinene can act synergistically to reduce inflammation (5), and, together with limonene, may have a synergistic effect as antibacterials (7, 8).

It could also be hypothesized that since many of the effects of pinene are similar to cannabidiol (CBD) applications, the two could form a synergy in their anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. But more scientific studies supporting these possible uses of pinene are still lacking.

Potential effects on mood and energy

Even without a scientific literature or irrefutable clinical trials, it is common to hear that varieties with high levels of pinene contribute to focus attention.

Properties and benefits of pinene

The mystery of pinene: its effects on the brain

The fresh and earthy fragrance of pinene has an aromatherapeutic effect, helps to relax the mind and body, and improves our mood. This pine-scented terpene is one of those responsible for the benefits of forest baths, which have been shown to promote a state of calm and reduce stress and anxiety levels in people (1, 2).

Pinene has a relaxing and calming effect. It is attributed with properties to reduce stress, improve mood and sleep quality.

The exact mechanisms by which pinene exerts its effects on mood are not known. Both alpha and beta pinene do not appear to interact with CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, but both isomers have been found to have the capacity to act in the brain. Like other monoterpenes, pinene is a tiny molecule that is rapidly absorbed by inhalation, ingestion or topical application. It reaches the blood and from there travels to the brain, where it is able to easily cross the blood-brain barrier and act on different receptors in the central nervous system.

Alpha pinene has the ability to positively influence GABA receptors in the brain. It acts as a positive modulator, which means that it can enhance the effect of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA (which decreases neuronal activity and promotes relaxation and calmness). In an animal study, it was observed that this terpene contributed to improved sleep, suggesting that it may have beneficial effects on the quality of rest. For its part, beta pinene appears to interact with serotonin and β-adrenergic receptors, which, in preliminary studies, has demonstrated an antidepressant effect.

In addition, both alpha and beta pinene appear to be able to increase dopamine concentrations in the striatal nucleus, the part of the brain involved in regulating mood, motivation and pleasure.

Other studies have shown that pinene has neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which would demonstrate potential benefits to the nervous system. In animal models, alpha pinene has reduced neuronal damage in ischemia and stroke.

All these effects on brain receptors and their neurotransmitters suggest the potential of pinene in its possible anxiolytic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and neuroprotective properties (2).

Can pinene improve memory?

One of the most popular properties attributed to this terpene found in cannabis is that of helping to improve memory, and it is said that it may even counteract the effects of THC on short-term memory.

Surprising as it may seem, there are findings on the positive effect of alpha pinene on memory improvement, including improved learning, in experimental animals (3). This effect seems to be caused by the increase of acetylcholine in the brain, which plays an important role in memory and cognitive abilities. The mechanism of action would be that this terpene would increase the activity of the enzyme choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), responsible for producing acetylcholine in the brain.

These are the results on which the famous cannabis researcher Ethan Russo bases his theorizing that the pinene in cannabis could help mitigate the effects on short-term memory of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on short-term memory. . He also based his theory on an ancient antidote against marijuana intoxication based on calamus root(Acorus calamus), a medicinal plant whose active ingredient (beta asarone, although the same plant also contains high amounts of alpha pinene) has the same effect on acetylcholine (4).

Alpha-pinene has memory-enhancing properties and is said to counteract THC-induced short-term memory deficits.

Pinene and insomnia

Through its effects on the neurotransmitter GABA, alpha pinene may be useful for insomnia and for improving sleep quality. In animal studies, it has been observed that α-pinene prolongs the duration of non-REM sleep and reduces the time it takes to fall asleep (2).

* You may be interested in: CBD for insomnia

Analgesia and pain

Analgesic properties of alpha pinene have been observed in animal studies. This terpene appears to reduce inflammation, and is being investigated for its possible use in migraine and neuropathic pain. Although preliminary results are very positive, more research is needed (3).

Pinene on the respiratory system

We have all felt how breathing in the forest opens up the lungs. Pinene, and in particular alpha-pinene, has anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator properties (5) that contribute to this feeling of breathing better in nature.

This is the end of our first contact with pinene. To say goodbye as it deserves, we propose a Shinrin-yoku, or as it means in Japanese: a “forest bath“. Put on your sneakers and start walking towards the nearest grove of trees. While you concentrate on the sound of the leaves moving in the wind, breathe in the smell of the forest and its aromas. Now you know that you can also find them in your cannabis buds.

  1. Li Q. Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environ Health Prev Med. 2010 Jan;15(1):9-17. doi: 10.1007/s12199-008-0068-3. PMID: 19568839; PMCID: PMC2793341.
  2. Weston-Green K, Clunas H, Jimenez Naranjo C. A Review of the Potential Use of Pinene and Linalool as Terpene-Based Medicines for Brain Health: Discovering Novel Therapeutics in the Flavours and Fragrances of Cannabis. Front Psychiatry. 2021 Aug 26;12:583211. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.583211. PMID: 34512404; PMCID: PMC8426550.
  3. Lee GY, Lee C, Park GH, Jang JH. Amelioration of Scopolamine-Induced Learning and Memory Impairment by α-Pinene in C57BL/6 Mice. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:4926815. doi: 10.1155/2017/4926815. Epub 2017 Nov 1. PMID: 29234406; PMCID: PMC5687139.
  4. Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Aug;163(7):1344-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x. PMID: 21749363; PMCID: PMC3165946.
  5. Salehi B, Upadhyay S, Erdogan Orhan I, Kumar Jugran A, L D Jayaweera S, A Dias D, Sharopov F, Taheri Y, Martins N, Baghalpour N, Cho WC, Sharifi-Rad J. Therapeutic Potential of α- and β-Pinene: A Miracle Gift of Nature. Biomolecules. 2019 Nov 14;9(11):738. doi: 10.3390/biom9110738. PMID: 31739596; PMCID: PMC6920849.
  6. Amagai Y, Katsuta C, Nomura Y, Oida K, Matsuda K, Jang H, Ahn G, Hamasaki T, Matsuda H, Tanaka A. Amelioration of atopic-like skin conditions in NC/Tnd mice by topical application with distilled Alpinia intermedia Gagnep extracts. J Dermatol. 2017 Nov;44(11):1238-1247. doi: 10.1111/1346-8138.13995. Epub 2017 Aug 16. PMID: 28815692; PMCID: PMC5697676.
  7. Alma, M. H., Nitz, S., Kollmannsberger, H., Digrak, M., Efe, F. T., & Yilmaz, N. (2004). Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oils from the gum of Turkish pistachio (Pistacia vera L.). Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 52(12), 3911-3914.
  8. Dai, J., Zhu, L., Yang, L., & Qiu, J. (2013). Chemical composition, antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of essential oil from Wedelia prostrata. EXCLI journal, 12, 479-490.
  9. US Department of Agriculture. Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases.


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