Cymene Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Cymene is a very common terpene with a variety of biological activities, most notably its anti-bacterial and anti-microbial effects. In addition to its presence in certain cannabis cultivars, cymene is found in more than 100 different plants such as anise, oregano, eucalyptus, cilantro, and mace.

What is cymene?

This aromatic organic compound is a constituent of numerous herbal essential oils including cumin and thyme. As a part of thyme oil, cymene showed antimicrobial activity when researchers washed samples of lettuce with the oil. Although animal studies have demonstrated the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of cymene, more research is needed to determine whether cymene may have medical value for humans.

Cymene in everyday life

Thyme, cumin and other essential oils that contain cymene may be used as part of an aromatherapy regimen. Eucalyptus oil, in particular, is an essential oil applied as a lubricant during massage and used in some facial scrubs. Because cymene is found in so many plants and plant oils, so you may have unknowingly dabbled with cymene in your kitchen. Thyme oil is said to infuse meat with a fresh, tangy flavor, while coriander oil gives a nutty palate to dipping sauces and salad dressings. Anise oil is employed in baking and contributes to the potency of the taste of licorice. These oils may need to be diluted in a base oil, such as coconut, in order to be safely consumed. Certain prepared foods may contain cymene as a food additive or flavoring agent. Cymene's diverse usages extend to inclusion in pepper spray, which is made of the oil of mace and acts as a temporary blinding agent and irritant.

Therapeutic properties of cymene

Beyond its aromatherapy benefits, cymene could help fight inflammation and tumors. Thus far, encouraging evidence has emerged using animal models, but there is a need for further investigation into cymene's effects on humans.

Antibacterial and antimicrobial

One of the most well-characterized properties of cymene is its ability to inhibit the growth of microbes. Thyme oil is a very common antimicrobial agent in natural household cleaners, and there is a large amount of scientific evidence which demonstrates its effectiveness. This particular feature of cymene could also be harnessed for food safety, although its strong odor may limit the usefulness of spraying it on our produce. With the rise of antibiotic resistant infections, the natural antibacterial properties of cymene could be of great value.

Anti-inflammatory and analgesic

A 2013 study in the journal Inflammation demonstrated that cymene acts as an anti-inflammatory agent through several of the body's cellular messaging pathways. Inflammation is an important component of pain, and another German study in the Journal for Nature Research confirmed these anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits in mice. Additional research published in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology suggests that the body's natural opioid system is involved in cymene's ability to relieve pain in animals.

Antioxidant and neuroprotectant

Many diseases result from an imbalance of free radicals inside the body, and natural antioxidants are the antidote to this imbalance. Brazillian scientists demonstrated the antioxidant properties of cymene in 2015. A 2019 study in the journal Fitoterapia confirmed these findings, and also demonstrated that cymene could act as a neuroprotectant because of these antioxidant properties.


A growing body of scientific evidence supports the role of cymene in fighting cancer. Most of this research has been done using human cells grown in laboratories, but researchers have found that cymene inhibits tumors in connective tissue, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, and others. Although humans commonly use high doses of cannabis to fight cancer, much more research is needed to understand cymene's roll in this therapy.

Role of cymene in cannabis

Cymene has been characterized by some as exuding a flavor profile of orange or carrot, while others perceive the terpene as a combination of aged wood and lemon. Such flavors or aromas may be experienced in varieties of cannabis that contain low concentrations of cymene. More research is needed on the possible therapeutic effects of low concentrations of cymene within cannabis.

Bottom line

A common constituent of herbal essential oils, cymene stands out for its potential to treat inflammation and combat tumors.

Major contributions from Dr. Adie Rae.

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on June 20, 2022.