EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TERPENE FARNESENE: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
What is Farnesene and the Benefits, Effects, Research, Science & More?
We take you through the benefits, options, and important criteria you should consider when looking at products containing the terpene farnesene.
Introduction into the Terpene Farnesene
Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Vance Green, PharmD.
Updated on July 15, 2021
The sharp, tart smell and flavor of green apples can be traced to farnesene, a unique terpene found in fruit and some strains of cannabis and hemp.
Farnesene is one of the lesser terpenes in cannabis and hemp, yet it still contributes to some of our favorite strains. At the end of this article, we’ll share some hemp flower strains where you can experience farnesene for yourself.
Consumers tell us that these strains offer relaxation and relief without making them drowsy. However, we can’t credit farnesene alone for these effects: thanks to the “entourage effect,” most scientists believe that all the compounds found in hemp or cannabis work together, making each strain unique.
Right now, scientists actually don’t know very much about the potential effects of farnesene in humans, but we’ll summarize the existing research here.
Farnesene, also known as Trans-β-farnesene, trans-beta-Farnesene, (E)-beta-farnesene, BETA-FARNESENE, 18794-84-8, (E)-7,11-Dimethyl-3-methylenedodeca-1,6,10-triene
What is the terpene farnesene, and where is it found in nature?
Farnesene is a terpene, which is an aromatic compound that naturally forms in a wide variety of plants. Terpenes are what give each strain of hemp or cannabis their respective distinctive scent.
Technically, there are six closely related compounds we collectively call farnesene, which is all chemically very similar and occur in close proximity. The most common are alpha- and beta-Farnesene. The farnesenes are a type of terpene called sesquiterpenes, an incredibly potent and long-lasting form of terpene. That means a little goes a long way.
In addition to that sharp flavor, when farnesene is exposed to air, it forms compounds that oxidize fruit. That’s why apples turn brown after you cut them or bite into them.
Although this terpene is found in green apples, it doesn’t just smell like fruit. The scent is actually a complex mix that’s both fruity and earthy; it’s one of the most significant components that make up the smell of gardenias. In addition, you can find it in basil, turmeric, and eucalyptus.
Scientists think terpenes play a key role in the “entourage effect.” In brief, the entourage effect is the idea that all the compounds in hemp or cannabis are more effective working together in harmony rather than isolated into their individual parts.
That’s why so many consumers report better effects from full-spectrum hemp supplements versus those made with just CBD isolate. While the additional cannabinoids like THC, CBG and CBN play a role, so do the terpenes.
Scientific articles claim (without references) that farnesene is anti-inflammatory simply because it’s found in turmeric, and turmeric is purported to have anti-inflammatory benefits.
What are some possible benefits of farnesene?
Compared to other terpenes, there’s less research into the benefits of this compound, at least as far as human beings (or even mammals) are concerned. Instead, we know more about its effects on plants and insects.
For example, Farnesene seems to be an important anti-pest compound, repelling aphids in a variety of plants. On the other hand, some pests seem to be attracted to this terpene, notably the codling moth. According to the journal Nature, some insects also use it as a pheromone, making it part of their communication systems.
One study, published in 2012 in the Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences, looked at whether extracts of one of the most common types of eucalyptus could prevent tooth decay and cavities. The researchers tested these extracted compounds, which included farnesene, against bacteria responsible for tooth decay and got promising results. It’s an exciting study but can’t be considered definitive since it took place in the lab rather than human mouths. (source)
Since so little is known about what effect this terpene has on humans, it’s tempting to jump to conclusions based on the plants it’s found in and the study notations, as you can see from the list of reported benefits below.
For example, some less scientific articles claim (without references) that farnesene is anti-inflammatory simply because it’s found in turmeric, and turmeric is purported to have anti-inflammatory benefits. There are a few published studies on humans showing some potential, but these are not isolated farnesene compound studies. So this also needs to be taken into consideration.
Reported Potential or Possible Therapeutic Benefits:
- Anti-fungal and Antibacterial (2)
- Anti-inflammatory (3)
- Calming effect
- Antispasmodic: ‘It May help suppress spasms’ (No study found)
- Promotes healthy digestion. (1)
- Tumor-inhibiting traits (1)
- Potential to help treat colon and pancreatic cancers. (1)
Feel free to contact us if you find an interesting scientific study involving terpenes or any other compounds found in hemp!
What hemp strains contain farnesene?
This terpene isn’t found in many strains of hemp or cannabis, and it’s not the dominant terpene in any of them. However, since it’s a sesquiterpene, small amounts can still make a big difference in how a strain smells and tastes.
Two CBD-rich hemp flower strains with notable amounts are Hempress 3 and Sour Lifter. Lifter strains, in particular, have a reputation for offering relief without sleepiness, even reportedly helping some consumers feel more focused.
Remember, you can’t tell whether a strain of hemp or cannabis has a particular terpene through smell alone. The only way to know for sure is to look at the third-party lab tests.
Sesquiterpenes are a class of terpenes that consist of three isoprene units.
Get to know our favorite ‘terps’
Thanks to the years of prohibition and the stigma that grew up around hemp and cannabis, we’re only just beginning to learn about how compounds like terpenes work and could help us.
Writer: Kit O’Connell is a writer and journalist from Austin, Texas. His work has also appeared in Yes! Magazine, the Texas Observer, and elsewhere. He served as Editor in Chief of the Ministry of Hemp from 2017 until 2021.