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Terpinolene is a cyclic monoterpene that does not receive a spotlight in cannabis terpene research. Terpinolene is expressed throughout nature, but not a dominant cannabis molecule. More prevalent terpenes (like limonene or myrcene) get all of the attention, as they are abundantly expressed cannabis strains with a distinct scent that allows your nose to shop for you at the dispensary. A cannabis terpene like terpinolene
plays a supporting role, but does have sedating properties adding to your cannabis experience.

Terpinolene has a fragrance that blends off of other cannabis terpenes like limonene or pinene. Limonene smells like lemons, pinene smells like pine trees, but terpinolene has a multifaceted aroma; it has floral, pine, herb and citrus notes making selecting a strain for terpinolene content based on smell alone very difficult. Thankfully, due to testing regulations in California, the terpene profile is available for cannabis products. A
common theme in terpinolene aroma characterization is “fresh”. This is why tea tree oil(a natural source of terpinolene) is a common fragrance ingredient in soaps and perfumes, the high terpinolene content of tea tree oil generates the refreshing smell of “clean” (1).

While making cannabis smell “fresh,” terpinolene has a measurable sedative effect in mice. When inhaled terpinolene was given to olfactory impaired mice (mice that can’t smell), terpinolene showed a sedative effect. This lead the researchers to conclude that even though the mice did not have a sense of smell, terpinolene was able to be absorbed into the bloodstream through vaporization and produce a sedation effect (2).
Applying this concept to cannabis, terpinolene combined with the known sedative effects of cannabinoids like THC, CBN, and accessory terpenes like myrcene can enhance the relaxing and anti-anxiety effects you feel consuming strains with terpinolene.

Resources:
1. Kim, H. J., Chen, F., Wu, C., Wang, X., Chung, H. Y., & Jin, Z. (2004). Evaluation of Antioxidant Activity of Australian Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) Oil and Its Components. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 52(10), 2849–2854. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf035377d

2. Ito, K., & Ito, M. (2013). The sedative effect of inhaled terpinolene in mice and its structure-activity relationships. Journal of Natural Medicines, 67(4), 833–837. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11418-012-0732-1

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