The aromatic compounds found in cannabis, called terpenes, have an increasingly appreciated role in the plant’s medicinal benefits. These terpenes fall into a different class than cannabinoids (e.g., THC, CBD), and perhaps for that reason, have received substantially less research attention.
Cannabis produces a wide array of terpenes, but today we’re focusing on linalool due to its emerging therapeutic benefits.
An overview of cannabis terpenes
It is now believed that terpenes directly affect brain processing by modulating the behavior of the brain cells.
Terpenes have traditionally been thought to merely contribute to the subjective experience of cannabis by enriching its aroma and flavor. More recently, terpenes gained attention from the emergence of the “entourage effect,” which proposes that cannabis’ therapeutic benefits are improved by the addition of multiple cannabinoids and terpenes compared to single cannabinoids on their own. This suggests that terpenes may modulate the strength of the individual cannabinoids on brain and body targets. But the entourage effect doesn’t preclude direct actions of the terpenes themselves on different targets in the body.RelatedWhat are cannabis terpenes and what do they do?
The concept that terpenes directly impact brain function may seem obvious to some, but for many years, it was difficult to differentiate the direct effect of terpenes on brain function versus its indirect effect on mood and subjective state through modulation of olfactory processing (i.e., your sense of smell). Your sense of smell is intricately linked to emotion and memory centers in the brain, establishing a potential cause and effect between the pleasant lavender floral scent (cause) of the terpene, linalool, with a relaxed and improved mood (effect). While olfactory sensation may still contribute to the terpene’s effect, it is now believed that terpenes directly affect brain processing by modulating the behavior of the brain cells.
The aroma of linalool
Linalool is not specific to cannabis. Its characteristic lavender scent with a hint of spiciness is common to over 200 types of plants. In fact, it’s so common that even those who don’t use cannabis end up consuming over two grams of linalool each year through their food. That may seem like a lot, but there’s very little risk of adverse effects. Linalool doesn’t stick around in your body for long and doesn’t accumulate like the cannabinoids that get stored in your fatty tissues in the body and brain.
Cannabis strains containing linalool
Few cannabis strains contain high levels of linalool; it rarely breaks into a strain’s top three most abundant terpenes. But below, you’ll find a few strains featuring linalool as its third most abundant terpene.
- Scooby Snacks
The strain Do-Si-Dos contains a higher-than-average amount of linalool, but it’s still only the third most abundant terpene in its profile on average. It appears as the color purple in Leafly strain flowers, like Do-Si-Dos’ above.
What is it Used For?
Besides an insecticide, linalool provides lavender with its indistinguishable scent which has been used in soaps, perfumes and aromatherapy treatments. Linalool is the main smelling compound found in lavender and, in its purified forms, has been shown to reduce anxiety in mice. While this finding has only been recently supported by science, lavender has been used for centuries for its aromatic appeal.
In cannabis, linalool will provide particular strains with a stronger lavender scent. Two strains that have such a scent are Master Kush and OG Shark. Both of which are recommended to user’s that want a relaxing or sedative high because linalool, among other benefits, has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety.
What Effect Does Linalool Have in Cannabis?
Recall cannabis is composed of hundreds of molecules, and since most appear in such trace amounts, it is difficult to understand how they individually impact the user. However, it has been shown that these trace molecules add up to a collective effect– known as the entourage effect— that provides different benefits between purified THC and cannabis extract. Continue Reading Below
There is no strong research that illustrates the amount of linalool in cannabis can produce any psychotropic effects, but there are several accounts of anecdotal evidence that suggests a more relaxed effect when strains are high in linalool. This could be due to the strong lavender scent given off when smoking that calms the user, or it could be that strains high in linalool are also high in other sedative compounds like CBD or myrcene.
Linalool Against Cancer
Linalool has been shown to interrupt communication pathways that allow cancer to propagate which suggests it plays a role in reducing cancer’s spread. Cancer occurs when a group of cells are able to rapidly divide without the body recognizing and deterring them. As a cancer therapeutic, linalool has been shown to arrest cell division through well known cancer causing pathways, and allow the immune system to come and clear out the infection. While the dosages needed for these benefits are beyond that in cannabis, this research illustrates the benefits of cannabis’s botanical compounds in purified forms.
Linalool Against Alzheimer’s Disease
Linalool may also have therapeutic properties in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. A 2016 study published in Neuropharmacology found the following results, “Together, our findings suggest that linalool reverses the histopathological hallmarks of AD [Alzheimer’s Disease] and restores cognitive and emotional functions via an anti-inflammatory effect. Thus, linalool may be an AD prevention candidate for preclinical studies.”
For this study, mice were genetically introduced with a Triple–transgenic model of Alzheimer’s disease and were orally treated with linalool over the course of three months.Continue Reading Below
It was found that mice treated with linalool showed stronger memory and other cognitive functions while completing a maze in comparison to the control group.
Linalool as an Anxiolytic
Anxiolytics are therapeutic compounds that alter the levels of particular neurotransmitters to decrease anxiety, however many of these compounds have severe side-effects like alterations with mood, clinical effect delay or sedation. Linalool has been known to be anxiolytic, but Dr. Harada and others wanted to understand how it works in the brain. They found that as an inhalant, linalool can directly interact with known neurotransmitters (GABAA receptors) to reduce levels of anxiety. This study suggests a new and natural method to reduce anxiety and bypass the harmful side-effects common in anxiolytics.