Beta pinene is one of a pair of similar terpenes (the other is its twin, Alpha pinene) present in marijuana which add to its distinctive odor and flavor. Pinenes seem to work in concert with other chemicals in cannabis sativa to moderate the plant’s effect on the human body.
Beta pinene is present in many plants, most notably species of pine trees all over the world. Beta pinene is usually in the same plants as Alpha pinene, but in smaller quantities — for instance, it’s a roughly 80% to 20% ratio in pine oil. Beta pinene is found in lime peel oil, ginger, nutmeg, mace, bitter fennel, rosemary and sage.
Beta pinene, along with its twin Alpha pinene, is common in turpentine, which is distilled from pine trees. Turpentine has been used for thousands of years as a paint solvent, detergent and medicine. Beta Pinene is also used in tiny quantities as a flavoring agent in food.
Turpentine — which contains several other terpenes — is poisonous if ingested or inhaled as vapor, though it was used this way medicinally in the past. It’s only current medical use is as a pain-relieving joint salve for rheumatoid arthritis patients. Pinenes in their pure form also have an antimicrobial effect.
The concentrations of pinene in whole marijuana — as in rosemary or other plants — are so low they are benign.
We know alot about the effects of concentrated pinenes in the form of turpentine because researchers have studied the substance in industrial workers from a safety and toxicology angle. By testing metabolites in the urine of, for example, sawmill workers, researchers have been able to partially reverse-engineer the process by which the body breaks down pinenes.
Scientists know little about how Beta pinene works in synergy with Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) — the two most potent and most-scrutinized chemicals in cannabis. But, there is evidence the so-called “entourage effect” of Beta pinene and the other terpenes in marijuana modify the effect of THC and CBD in important ways.
Beta-pinene, on a chemical level, is made of hydrogen and carbon. It’s structured in such a way that the shape of the molecule is a mirror image of its twin Alpha pinene.
Beta Pinene References
“Beta-Pinene Compound Summary”
National Center for Biotechnology Information
National Institutes of Health; U.S. National Library of Medicine
“Biological activities of α-pinene and β-pinene enantiomers”
AC DaSilva et al
“Alpha Pinene” (a collection of toxicology studies related to the chemical)
U.S. National Library of Medicine