Linalool: The Terpene You Need to Know About
Terpenes are aromatic compounds in marijuana. It seems they are finally stepping out of the shadow of cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. For decades, it people assumed that terpenes did little more than enhance the scent of cannabis. However, recent research has revealed that both terpenes and cannabinoids work better together in what is known as the ‘entourage effect.’
It is also a fact that individual terpenes have an impact on the human body. The notion that terpenes directly affect brain function is obvious now. In the past, however, scientists found it hard to differentiate between the direct impact of terpenes on the brain and their indirect impact on mood.
As it happens, our sense of smell is linked to the brain’s memory and emotion centers. This means terpenes can hold a significant influence over our greater psyche.
As a result, there is a probable link between the scent of a terpene and its effect. Terpenes likely modulate the behavior of the brain’s cells. This, of course, has a major impact on brain processing. Marijuana produces an enormous number of terpenes, and like its cannabinoids, some are better known than others.
In this article, we talk about one of the most well-known cannabis terpenes of all: Linalool.
Linalool is found in over 200 plant species aside from cannabis and has a litany of uses. As a naturally occurring terpene, linalool has a lovely floral scent and is one of the main ingredients in essential oils such as lavender. It is typically used in up to 80% of aromatic hygiene products. You also find it in cleaning agents like soaps, shampoos, essential oils, and detergents.
Did you know that the average person who doesn’t smoke weed consumes up to two grams of linalool per year? This fact emphasizes the number of products that the terpene is in.
Here is a shortlist of some of linalool’s potential uses. Please note that research is ongoing, so we can’t conclude as to the efficacy of the terpene for the following.
Linalool seemingly exhibits all of the characteristics and properties associated with an anti-inflammatory agent. Inflammation is often characterized by pain, swelling, a sensation of heat, and redness. It is one of our body’s crucial defense systems and it is often a beneficial response. However, sometimes, it could result in chronic inflammatory conditions if left untreated.
There are a few studies that suggest linalool’s anti-inflammatory effects are real. Huo et al. had a study published in The Journal of Surgical Research in March 2013. It looked at the anti-inflammatory effects of linalool. The research analyzed rats and found that linalool inhibits inflammation in vitro and in vivo. The paper also suggested that it was a possible therapeutic candidate for inflammatory disease treatment.
Given lavender’s reputation for promoting restful sleep, it is hardly a surprise that linalool is also known for its sedative and calming effects.
Evidence of its sedative nature came almost by accident when a 2009 study tried to find proof that linalool possessed anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties. Instead, the research found that it had strong sedative qualities. There is also evidence to suggest that linalool enhances the effect of sedatives, including pentobarbital.
A more recent study by Takeda et al., published in Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine in March 2017, looked at how inhalation aromatherapy helped elderly volunteers with insomnia. The researchers discovered that the act of sniffing lavender oil before bed increased sleep quality. It also increased energy levels in the morning after. Of course, lavender contains a lot of linalool.
As a monoterpene compound, linalool is in a large portion of essential oils from plant species that give off a sweet scent. Medicinally, most of these plants are useful for their painkilling properties.
It is also possible that the terpene’s pain-killing capacity is because it elevates adenosine levels, which is a brain chemical that is blocked by caffeine.
A 2007 study by Kim et al. found that in obese patients who underwent gastric banding surgery (and were exposed to linalool-containing lavender oil), only 46% required opioids after the procedure. This compared favorably to the control group, as 82% of them required pain medication.
Anti-Depressant & Anti-Anxiety
Another study, published in Frontiers in Behavioral Science in 2018, looked at the impact of linalool on mice. The test exposed the rodents to vapors from the terpene, and they showed a decreased level of anxiety and depression-like behavior. Mice exposed to linalool also spent more time in ‘fear-inducing’ environments, and worked harder and longer to escape from a doomed situation.
Meanwhile, a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2009, found that linalool improves the immune system’s resilience to stress. Stress is known to change white blood cell distribution, which causes an increase in neutrophils and a decrease in lymphocytes.
The study found that linalool prevented this shift in rats, thus ensuring the rodents were not exposed to typical stress-induced physiological changes. Authors of the study believe the terpene activates our parasympathetic response, which occurs when we digest food or when we are resting.
A further study published in Neuropharmacology in March 2016, suggests that linalool is a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s. It is a disease known for causing the build-up of cellular “tangles” and brain plaque that results in the degeneration of the neurons and cerebral tissue.
The study in question looked at mice. It found that the terpene reversed a number of the cognitive and behavioral impairments associated with Alzheimer’s. It also reduced the number of cellular tangles and brain plaques that are commonly part of the condition.
According to a toxicity profile conducted in 1995, linalool was an irritant to the skin of several lab animal species. In humans, it also seems to cause minor skin irritation. The report concluded that it was of “low acute toxicity” when given to rats orally, and also on the skin of rabbits.
A more recent report stated that at concentrations of up to 20%, linalool was consistently found not to be a sensitizer in tests on humans. In other words, it was neither phototoxic nor photoallergic. However, it could cause allergic contact dermatitis in some individuals. In animal studies, it was irritating to rabbit skin but was not a sensitizer in guinea pigs.
Is Linalool Safe?
While there is a risk of skin irritation and allergic reactions, this terpene is not a skin allergen in its pure form. However, once linalool oxidizes, it is capable of causing adverse reactions or sensitivity in high concentrations. In simple terms, oxidized linalool can cause problems, but if you use a pure and fresh linalool extract, or an essential oil containing it, you should suffer no ill effects.
That said, some studies call into question the safety of lavender oil use. One study, in particular by Prasher, Locke, and Evans, published in 2004, found that lavender oil is cytotoxic (causes cell death) at a concentration of 0.25%. This is concerning because the standard recommended concentration for essential oils is between 0.5% and 1%.
Linalool and linalyl acetate (another major component of lavender oil) were assessed for their cytotoxicity. Researchers discovered that linalool’s activity reflected that of the whole oil. This is a clear sign that the terpene is possibly the oil’s active ingredient.
Linalool Side Effects
Various studies, along with anecdotal evidence, now seem to suggest that linalool is a likely skin irritant capable of causing contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Once it oxidizes, it can also become an allergen or sensitizer. Interestingly enough, some experts believe you can prevent oxidation by merely sealing the lid on a container of any product containing linalool.
As such, it seems that linalool only causes allergies when oxidized. As for why people become sensitive to the terpene, medical researchers are unable to agree. It almost certainly involves the immune system, however. For instance, allergic contact dermatitis occurs when your skin reacts after exposure to a foreign substance.
Once you develop an allergy to linalool, it only takes a small amount to trigger a reaction.
If you have a known linalool allergy, be sure to avoid essential oils, including Howwood, Rosewood, Coriander, Linaloe, Lavender, Bergamot, and Petitgrain. Other potential side effects of linalool exposure can include facial psoriasis and eczema. One study tested 3,000 patients who had eczema by rubbing a patch containing oxidized linalool on their skin, and results showed that up to 7% of them displayed an allergy to the terpenoid.
Which Marijuana Strains Contain the Most Linalool?
Here is a quick overview of five cannabis strains containing relatively large amounts of the terpene, linalool.
This indica-dominant strain is a cross of OG Kush and SFV OG Kush. It has a THC content of 18-24%, with no more than 0.3% CBD usually. This strain also contains significant amounts of linalool, humulene, and beta-caryophyllene.
Users often say that Fire OG is one of the best strains for helping them to relax after a long, hard day. You may also notice the delightful herbal sweetness as you smoke it.
It is not surprising to find that a strain called Lavender has large amounts of linalool!
It is an eclectic mix of Hawaiian, Afghani, Super Skunk, and Big Korean Skunk. This strain is a slightly indica-dominant hybrid.
We recommend caution when using it because its THC level can hit 27%! Bask in all the glory of sweet-smelling flowers, herbs, and spices.
This is another extremely relaxing strain that will make you want to lie on the sofa for the rest of the evening. It is another slightly indica-dominant hybrid and has a THC content of 22%.
Scooby Snacks is a cross of Face Off OG and Platinum Girl Scout Cookies. Those who use this strain with its West Coast genetics love the sweet lemon and pine notes.
Though this strain sounds like someone fell asleep on a keyboard, it is a potent cross of Grapefruit and Grape Ape. It won the prize for the best indica at the 2015 Cannabis Cup in Michigan and San Francisco.
If you want a milder strain with linalool, Zkittlez is an excellent option. Its THC content ranges between 9-19%. Users say that this balanced hybrid has a marvelous citrus scent with hints of sweetness.
This strain is a cross of Face Off OG and Girl Scout Cookies. Though we call it Do-Si-Dos here, it has an array of nicknames. These include Peanut Butter strain, Cookie Face, Dosey Do, and Raspberry Cookies.
It is an indica-dominant strain with a wildly varying THC content. It can range from 13% to 24%. Do-Si-Dos offers a splendid aroma of lime, mint, and pine.
Final Thoughts on Linalool
There is no doubt that linalool offers a wide array of benefits. It possesses antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, improves sleep, reduces anxiety and stress. It also helps with skin conditions in individuals who are not allergic to it. You will find it in dozens of essential oils, including lavender, which means it is easy to find.
However, oxidized linalool can cause allergic reactions in a certain percentage of the population. Side effects include skin conditions such as eczema and contact dermatitis. If you use essential oils and are suffering from an allergic skin reaction, perform an allergy test to see if linalool is the cause.
Until recent years, not much was known about the terpene linalool in terms of its actual effect on the human body. However, times have changed.
What Is Linalool? Uses, Effects and Benefits
When cannabis has a lavender scent, it is specifically due to the presence of linalool in that strain.
by Nicholas Garaffo – September 25, 2020
Scientists initially found that terpenes were responsible for cannabis’s smell and taste. However, more recent studies suggest that terpenes, like linalool, contribute to the user’s overall high and potentially add many of their own medical benefits.
There are hundreds of terpenes but most of them are only present in trace quantities. The individual effects of molecules are difficult to interpret because they are in such low concentrations. But, several compounds appear in large quantities where their individual effects may be apparent. Linalool and myrcene, for example, are among the most prevalent terpenes and may work alongside THC to offer a unique high.
While pure linalool is not psychoactive (it will not get you high), it seems to work alongside other compounds to produce a sedative effect.
What is Linalool?
When cannabis has a lavender scent, it is specifically due to the presence of linalool in that strain. While there is mixed scientific evidence supporting linalool’s effects in cannabis, it is presumed to add sedative or relaxing effects to the user.
Linalool is a naturally occurring compound found in 200 different plants, including jasmine, lavender, rosewood, basil, or thyme. This compound is so abundant in nature that the average person eats two grams of it per year. Unlike the molecule THC, which binds to fat tissue and can be detected several weeks later, linalool moves through the body rather quickly. Even in large quantities, linalool is a safe, organic, non-toxic compound that may offer its own beneficial effects.
Linalool actually refers to two different compounds known as R-linalool and S-linalool, also known as licaerol and coriandrol, respectively. These two different compounds are known as enantiomers and the easiest way to understand this difference is by looking at your hands. While the left hand and the right hand are essentially the same, they are mirror images of each other.
The structure of licaerol and coriandrol are also mirror images but such differences alter their neural effects; meaning, their scent changes. Like their names suggest, licaerol is abundant in lavender and provides its soothing aroma, and coriandrol is commonly found in coriander which offers a pleasant but different scent. Both of these compounds are found in cannabis, and are collectively referred to as linalool.
How is it Made Naturally?
Linalool is found in hundreds of plants because it offers them an environmental advantage. In nature, plants are under constant bombardment by pests and must produce their own defense mechanisms. One tool that has developed throughout evolution is to produce an internal insecticide.
Linalool is a naturally occurring insecticide that will kill fleas, cockroaches and fruit flies. Most of the plants that produce linalool derive from the same common ancestor that manipulated its metabolic pathway to protect it against predators. Today, pest professionals utilize linalool because in its concentrated forms, it can kill invading insects without being environmentally damaging.
What is it Used For?
Besides an insecticide, linalool provides lavender with its indistinguishable scent which has been used in soaps, perfumes and aromatherapy treatments. Linalool is the main smelling compound found in lavender and, in its purified forms, has been shown to reduce anxiety in mice. While this finding has only been recently supported by science, lavender has been used for centuries for its aromatic appeal.
In cannabis, linalool will provide particular strains with a stronger lavender scent. Two strains that have such a scent are Master Kush and OG Shark . Both of which are recommended to user’s that want a relaxing or sedative high because linalool, among other benefits, has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety.
What Effect Does Linalool Have in Cannabis?
Recall cannabis is composed of hundreds of molecules, and since most appear in such trace amounts, it is difficult to understand how they individually impact the user. However, it has been shown that these trace molecules add up to a collective effect– known as the entourage effect— that provides different benefits between purified THC and cannabis extract.
There is no strong research that illustrates the amount of linalool in cannabis can produce any psychotropic effects, but there are several accounts of anecdotal evidence that suggests a more relaxed effect when strains are high in linalool. This could be due to the strong lavender scent given off when smoking that calms the user, or it could be that strains high in linalool are also high in other sedative compounds like CBD or myrcene.
Linalool Against Cancer
Linalool has been shown to interrupt communication pathways that allow cancer to propagate which suggests it plays a role in reducing cancer’s spread. Cancer occurs when a group of cells are able to rapidly divide without the body recognizing and deterring them. As a cancer therapeutic, linalool has been shown to arrest cell division through well known cancer causing pathways, and allow the immune system to come and clear out the infection. While the dosages needed for these benefits are beyond that in cannabis, this research illustrates the benefits of cannabis’s botanical compounds in purified forms.
iStock / Witthaya Prasongsin
Linalool Against Alzheimer’s Disease
Linalool may also have therapeutic properties in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. A 2016 study published in Neuropharmacology found the following results, “Together, our findings suggest that linalool reverses the histopathological hallmarks of AD [Alzheimer’s Disease] and restores cognitive and emotional functions via an anti-inflammatory effect. Thus, linalool may be an AD prevention candidate for preclinical studies.”
For this study, mice were genetically introduced with a Triple – transgenic model of Alzheimer’s disease and were orally treated with linalool over the course of three months.
It was found that mice treated with linalool showed stronger memory and other cognitive functions while completing a maze in comparison to the control group.
Linalool as an Antidepressant
Linalool is a known antidepressant compound that has been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years, but the science behind such an effect is only recently being understood. Multiple reports suggest linalool plays a role as an antidepressant but it is unclear if it is the scent or if the molecule must be ingested. Dr. Guzmán-Gutiérrez found that the ingestion of linalool and Beta-pinene– two terpenes found in cannabis– directly impacts the levels of serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters to act as an antidepressant. However, Dr. Caputo’s team found that lavender oils did not help alleviate depression, but did stimulate sociability.
Linalool as an Anxiolytic
Anxiolytics are therapeutic compounds that alter the levels of particular neurotransmitters to decrease anxiety, however many of these compounds have severe side-effects like alterations with mood, clinical effect delay or sedation. Linalool has been known to be anxiolytic, but Dr. Harada and others wanted to understand how it works in the brain. They found that as an inhalant, linalool can directly interact with known neurotransmitters (GABAA receptors) to reduce levels of anxiety. This study suggests a new and natural method to reduce anxiety and bypass the harmful side-effects common in anxiolytics.
Strains High in Linalool
Are you looking for strains with linalool? Try one of the following:
Amnesia Haze: Amnesia Haze has many of the great qualities that mark both indica and sativa varieties, although users may land on the more thoughtful (or even hyper-thoughtful) end of that spectrum.
The high comes up almost immediately, inducing cerebral thinking and a sudden acute awareness of surroundings. In a positive set and setting, this mental sharpening can lead to a euphoric state of mind.
The combination of strong mental and physical effects makes this strain a good choice for activities that involve both mind and body, including but not limited to exercise and sex. More medically speaking, Amnesia Haze’s sense of focus can be helpful for those with attention deficit disorders who have trouble concentrating on specific tasks.
On the negative side, those prone to anxiety may experience some degree of paranoia due to Amnesia Haze’s tendency to bring on a sense of frantic mind-race; as such, cannabis newcomers may want to temper initial dosage of this strain.
Lavender: Its spicy Afghani hash-like taste is smooth and comes with a powerful euphoria. Its cerebral high is followed by a swirling body stone that calms and relaxes, causing most to feel lazy. Inexperienced users may quickly fall asleep. Negative effects may include the familiar cotton mouth, dry eyes, dizziness, and paranoia.
Lavender may be used at any time of the day, but some prefer it in the evening or at night to help with insomnia. The strain is often used for pain relief due to its powerful Indica effects. It is an effective medication for stress, anxiety, and depression and is prescribed for PTSD, adult ADD/ADHD as well as obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Patients also use it to fight nausea and eating disorders such as anorexia. The high CBD content, reaching as much as 1%, may also help combat seizures.
LA Confidential: Although this is a pure Indica strain, a few users find its cerebral effects bordering on the psychedelic. It may also be thought-provoking and mood-lifting. L.A. Confidential’s powerful laziness is often accompanied by sleep an hour or two after consumption.
Negative effects may include:
- Cotton mouth
- Dry eyes
Headaches, especially with higher doses.
Recommended for evening and nighttime use, this strain may relieve insomnia though some find it makes them tired without actually bringing on sleep. The strong Indica effects make L.A. Confidential suitable for easing chronic aches and pains.
Users often choose the strain to help them deal with stress and anxiety, and some patients use it to induce appetite or calm nausea.
Linalool is found in hundreds of plants because it offers them an environmental advantage. Fortunately, it hasn't protected cannabis from us stoners.