Article written by
Ruth LemonVP of Operations
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Phellandrene is a little-known terpene compound found in certain cannabis plants that could help improve inflammation and possibly even protect against cancer cell growth.
You may be familiar with some of the major terpenes of cannabis, like limonene, pinene, and humulene. Secondary terpenes like phellandrene are less well known and, as such, have less research surrounding them. What we do know about the effects of phellandrene is promising, however.
As well as being found in some cannabis strains, phellandrene is present in high amounts in eucalyptus plants. This terpene has also been detected in lavender, ginger grass, pine, herbs, and spices such as parsley, cinnamon, black pepper, and mint.
Phellandrene is often used in forest-scented fragrances, thanks to the wood-dominant nature of the terpene’s smell.
Interestingly, phellandrene is a pair of organic compounds: alpha-phellandrene (α-phellandrene) and beta-phellandrene (β-phellandrene). Before discovering phellandrene and its sub compounds, they were often mistaken for the major cannabinoids limonene and pinene.
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Health Benefits of Phellandrene
As well as having a distinctive scent, research tells us that phellandrene may be able to provide a range of health benefits.
One potential medicinal benefit that you might experience from phellandrene is improving your inflammation levels. A 2016 study highlighted the anti-inflammatory properties of this terpene–the animal study delivered phellandrene to rodent models and recorded the levels of inflammatory activity after injection. The researchers found that phellandrene inhibited the accumulation and activity of pro-inflammatory compounds.
These results highlight the potential role of phellandrene in reducing inflammation, which is essential as inflammation can lead to pain, decreased motion, and the development of inflammatory disorders such as psoriasis or diabetes.
Impressively, phellandrene has shown potential to help protect against cancer cell growth. One study investigated the effects of phellandrene on liver tumor cells and found that phellandrene managed to significantly decrease the viability of certain liver tumor cells and induced cell necrosis.
It’s important to note that this single study does not prove phellandrene as a cancer cure-all, but it indicates the terpene’s potential to help treat liver cancer. More research is needed to explore phellandrene’s effect on cancer cells fully.
Another benefit that you may experience from phellandrene is boosting your mental health. The effects of essential oils from the fruits of the Brazilian Peppertree, which carry both phellandrene and limonene, were investigated in one study. The rats in the study were given either the essential oil, limonene, or phellandrene isolate. All three treatment options were shown to induce an antidepressant effect in the rats.
With the mood-boosting results seen in both the essential oil and the phellandrene isolate, this study gives us a strong indication that phellandrene may help reduce the symptoms of depression. But first, human trials are needed to understand its efficacy on depressive symptoms in humans fully.
Phellandrene could help you to manage your pain levels. The same animal study that investigated the antidepressant effects of phellandrene also found that the terpene significantly reduced pain levels in rats. Phellandrene was even able to protect the rats from extreme pain sensitivity. Impressively, there were also no adverse effects on the motor activity of rats who received phellandrene treatment.
While more research is needed to investigate the potential pain-relieving properties of phellandrene on humans, this study shows that the compound offers a lot of promise. This is especially exciting as prescription pain medication often comes with a risk of addiction and even overdose.
Potential Risks and Side Effects
While phellandrene can induce some impressive health benefits, it can also come with some risks of adverse side effects. The good news is that the potential side effects of phellandrene are predominantly mild. Still, it’s essential to understand all risks before adding a new compound like phellandrene to your routine.
One potential side effect that you may experience from phellandrene is an adverse skin reaction. One study found that undiluted alpha-phellandrene, in particular, led to a moderately irritating skin condition in study participants.
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Cannabis Strains High in Phellandrene
Because phellandrene is not a major cannabis terpene, you’re unlikely to find it in high concentrations in cannabis strains. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t present; it’s typically seen in lower quantities. Cannabis strains that contain phellandrene include:
- Jack Herer
- Ace of Spades
- Jack Frost
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Frequently Asked Questions
What does phellandrene smell like?
Phellandrene has a pleasing scent with strong wood, citrus, and mint notes.
Is phellandrene toxic?
Current research does not tell us that phellandrene is toxic, although it may increase skin sensitivity. More research is needed to understand the safety of phellandrene fully.
What is phellandrene used for?
Phellandrene is often used as a fragrance in products wanting a forest-like scent. It is also used in Eastern medicine as a therapeutic for digestive disorders.