The scent of lavender has a way of helping many of us take a deep breath and relax. That’s why you’ll find lavender essential oil in everything from massage oil to bubble bath to dish detergent. What you’re smelling in these products is a high concentration of the terpene linalool.

Linalool is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the many essential oils of various herbs and other plants, including cannabis. Sweet, citrus-like, and commonly recognized as the characteristic smell of lavender, it can offer the satisfying effects of aromatherapy when used in cosmetics and personal care products.

Noted for its floral, calming fragrance, linalool functions in plants as a way to lure pollinators and detract predators. When consumed in cannabis, linalool seems to contribute to calming effects via the entourage effect—the process through which all of the compounds in cannabis work synergistically to bolster the effects of the cannabinoids [1].

What are terpenes?

At their core, terpenes are molecules responsible for determining a plant’s smell. Additionally, they serve the plant by giving off scents that protect it. High concentrations of terpenes with repellent scents, for instance, might keep a plant safe from being eaten by insects or other animals. In contrast, other terpenes with attractive smells play a vital role in luring helpful insects to flowers to ensure the plant’s survival through pollination [2].

Terpenes are ubiquitous in commercial fragrances, cleaning agents, food products, cosmetic products, skincare products, medicine, and other substances. Many cannabis enthusiasts associate terpenes with their favorite strains that offer specific smells, tastes, and other benefits. New studies have begun to reveal the therapeutic potential of many terpenes as researchers evaluate data and publish findings about their potential anti-inflammatory properties [3].

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What is unique about linalool?

Linalool is a naturally occurring terpene alcohol present in many spices and flowering plants. A colorless oil, linalool is classified as a monoterpenoid, an antimicrobial agent, and an aroma compound. It is used in the manufacturing of food and cosmetics fragrances, household products, and even insecticides [4].

Linalool is based on the word linaloe, which is a type of wood. When used in food manufacturing, linalool is called coriandrol [4].

Linalool terpene effects

Despite recent studies that demonstrate linalool may potentially contribute to beneficial health effects such as anxiety reduction and the interruption of pain signals to the brain, more research is needed to determine its efficacy in humans. 

However, linalool has long been used for aromatherapy in alternative medicine and likely plays a beneficial role when used in cannabis through the entourage effect. It achieves this by enhancing the therapeutic outcomes of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD [3].

A recent study from Kagoshima University’s medical school found that mice exposed to a linalool odor threshold experienced significant analgesic effects [5]. When the same compounds were given to olfactory-deprived mice, the same effect was not achieved. The researchers concluded that the linalool served to transmit pain signals less in the mice whose olfactory neurons were undamaged, suggesting that the analgesic effects were triggered by the chemicals in linalool odor exposure. More data is needed to determine if the same results might be achieved in humans for pain treatment [5].

Likewise, additional animal research published by the American Chemical Society and conducted on rats revealed that linalool inhalation repressed the rats’ stress levels as expressed in their blood cell and gene expression profiles [6]. Again, these findings do not necessarily translate to similar outcomes in humans, yet they offer promising initial findings to develop in further studies.

Uses for linalool

Linalool is a popular flavoring and scenting agent for various commercial products. As a food additive, linalool benefits food chemistry and is used in numerous natural and synthetic flavorings. Chewing gum, ice cream, gelatin puddings, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, hard and soft candy, condiment relishes, meat products, and baked goods often feature linalool as a flavoring ingredient. Linalool can be detected in liquid wax for marble, ceramic, linoleum, plastic, and wood floors when used in household products [7].

Perhaps the smell of linalool is best known for its use in cosmetics and self-care products. Lotions, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, makeup, sunscreens, and salves often contain aroma profiles that feature linalool. Natural product manufacturers enjoy using it as a fragrance because plants produce linalool, which can conform to definitions of nature-oriented ingredients. It’s important to note that irritated skin types avoid high concentrations of essential oils high in linalool to avoid an allergic reaction to the skin [7].

High linalool strains of cannabis

Linalool may be one of the most appealing terpenes in cannabis when it comes to the preferences of consumers. The lavender-like fragrance and the host of anecdotal benefits make it a much sought-after terpene. Some cannabis strains high in linalool are Canna Cake, Cherry Soda, Sour Special, and Suver Haze.

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What is the entourage effect?

Originally proposed in 1999, the entourage effect describes a mechanism by which cannabis compounds such as terpenes and other compounds, even in trace amounts, act synergistically with cannabinoids to modulate the overall effects of the plant [1], whether those may be mood-altering or not. It follows that terpenes would add to the entourage effect because terpenes are  part of the overall composition of the plant material.

Sources of linalool

Cannabis is only one of the many plants that boast the lavender-like scent of linalool. Other plants with linalool include:

  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Rosewood
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Coriander seed

And in small amounts in:

  • Apricots
  • Papayas
  • Cranberries
  • Coffee
  • Ginger
  • Tomatoes
  • Turmeric

Linalool and you

You might be surprised to find that even if you’re not yet a cannabis user, you could be consuming nearly two grams of linalool per year through your food and beverages [8]. If you are one of the millions who enjoy the sweet odor of crushed lavender, this may be a terpene to keep on your radar.


Medical Disclaimer / Legal Disclaimer – Information is provided for educational purposes. It does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice or medical advice. We attempt to be accurate and up to date but the legality of cannabinoids and the science of cannabis is evolving. The author is neither a legal professional nor a medical expert. Before buying or using any products, you should check with your local authorities and medical providers.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entourage_effect#:~:text=The%20entourage%20effect%20is%20a,psychoactive%20effects%20of%20the%20plant.
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terpene
  3. https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/21/6/2187
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linalool
  5. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00241/full
  6. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf900420g
  7. https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/htdocs/chem_background/exsumpdf/linalool_508.pdf
  8. https://www.trulieve.com/discover/blog/terpene-linalool-what-you-need-to-know#:~:text=Linalool%20is%20considered%20a%20minor,treat%20several%20types%20of%20cancer
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linalyl_acetate
  10. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/apexprod/rws_etd/send_file/send?accession=osu1500566798765732&disposition=inline
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24702129/

Frequently Asked Questions

Chemically, linalyl acetate is the acetate ester of linalool. Though they are slightly different, the two compounds often occur together in a given plant [9].

Though more research is needed, linalool may cause relaxing reactions as part of the entourage effect when consumed in cannabis, depending on which cannabinoids are present.

There are no major concerns about linalool in the context of food safety. However, it’s important to follow specified directions and use appropriate amounts of terpenes if used in food.

A recent animal study found that linalool was absorbed rapidly in the gut. However, more research is needed to determine if and how it may apply to humans [10].

Few people have allergic reactions to linalool in its pure form. However, when the terpene is oxidized, reactions can be more frequent [11].

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