Cannabis Science

What Terpenes Are Good For Pain?

man experiencing back pain

Looking for pain relief? Stoners are opting for weed with certain terpenes to take care of their pain. Wondering what terpenes are good for pain or if terpenes can actually provide pain relief? Here’s what we know. 

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Are Terpenes Good For Pain? 

Before we get into whether or not terpenes are good for pain, let’s talk about terpenes a little.

In case you’re unfamiliar, terpenes are chemicals in plants that are primarily responsible for their smells. Therefore, if you love the smell of mint and lavender, you can thank terpenes for that. 

In cannabis, terpenes are also responsible for the skunky smell you’ve come to know and love.

However, terpenes do much more than make plants smell good. 

According to a 2019 scientific article, “Terpene can ward off pathogens, predators, and competitors. Living organisms use terpene for multiple reasons like medicinal purposes and communications about food, mates, or enemies.”

Clearly, terpenes are great for plants, but what about humans?

Even though terpenes won’t make you high, they could have medical benefits.

As a matter of fact, the 2019 scientific article says, “Cannabis is one of the most common sources for medicinal terpene. This plant contains many medicinal properties like anticancer, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antihyperglycemic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiparasitic.”

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While more research is needed, plants that are commonly used in folk medicine for pain relief, such as cannabis have a lot of terpenes. Therefore, people assume that the terpenes may play a role in pain relief. 

Board certified Pediatrician Dr. David Berger, founder, and medical director of Wholistic ReLeaf, a division of Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care, and DrDavidMD, a health education company tells us, “While THC and other cannabinoids are the primary pain relieving phytochemicals in cannabis, it is thought that there are certain terpenes that can help with pain and inflammation. Much more research needs to be done to determine how to best choose marijuana strains to best treat certain symptoms.”

Let’s talk about it. 

Which Terpenes Are Good For Pain?

It’s hard to tell what terpenes are good for pain because there isn’t sufficient research on the topic. However, there is some scientific evidence that may support terpenes’ roles in pain relief. 

But how?

Well even though more research is needed, terpenes may interact with our endorphin system to relieve pain. Berger told us, “It appears that they work through mu-opiate receptors, which is part of our natural endorphin system that controls pain.”

So, what terpenes are good for pain? 

Berger mentioned that humulene, caryophyllene, pinene, and limonene are commonly thought to help with pain relief. 

Let’s discuss them and see what specific strains you may want to add to your bong.

Humulene

If you like the smell of beer, you’re probably a fan of humulene. 

Humulene or alpha caryophyllene, is known for its woody, hoppy, and earthy smell.

Besides smelling good, humulene may be able to alleviate inflammation and pain. 

According to Nutraceuticals (Second Edition),  “Humulene possesses both topical and systemic antiinflammatory properties and is an effective analgesic when taken topically, orally, or by aerosol.”

Therefore, cannabis high in humulene may be able to help with your pain woes. 

However, a lot of research is lacking on humulene. 

According to a 2021 pharmacological review, “despite the fact that humulene is a major terpene component in cannabis and hops, only a few studies have reported its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, and all of them rely on the use of essential oils of various plant species in which humulene is in combination with other terpenes.”

However, if you still have faith in humulene, Rise Cannabis recommends:

  • Ice Cream Cake 
  • LA Kush Cake #2
  • Love Affair 
  • Animal Mints #10

Caryophyllene

If you’re a fan of black pepper, you’re a fan of the terpene caryophyllene.

The scent may be described as spicy

But besides its spicy scent, caryophyllene is a special terpene. 

Caryophyllene, unlike the other terpenes, interacts with the cannabinoid receptor subtype 2 (CB2). 

So, what does that mean for pain relief?

A 2019 study found that in animal studies, beta-caryophyllene shows pain relieving properties such as reducing the amount of cytokines. Cytokines, especially proinflammatory cytokines are involved in the development of certain types of pain. Therefore if caryophyllene reduces cytokines, pain may also be reduced. 

In addition to that, a 2022 study says, β-caryophyllene “has high pharmaceutical potential due to its analgesic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory activities.”

To be clear, analgesic means pain relieving, and fighting inflammation can help with pain relief. 

Several Redditors also say caryophyllene is their go-to for pain relief. One Reddit user said, “For my chronic pain I look for caryophyllene for the muscle pain and humulene for the inflammation that brings on sciatica.”

If you’re looking for weed strains high in caryophyllene, Veriheal recommends:

  • Original Glue
  • Chemdawg or Chem Dawg
  • Sour Diesel

Pinene

Pinene, the most abundant terpene in nature, comes in two forms, alpha, and beta. Alpha pinene is responsible for the traditional pine needle smell while beta pinene may smell a bit like rosemary.

There is some scientific evidence that suggests pinene may have pain-relieving properties.

According to a 2021 review, the results of an animal study show that pinene provided pain relief and reduced inflammation after mice were subjected to certain irritants. 

The review also said, “Pinene also reduced pain associated with migraine through its regulation of inflammation and vasoactive modulators.”

Looking for pinene-heavy strains? Check out:

  • Island Sweet Skunk
  • Strawberry Cough
  • Remedy
  • Jack Herer
  • God’s Gift

Limonene

Limonene is usually found in a variety of citrus fruits and weed. 

Besides being mood-boosting, limonene may have an effect on pain.

According to the 2021 pharmacological review, “Citrus oil inhalation improved depressive behavior and normalized immune function; such an effect would be expected to provide benefits in pain as a result of the known role of antidepressants in providing pain relief.”

To be clear, limonene is in citrus oil. 

In a 2020 study about terpenes in citrus essential oil, the authors mentioned the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects of limonene.

In reference to the pain-relieving effects, they said, “The analgesic effect is helpful in relieving headaches and stomach ache, relaxing the muscles, and preventing muscle stiffness.”

LImonene heavy weed strains include:

  • Sour Diesel
  • Super Lemon Haze
  • Jack the Ripper
  • Lemon Diesel

Takeaway

So, what terpenes are good for pain? Humulene, caryophyllene, pinene, and limonene may be good for pain relief however, more research is needed to confirm that. 

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About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].