The pinene terpene – can you smell it? One of the most nostalgic feelings evoked during a winter holiday is the smell of a Christmas tree. Most of us can recall that cool, crisp aroma of a fresh-cut pine trunk, oozing with pungent sap. What you’re smelling is the organic compound called pinene expressing the scent from the essential oil of the tree. Pinene (alpha– and beta-pinene) occurs in many different aromatic plants in nature and is one of the most abundant terpenes in cannabis.

People enjoy this refreshing terpene for its distinctive, forest-like aroma as well as for its potential helpful properties. Both alpha– and beta-pinene are popular ingredients for foods, beverages, cosmetics, cleaning products, and natural insecticides.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are compounds in plants that determine their aroma by way of their distinct chemical structure. They’re in the flowers we smell, many of the foods and beverages we consume, and definitely in the cannabis products we enjoy.

For example, the common terpene linalool gives lavender its distinctive floral scent, eucalyptol gives eucalyptus oil its characteristic medicinal aroma, and limonene makes up one of the important constituents of citrus sap.

What’s more, the scent of a plant can help it survive. Terpenes can protect plants from being eaten by insects or other animals by giving off a repellent scent [1]. On the other hand, terpenes may emit pleasing aromas to attract pollinators, like the beta-myrcene in thyme which helps draw bees and butterflies in the spring and summer months.

Jars of cannabis derived Earthy Terpenes

What is pinene?

Alpha-pinene and beta-pinene are two compounds that both stem from the same terpene, yet have two enantiomers and structural isomers known as alpha and beta-pinene (or α-pinene and β-pinene). Both compounds belong to the isoprenoid group and have the molecular formula C10H16 [2].

Both alpha- and beta-pinene constitute part of the chemical formula of pine trees as well as other conifers and non-coniferous plants, including cannabis. These two forms of pinene are also useful for some insects for their chemical communication systems. In a practical sense, the main difference between alpha- and beta-pinene is that alpha-pinene (or α-pinene) is water-soluble, whereas beta-pinene is not [3].

Alpha- and beta-pinene both have the characteristic earthy, foresty smell, often associated with a pine tree. Essential oils that contain pinene are sometimes used for aromatherapy.

Sources for non-cannabis pinene

Besides being one of the main components of conifer trees, pinene can be found in countless other plants. For example, plants abundant in pinene include rosemary, basil, dill, cedar, eucalyptus, parsley, and citrus. Pinene may be extracted from any of these sources and used in medicine, foods, cosmetics, detergents, and paint solvents [4]. 

Uses for non-cannabis pinene

Pinene has been used as a major component of turpentine for hundreds of years, yet more recently it has been employed as a flavoring for foods or a scent for cosmetics and cleaning products. It is a particularly useful compound. More data is needed but researchers are encouraged by results of experiments in their potential application to humans [6].

Pinene characteristics in cannabis compounds

Though the most abundant terpene in cannabis is myrcene, pinene is also high in many strains. Other terpenes high in many cannabis strains include limonene, ocimene, and linalool.

Cannabis high in pinene is said to evoke a feeling of alertness. This may be due to the entourage effect; the theory whereby cannabinoids work synergistically with terpenes and flavonoids to enhance the effects of the plant [7].

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Strains high in pinene

Cannabis products high in alpha-pinene and beta-pinene are generally recognized as smelling rich and satisfying. They deliver a crisp fresh scent redolent of a pine forest. Strains high in pinene include Vanilla Kush, Canna Cake, and Hawaiian Haze. All of these varieties boast a clean and classic profile and a sharp, spicy nose. 

Entourage Effect

The potential of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD is possible because of the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This complex signaling system has evolved to utilize various compounds found in cannabis [8].

The cannabinoid receptors of this system are found in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells of the human body [9]. Researchers have found that terpenes likely play a role in the entourage effect, thereby offering the potential to enhance the effects of cannabinoids.

The theory behind the entourage effect proposes that any potential properties of the cannabinoids may be elevated when all of the cannabis compounds work together in the ECS. As such, terpenes may work in harmony with cannabinoids and flavonoids to make the cannabis plant even more powerful. 

According to the theoretical principles behind the entourage effect, products such as full-spectrum CBD oils utilize the whole of the hemp plant, along with its terpenes, to produce a more comprehensive experience [9].


At the end of the day, who doesn’t love the smell of a pine forest? With extracted pinene, this smell is more readily available in an array of different products, whether it’s a Delta-8 vape pen, a soothing CBD lotion, or a cannabis infused beverage. 

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. You should check with your local authorities and medical providers before buying or using any products.


  1. Wikipedia: Terpene
  2. Britannica Science: Pinene
  3. The Difference Between Alpha and Beta Pinene
  4. Everything You Need to Know About Pinene
  5. Biological Activities of Alpha and Beta Pinene
  6. Alpha Pinene Exerts Neuroprotective Effects
  7. Getting High on the Endocannabinoid System
  8. Wikipedia: The Entourage Effect

Frequently Asked Questions

Terpenes extracted from federally compliant hemp are in accordance with the law. The 2014 Farm Bill and 2018 Farm Bills allow the research, production, transport, and sale of hemp-derived products with less than .3% Delta-9 THC per dry weight. Terpenes from the cannabis plant do not contain THC.

Pinene is an organic compound that is solely composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms, so both alpha-pinene (α-pinene) and beta-pinene (β-pinene) are classified as hydrocarbons. The chemical formula of pinene is C10H16.

The main difference between alpha- and beta-pinene is that alpha-pinene is water-soluble, whereas beta-pinene is not.

It is believed that pinene possesses beneficial properties but more research is needed to confidently determine therapeutic effects or other health effects.