For many people, it might seem a little counterintuitive to imagine that smoking anything —cannabis or otherwise — could improve symptoms associated with many breathing conditions instead of making them worse. But, there is actually a terpene in certain strains of cannabis that has been found to improve respiratory issues like asthma or bronchitis.
Pinene is one of the most researched and most well-known terpenes, which makes sense as it is considered one of the principle terpenes found in the resin, stems and leaves of a number of plants, trees and herbs. There are two types, or varieties, of pinene: alpha and beta. It’s found naturally in pine needles, rosemary, dill, basil, parsley, spruce and fir trees, and sage. As the name suggests, alpha-pinene smells light and fresh like pine, while beta-pinene smells a little spicier like hops or basil.
According to Steep Hill Labs “pinene has been used for centuries as a bronchodilator in the treatment of asthma.” It’s also a powerful expectorant and antimicrobial that can improve airflow functioning in the lungs and get rid of bacteria that can cause viruses. A study in the medical journal Molecules showed that pinene is highly effective at preventing the spread of infectious bronchitis. Another study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in a themed issue called “Cannabinoids in Biology and Medicine” found that pinene has the ability to help open up the major passages of the upper respiratory tract, which includes the nose and nasal passages, sinuses, the pharynx and an area above the vocal folds located in a portion of the larynx.
Although some people attribute a loss of focus and memory to smoking weed, pinene has actually shown to improve and increase the functioning of both. The terpene can counteract short-term memory loss associated with THC and getting high (like when you can’t remember that one song you know you love), increase focus and boost alertness. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that pinene can aid in memory retention by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase (an enzyme) activity in the brain.
Pinene also has the potential to act an impressive cancer treatment thanks to its ability to inhibit cancer cell growth. In a study published in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, pinene was shown to have an inhibitory rate of 79.3 percent in vitro (in a controlled environment outside of a living organism) and 69.1 percent in vivo (in a living organism).
The powerful terpene has also been shown to be an effective anti-inflammatory that can combat conditions like acute pancreatitis, as well as conditions that result from inflammation like multiple sclerosis, arthritis, Crohn’s disease and chronic pain. It’s such a competent treatment that pinene was even considered as a potential ingredient for an anti-osteoarthritic drug, according to a study in the Journal of Natural Products.
Unlike other terpenes that are commonly found in either sativa or indica strains, pinene can be found in sativa, hybrid and indica strains. Some common strains with high pinene content include Jack Herer (an infamous sativa strain that offers a clear-headed, uplifting high), Dutch Treat (a well-known hybrid strain that’s good for reducing stress and boosting moods), Blue Dream (a staple hybrid strain that gives the perfect relaxing cerebral buzz), Strawberry Cough (a euphoric sativa that reduces anxiety and increases energy) and Trainwreck (a potent hybrid that helps with pain, headaches and post-traumatic stress syndrome).
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