Terpenes are fragrant oils produced by a variety of plants, and even some insects. They’re responsible for the strong aromas produced by plants and fruit and are thought to have evolved as a way to deter predators and lure pollinators. However, more recently numerous studies have found terpenes to have therapeutic properties ranging from anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and anti-depressive, to analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory. But with so many terpenes to choose from, which ones are the best terpenes for pain?
Can Terpenes Really Alleviate Pain?
In cannabis, terpenes are secreted by the same gland responsible for producing pain-relieving cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Unsurprisingly, several terpenes found in cannabis are also believed to possess analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Similarly to cannabinoids, terpenes are thought to communicate with certain protein cell receptors in the body’s inner endocannabinoid system (ECS) in order to produce therapeutic effects. The ECS is a natural physiological system existing in both humans and animals and is responsible for maintaining balance in the body by regulating things such as mood, pain, appetite, sleep, stress, and more. A 2008 study found the terpene caryophyllene to be the first non-cannabinoid compound able to directly activate cannabinoid receptors in the body. While more research is needed, it’s possible that other terpenes work through the same pathway, by activating various cell receptors within the ECS.
The Best Terpenes For Pain
There are several different terpenes that are believed to help alleviate pain by producing anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
Linalool is a floral terpene commonly found in perfumes and naturally found in mint, citrus, and lavender. It’s commonly touted for its anti-anxiety properties, however, it has also demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties, potentially capable of treating inflammatory pain.
Myrcene, or beta-myrcene, is the most commonly found terpene in marijuana and is believed to be the dominant terpene in over 40% of known cannabis strains. This spicy, earthy terpene can be found in everything from lemongrass to mangoes. A 1990 study found that myrcene may be able to relieve pain in mice, while several other animal studies have found it to be useful in the treatment of anxiety. Myrcene has even shown potential as a muscle relaxant.
Pinene is the most commonly found terpene in the natural world. It can be found in rosemary, conifer trees, orange peels, and of course, pine needles. Pinene is believed to have a range of therapeutic effects that may help with anxiety, inflammation, and pain. Some strains that are high in pinene include Blue Dream, Cannatoinc, Grape Ape, and Harlequin.
Limonene is a bitter and citrusy terpene that can be found in orange, juniper, and lemon. This terpene is believed to stimulate the immune system while also fighting against inflammation, depression, stress, and anxiety. Limonene is found in nearly 8% of cannabis strains including Super Sour Diesel, Berry White, and Super Lemon Haze.
Caryophyllene is a terpene found in rosemary, cloves, hops, and more. It’s believed to be responsible for giving black pepper the spicy kick it’s known for and is one of the best terpenes for pain.
As previously mentioned, caryophyllene was found to directly activate cell receptors in the human body’s inner endocannabinoid system. Researchers believe that by activating CB2 receptors found in the system, caryophyllene is able to reduce inflammation to lessen pain and lessen the risk of several serious diseases caused by inflammation. Furthermore, a 2013 study found that the administration of caryophyllene was able to reduce pain in mice. Researchers also found that the terpene was able to enhance the pain-reducing abilities of low-strength morphine, making it more effective.
Caryophyllene is believed to exist in about 13% of cannabis strains and can be found in strains such as Sour Diesel, Bubba Kush, and Girl Scout Cookies.