ˌtərˈpinᵊlˌēn | Noun

A terpene present in cannabis that is recognizable for its woodsy aroma in tandem with citrus and floral notes. Terpinolene effects may be mildly to moderately sedative. The terpene occurs naturally in sage, lilac, rosemary, conifer trees, apple trees, and tea trees. Terpinolene benefits may include antifungal, antibacterial and anticancer properties.


“The terpinolene in my weed is making me feel sleepy.”


“I didn’t know that the tea tree oil from my scalp massage has terpinolene in it.”

What Is Terpinolene Used For?

While some terpenes, like phellandrene, are known to have an energizing effect, terpinolene may induce minor drowsiness. This drowsiness may, in turn, reduce anxiety as the body and mind simultaneously calm. Terpinolene has also proven useful as an element of soaps and other cleaning agents, as well as fragrances.

What Does Terpinolene Smell Like?

If you’ve ever picked up a pine cone and sniffed its fresh scent, then you have experienced the terpinolene smell, which is found in coniferous trees. Likewise, if you have stirred sage or rosemary into a sauce, then you have also experienced terpinolene. Lilac-scented body lotions and oils contain terpinolene, as does tea tree oil.

What Are the Effects of Terpinolene?

Like many terpenes, such as cedrene, the terpinolene terpene has been researched as a potential weapon against cancer and cancerous tumors. In addition, terpinolene has been investigated for its possible antifungal, antibacterial, and sedative usages.  


Tea tree oil, which contains terpinolene, has been widely studied for its potent antifungal effects on conditions ranging from ringworm to toenail fungus. One such study was published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology in 2015 and established a link between tea tree oil and antifungal activity in Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that affects plants such as wine grapes. Another study in 1996 by the Skin Pharmacology Society concluded that tea tree oil may be effective in combating certain yeast fungi as well as conditions such as dandruff and fungal infections of the skin and mucous membranes.


As a component of essential oil, terpinolene has demonstrated antibacterial and antimicrobial activity, according to a study from the journal Natural Product Research. The researchers found that the test oil containing terpinolene at a level of six percent (6%) inhibited the growth of Bacillus subtilis, a bacterium found in soil and the gastrointestinal tracts of humans.  


One Turkish study from 2013 that was performed on in vitro animals explored a possible connection between terpinolene and the destruction of cancerous cells. The researchers determined that “Our findings clearly demonstrate that TPO (terpinolene) is a potent antiproliferative agent for brain tumor cells and may have potential as an anticancer agent, which needs to be further studied.” These results indicate that terpinolene may also provide defenses against inflammation and oxidative damage, which are both associated with cancer.


The Journal of Natural Medicines featured a study conducted on animals in which terpinolene was an active ingredient of essential oil. The subjects of the study inhaled the essential oil and consequently experienced a sedative effect after nasal absorption into the body.

Strains High in Terpinolene

Some cannabis varieties that contain high amounts of terpinolene include Royal Jack Automatic and Pineapple Kush — a derivative of OG Kush notable for its tropical taste and smell. Some have reported an easing of migraine symptoms when smoking cannabis high in terpinolene. This beneficial side effect may be due to terpinolene’s ability to relax the nerves and even decrease anxiety. The terpinolene in cannabis may serve as a natural remedy or complementary treatment to insomnia as the terpene mildly depresses the central nervous system.

Bottom Line

One of the more sedating terpenes, terpinolene has also shown strong possibilities as an antifungal agent in tea tree oil and as a shield against various bacteria.