A 2021 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 20% of the U.S. population (1) suffers from chronic pain. Unfortunately, the most common form of pain relief in Western culture is prescription opioids.
On average, 130 Americans die every day (2) from an opioid overdose, making it a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. With cannabis legalization spreading throughout the country, more people are asking if cannabis compounds could be a natural alternative to help reduce pain and inflammation.
Historically, the cannabis plant has been used for centuries as a pain and inflammation reduction aid. If you’ve used any kind of cannabis product for pain or other health issues, you’ve most likely benefited from the inclusion of terpenes.
These tiny molecules are found in many plants, herbs, fruits, flowers, and, of course, cannabis. Collectively, terpenes are one of the primary reasons why cannabis has specific and unique therapeutic effects.
While every person’s experience with cannabis compounds such as terpenes is highly individual, scientific evidence suggests these amazing molecules may be able to alter the perception of chronic pain, including inflammatory, back, and nerve pain.
In this article, we will review several isolated terpenes for pain, meaning those known to hold analgesic or pain-relieving therapeutic properties.
Health Benefits of Terpenes
Terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbons derived from plants. They are a primary ingredient in essential oils, and manufacturers often use them to enhance flavor and aroma in food, beverages, and other consumable goods.
Humans have used terpenes for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. With the legalization of cannabis, there has been a dramatic increase in the desire to formulate cannabis products with specific terpenes known to have unique effects on the human body.
The health advantages of terpenes range from their use to promote natural, restful sleep to their ability to enhance or reduce appetite. Many people turn to terpenes when seeking to manage anxiety and stress or to improve their mood. Some even try terpenes to see if they can make them laugh!
When seeking to manufacture products with terpenes that target physiological effects like pain perception, the following will help you make more informed decisions on including specific terpenes known to target pain and inflammation.
What Are the Best Terpenes for Pain?
Using terpenes for pain hinges on choosing the right ones for the purpose. Not all terpenes have the same properties, and not all interact with the human body in the same way. For analgesic effects, you’ll want to target terpenes supported by research that shows they can impact the perception of pain.
Beta-caryophyllene (ß-caryophyllene) is found in black pepper, basil, oregano, lavender, allspice, fig, cloves, hops, cinnamon, and rosemary. It is widely recognized for its use in both acute and debilitating states of pain relief and has been found to promote healthy gut and digestion by protecting the cells that line the digestive tract.
According to multiple clinical studies:
“β-caryophyllene is a volatile compound that is poorly soluble in water and has high pharmaceutical potential due to its analgesic, antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities.” (3)
Cannabis strains high in ß-caryophyllene include Royal Cookies, OG Kush, White Widow, Death Star, Blueberry Cheesecake, Candyland, GSC, Cookies and Cream, GG4, and Purple Punch.
Borneol is found in camphor, ginger, thyme, sage, cinnamon, mint, nutmeg, sunflowers, and cannabis. History has shown that the Chinese used borneol for alleviating chronic and acute pain since roughly 475–221 BCE. Through advancements in study and research, borneol continues to show potential healing applications through systemic and topical use to ease pain without drowsiness.
According to one animal study of borneol:
“[Acute] treatment with borneol elicited a significant reduction of painful behavior…it can be concluded that borneol is endowed with peripheral and centrally acting analgesic properties (without producing motor deficit) as well as anti-inflammatory profile… Our results also support that borneol has a therapeutic potential for painful and inflammatory disorders.” (4)
Borneol is found in such cannabis strains as OG Kush, Amnesia Haze, Golden Haze, K13 Haze, Coconut Goji Berry, Sour Diesel, and Girl Scout Cookies.
Camphene is found in many essential oils, such as cypress, nutmeg, rosemary, camphor, and ginger. It’s unique, as it is soluble in organic solvents and insoluble in water. Camphene is being studied for its potential use in the development of new therapeutic strategies based on its strong antioxidant effects.
Scientific studies demonstrate that camphene shows strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory elements and could be utilized as a pain-relieving agent:
“We observed that (+)-camphene presents a significant antioxidant activity, which was indicated by both TRAP and TAR parameters.” (5)
Since antioxidant activity often leads to an anti-inflammatory effect, which in turn leads to reduced pain, camphene is an ideal terpene to target for more studies.
The cannabis strains more commonly associated with camphene are ACDC, Banana Kush, and OG Kush.
Eucalyptol is found in the eucalyptus tree, tea tree, bay leaves, sweet basil, rosemary, and cannabis. It comprises 80% of the total essential oils from eucalyptus trees and is used as an ingredient in many consumable goods, including mouthwash, toothpaste, and cough suppressants, due to its minty freshness.
This terpene is now being studied for its possible pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. Eucalyptol is believed to alleviate pain and inflammation via its anti‐oxidative effects, as noted in one human study of the inhalation of eucalyptus oil after total knee replacement surgery:
“Overall, VAS pain scores were significantly lower in the eucalyptus oil group than in the control group.” (6)
Eucalyptol could also represent promising therapeutic options for arthritis, as noted in this study of pain in mice with induced gout who were subsequently treated with eucalyptol and showed improvement:
“Eucalyptol alleviates MSU-induced pain and inflammation via mechanisms possibly involving anti-oxidative effects. Eucalyptol and other antioxidants may represent promising therapeutic options for gout arthritis.” (7)
Several popular cannabis strains produce eucalyptol, including Headband, Super Silver Haze and Bubba Kush.
Limonene has a pungent citrusy, bitter odor and flavor and is found in citrus fruits, pine needles, rosemary, mint, fennel, and juniper. Limonene’s widespread use in perfumes, household cleaners, food, and medicines is largely due to its very low toxicity. It is one of the most studied terpenes and has been used for centuries in traditional medicine remedies for bronchitis, heartburn, and gallstones.
“All essential oils with high D-limonene content pose significant free radical scavenging effect, predominantly disabling production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) . Essential oils of sweet orange, lemon, and bergamot are most widely used to test analgesic effects in animal models. More recently, some essential oil blends were tested in various human cell models and showed significant positive effects on inflammation, immune modulation, cell cycle regulation, and other cellular functions Further studies in humans are encouraged to determine the real long-term potential in treating chronic pain.” (8)
Cannabis strains containing limonene include Cookies and Cream, Dirty Girl, Lemon G, Liberty Haze, Emerald Jack, and Shining Silver Haze.
Myrcene is the smallest and most abundant of terpenes, found in very high concentrations in sweet basil, hops, mangos, and cannabis. Myrcene has been used for many years as a folk remedy for hypertension, diabetes, diarrhea, and dysentery.
In one study:
“Myrcene was found to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in inflammatory joint disease (arthritis) by activating articular cannabinoid receptors. In vitro studies showing myrcene signaling via cannabinoid receptors; however, this still needs to be tested. While chronic myrcene treatment had no effect on joint pathology, long-term administration of the compound had a more profound effect on inflammatory parameters.” (9)
Top cannabis strains containing myrcene include OG Kush, Remedy, 9 Pound Hammer, Grape Ape, FPOG, AK-47, Granddaddy Purple, Blue Dream, Tangie, and Harlequin.
Terpene Blend for Pain and Inflammation
Our therapeutic terpene blends for pain and inflammation isolate and refine terpenes specifically known to support anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in the human body. These customized formulas are carefully stabilized and bottled, which are a perfect addition to your pain-relief cannabis products.
Disclaimer: Terpenes are non-polar oil-based hydrocarbons that, in pure form, can be very potent and sometimes volatile, flammable, and even corrosive compounds. For this reason, they should strictly be used by experienced and trained manufacturers, and we advise those unfamiliar with these compounds to exercise caution.
What Are the Best Terpenes for Nerve Pain?
Nerve pain, also called neuralgia or neuropathic pain, can be one of the most difficult types of pain to combat.
Studies of specific terpenes for nerve pain have concluded that α-humulene, β-caryophyllene, and linalool all show promise for the reduction of neuropathic pain and should be targeted for more extensive research for neuralgia applications.
What Are the Best Terpenes for Back Pain?
A big challenge when treating back pain is that the first choice of many physicians is opioids, which decrease in effectiveness over time, resulting in the need for higher doses.
Studies show that certain terpenes, including humulene and linalool, can deliver therapeutic benefits. These terpenes can be used in combination with cannabinoids and/or opioids and reduce the amount of opioids required in an effective pain management plan.
What Are the Best Terpenes for Inflammation?
Inflammation can cause pain in an acute injury and be the driving force behind chronic pain. In addition, chronic inflammation is caused by conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or fibromyalgia, all difficult to treat and prone to inflammatory pain, which can be extremely debilitating.
Terpenes known to have anti-inflammatory properties include:
Alpha-pinene is found in pine and conifer trees, rosemary, and orange peels. The isolated extraction of α-pinene allows for the harnessing of the terpene’s therapeutic and medicinal properties.
Researchers in one study found that:
“alpha-pinene (α-pinene) exhibits anti-inflammatory activity through the suppression of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and the nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) pathway in mouse peritoneal macrophages… These results indicate that α-pinene has an anti-inflammatory effect and that it is a potential candidate as a new drug to treat various inflammatory diseases.” (10)
Alpha-pinene is found in many popular cannabis strains, including Jack Herer, Dutch Treat, OG Kush, Blue Dream, ChemDawg, Trainwreck, Romulan, Island Sweet Skunk, Strawberry Cough, and Bubba Kush.
Humulene is found in hops, cannabis, basil, clove, black pepper, sage, and ginseng. It has commonly been used as a major remedy for inflammation and has been well-known and incorporated into Chinese medicine for generations.
“Humulene (also known as α-caryophyllene) possesses both topical and systemic anti-inflammatory properties and is an effective analgesic when taken topically, orally, or by aerosol.” (11)
Cannabis strains with a high concentration of humulene include Death Star, Headband, Thin Mint GSC, Original Glue, Candyland, White Widow, Pink Kush, Bubba Kush, Super Lemon Haze, Sour Diesel, and Skywalker OG.
Linalool is found in cannabis, as well as many flowers and spice plants, including mint, cinnamon, rosewood, and citrus fruits. It is often used in aromatherapy as a sleep aid and has been utilized as a treatment for anxiety for thousands of years
In a study of rats with induced edema, results obtained indicate that:
“[l]inalool and the corresponding acetate play a major role in the anti-inflammatory activity displayed by the essential oils containing them, and provide further evidence suggesting that linalool and linalyl acetate-producing species are potentially anti-inflammatory agents.” (12)
Some well-known cannabis strains containing high levels of linalool are Amnesia Haze, Special Kush, Lavender, LA Confidential, and OG Shark.
Wholesale Therapeutic Terpene Blends
At Lab Effects, we extract and isolate each unique terpene and reconstruct the component parts to the exact ratios we choose. We then combine complimentary terpenes based on knowledge of their pain-relieving effects. This allows us to further boost and control the desired therapeutic value of a product when formulating.
We offer several customized blends to help support a consistent effect for the end user. Our Pain/ Inflammation formula uses terpenes known to support chronic and acute pain.
Interested in custom blended therapeutic terpenes with pain-relieving properties? Get in touch with our team today.