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What Is Alpha-Pinene and What Are The Effects of The Pinene Terpenes?

If you’ve ever felt sharper and refreshed after a walk through the woods, you might have benefited from Pinene! This terpene is packed full of health benefits and can be used in lots of different ways.

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You shouldn’t need an entire article to explain where this terpene gets its name (hint: peep the name and think of Christmas). But chances are you’ve got no clue about alpha-pinene’s health benefits or the ways you can use this terp in your products.

In the simplest sense, Pinene is a terpene commonly found in conifer trees that has a LOT of health benefits. These potential benefits range from simple anti-inflammatory properties to possibly stopping cancer growth. So it’s definitely worth looking into!

You don’t want to miss out on these therapeutic benefits for yourself or your customers. Let’s check it out.

What is Alpha Pinene?

Alpha-pinene belongs to a broad family of chemical compounds called terpenes. You find terpenes around the world in plants, as they give plants their distinctive aromas.

Alpha-pinene is a monoterpene, meaning it contains just one terpene chemical building block. It also contains a four-membered ring in its chemical structure.

You may have also heard of both Alpha-Pinene AND it’s buddy Beta-Pinene. While they may sound similar, they have a pretty important difference.

The Difference between Alpha-Pinene and Beta-Pinene

Alpha-pinene is one of two types of pinene. Beta-pinene, a separate compound with a chemical composition that mirrors alpha-pinene, also occurs in nature. The chemical formula of beta-pinene contains the same individual chemical atoms, but its structure is an exact reflection of alpha-pinene. If you dig the science: identical mirror image structures like alpha-pinene and beta-pinene are enantiomers.

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Alpha-Pinene

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Alpha-pinene occurs in the essential oils derived from plants like rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), eucalyptus, and orange peel. But it’s most common in conifer trees like pine trees. No surprises here when you look at the name of this terp. It’s also unsurprising pure alpha-pinene is clear, colorless, and smells of pine trees.

We know your brain is exploding with ideas for using a pure pine scent in your products. Here are some of our favorites.

How Can Your Brand Use Alpha Pinene Terpenes?

alpha pinene uses pine fragrance candle pine branch

Brands often use alpha-pinene commercially as a flavoring agent and in oil diffusers to mimic the smells of pine tree forests. The flavor profile of alpha-pinene is sharp with hints of cedarwood and pine.

In fact, we’ve included a-pinene in our Jack Herer blend, along with Terpinolene, Beta-Caryophyllene, and Myrcene, for a sweet and spiced tribute to this iconic weed activist.

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Jack Herer

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Terpinolene

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Beta-Caryophyllene

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Myrcene

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Scientists believe terpenes help create a better experience through a phenomenon called the entourage effect. The entourage effect describes how a combination of two chemical compounds may act together to produce a stronger effect than either compound alone.

Terpenes like alpha-pinene may combine with different compounds to produce stronger Sativa strains and other strains as well. In addition, studies suggest this terp acts as a bronchodilator in humans.

Breathing easier is pretty useful, no? But what else might this terpene do for you and your loyal customers?

Health Benefits of Alpha-Pinene

alpha pinene health benefits rosemary herbs white bowl

Healers have used a-pinene for centuries. They’d scrape bark from coniferous trees, make a resin, and use this to treat people with congestion or parasitic infections. The Dutch would also use alpha pinene-containing juniper berries to make healing tonics.

Judging from the research, a small amount of alpha-pinene goes a long way:

Studies suggest low-exposure levels of alpha-pinene possess anti-inflammatory properties, antimicrobial properties, antiulcerogenic and gastroprotective properties, and the ability to aid memory (2).

Let’s dive into each one.

Alpha-Pinene Anti-inflammatory Activity

Unleash the cooling effects of alpha-pinene to cool and soothe inflamed tissues.

In one study, using alpha-pinene decreased activation of mouse immune cells called macrophages that add to inflammation in body tissue (3).

Dealing with aching and inflamed joints? Alpha-pinene also seems to act on chondrocytes - the cells that maintain the matrix inside cartilage - to reduce inflammation (4). This research indicates a-pinene may help fight arthritis - related inflammation within the cartilage of joints.

Alpha-Pinene Antimicrobial Properties

alpha-pinene anti-microbial orange fruit

Research suggests alpha-pinene has antibacterial activity against the dangerous antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strain MRSA and against the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni (5) (6).

With the recent rise in antimicrobial resistance, it's important to develop alternative compounds to antibiotics capable of killing harmful bacteria. Alpha-pinene shows promise as an organic warrior capable of answering the call.

Alpha-Pinene Cancer Fighting Properties

Like a badass body cop, this terpene seems to arrest cancer cell growth (7), reducing cancer’s ability to spread to other parts of the body. Scientists recognize the importance of testing the effects of alpha-pinene on other types of human cancer cells to see if it inhibits tumor growth in a similar way.

Alpha-Pinene Anti-Ulcerogenic and Gastroprotective Properties

Pure alpha-pinene reduced gastric ulcers in mice (8). This type of gastroprotective effect may also appear in humans when we consume alpha-pinene at low exposure levels.

Alpha-Pinene as a Memory Aid

alpha pinene memory aid white puzzle

We’ll let entourage effect expert Dr. Ethan B. Russo drop some knowledge for this therapeutic benefit:

Perhaps most compelling, however, is [alpha-pinene’s] activity as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor aiding memory (Perryet al., 2000), with an observed IC50 of 0.44 mM (Miyazawa and Yamafuji, 2005).

Alpha-pinene is active as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, meaning it reduces acetylcholinesterase activity to boost your memory. Many drugs used to treat dementia are cholinesterase inhibitors. This feature could counteract short-term memory deficits induced by compound-related intoxication. (1)

The Perry study seems to suggest a-pinene's role with other terpenes (including Camphor, Geraniol, Beta-pinene, Limonene, Linalool, and terpineol) in the entourage effect may be the reason for its ability to protect short-term memory.

Potential Side Effects of Alpha-Pinene

While small amounts of alpha-pinene may result in health benefits, large amounts of alpha-pinene can be harmful (9). But large amounts of anything-even good ol’ H₂O-can pose a threat to our health, so dosage is key.

The FDA has approved commercial alpha pinene use in low-exposure levels in the cosmetic and flavor profile industries (10), so you won’t have to worry about providing healthy, safe products for your fans. Just follow our dosing directions and seek the advice of a healthcare provider if you are unsure about whether your alpha-pinene exposure levels are appropriate.

Conclusions

alpha pinene benefits uses pine needles in hands

While alpha-pinene is most commonly used as a food additive and aromatic compound, people have used it since ancient times to promote healing and make use of its medicinal benefits. The anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-ulcerative, and memory-aiding effects of alpha-pinene make it a prime candidate for future research into health benefits.

Cheers to better health and better highs, packed with smells of luscious pines.
Anyone else fancy a walk in the woods now?

Summary

  • Pinene is a naturally occurring terpene found in rosemary, eucalyptus, orange peel, but most commonly in conifer trees like Pine trees.

  • Alpha-Pinene and Beta-Pinene have chemical structures that mirror each other, also known as enantiomers.

  • Alpha-Pinene can be used as a flavoring agent in oils and diffusers, and is a popular addition in certain blends for its potential as a bronchodilator.

  • Just some of its potential health benefits include its anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, cancer-fighting,  properties, anti-ulcerogenic, memory boosting, and gastroprotective properties. 

 

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