terpinolene Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Terpinolene ia a common terpene present in the cannabis plant that is recognizable for its woody aroma along with citrus and floral notes. Also referred to as alpha terpinolene, the terpene's effects may be mildly to moderately sedative.

What is terpinolene?

Terpinolene occurs naturally in sage, lilac, rosemary, conifer trees, apple trees, and tea trees and is a constituent of many essential oils. Early research shows terpinolene benefits may include antifungal, antibacterial, and anticancer properties in addition to potentially calming the central nervous system.

Where is terpinolene found?

While some cannabis terpenes, like phellandrene, are known to have energizing effects, terpinolene may induce minor drowsiness with its sedative properties. These sedative properties may, in turn, reduce anxiety as the body and mind simultaneously calm. As such, lilac-scented body lotions and oils often contain terpinolene, as do therapeutic essential oils like tea tree oil. 

The terpinolene terpene has also proven useful as an element in soaps and other cleaning agents, as well as fragrances and insect repellents.

What does terpinolene smell like?

If you've ever picked up a pine cone and sniffed its fresh woody aroma, 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. As essential oils, sage and rosemary also emit a fresh aroma, partially credited to terpinolene.

What is terpinolene good for?

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.  

Therapeutic properties of terpinolene


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 published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology in 2015 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 conducted 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 2010 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 2013 Turkish study that was performed on animals explored a possible connection between terpinolene and the destruction of cancerous cells. The researchers wrote, “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. That said, much more research is needed.


The Journal of Natural Medicines featured a 2013 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.

Role of terpinolene in cannabis

Some terpinolene-dominant cannabis strains include Royal Jack Automatic, Super Lemon Haze, and Pineapple Kush. The cannabis strain Pineapple Kush is a derivative of OG Kush and notable for its tropical taste and smell.

Some consumers have reported an easing of migraine symptoms when smoking cannabis high in terpinolene. This beneficial side effect may be due to terpinolene's potential 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 may mildly depress the central nervous system and offer sedative properties.

Bottom line

A terpene with a potentially strong sedative effect, terpinolene in tea tree oil may also be effective as an antifungal agent and as a shield against various bacteria. Still, much more research is needed to come to any conclusions.

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.