Terpenes: Let's Look at Linalool
Updated: Sep 19
You might already be familiar with linalool, arguably one of the most common terpenes in popular usage. It’s probably even listed in the ingredients on your shampoo bottle! But what is linalool, and why is it so beloved – and used so faithfully? Let’s find out.
Linalool is a Terpene: But What is a Terpene?
To put it simply, terpenes are the chemical compounds that give plants their scent and flavour. When you stop to smell a rose, you’re smelling its terpenes. The pine-fresh scent of walking through a forest? All of the terpenes from the trees and plants around you. And that musky, sort of earthy smell you associate with cannabis comes from its blend of terpenes. In the wild, plants use terpenes to attract pollinators and warn off hungry predators. But when those terpenes are consumed into the human body, they can affect our systems as well. Many terpenes have health benefits, and cannabis alone has over 100 identified terpenes.
What is Linalool?
Linalool is one such terpene found in cannabis. It has a dusty floral scent that lends itself well to aromatherapy blends, and is a popular addition in manufacturing many home and beauty products like air fresheners, perfumes, and even cleaning products.
But Linalool Isn’t Specific to Cannabis
In fact, you probably recognize it from another source entirely - lavender. Actually, while linalool can be found in a lot of cannabis strains, it’s rarely ever a dominant terpene. Instead it’s more likely to be found in smaller amounts of the overall terpene profile. Linalool is found in lots of other plants as well: it’s prominent in birch bark, rosewood, citrus fruits, and some spices including cinnamon, coriander and the mint family. But lavender is where linalool really shines, and why it is so highly sought after in aromatherapy and consumer products. Some call lavender, and by extension linalool, the “original aromatherapy” - it’s been used for centuries in countless cultures around the world for its calming benefits. Traditional uses for linalool range from treating seizures and insomnia to simply helping the user relax and de-stress. But does it actually work, or is it just a placebo effect?
Uses of Linalool
Linalool is well-known to have many benefits and is used worldwide for different benefits, ranging from seizure prevention to a good night’s sleep. Clinical studies have been done to back up many of folk medicine’s claims about the usefulness of this terpene, and it shows that linalool has a wide range of health benefits. Some of these include:
Anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects: Linalool has long since been used to reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress in folk and alternative medicine, but is also clinically proven: mouse studies confirmed that inhaled exposure to linalool during tests reduced anxiety without any evidence of motor impairment. Additionally, lavender essential oil has been shown to reduce anxiety in human trials.
As a sleep aid: Lavender has a world class reputation as a sleep aid, and now medical science has provided proof to back that up; mice exposed to linalool in an inhalation showed that the terpene induced sedation without impairing coordination or motor abilities. This is exciting news for those who have trouble sleeping but don’t like the side effects of most pharmacological sleep aids.
Pain Relief: One study was done on human patients who had undergone gastric band surgery. The patients who were exposed to lavender essential oil vapour containing linalool requested pain relief medication, in this case morphine, only 46% of the time - compared to 82% of the control group. This study shows huge potential for linalool as a treatment for both acute and chronic pain, that may help patients experiencing pain decrease the need for opioid pain medication.
Anti-stress: With anxiolytic and sedating effects, it makes sense that linalool can help us manage stress, but in this case it goes even deeper than that! Over time, stress changes the distribution of white blood cells “on call” for the body’s immune system - weakening your immune response and, long term, causing damage to your DNA structure. One study in rats showed that linalool exposure helped to prevent this change, and protect the rat’s DNA from accumulating damage from stress. This is a pretty significant job for one little terpene!
Anti-seizure effects: Linalool has been used in folk medicine to treat seizures for centuries, but notable new research has discovered why it might be so effective. Linalool reduces glutamate, an excitatory brain chemical that relates to muscle contraction. By limiting glutamate, linalool can produce a powerful anti-convulsant effect that can help treat or prevent seizure. Another study showed that linalool has “marked sedative effects at the central nervous system”, that helps to create its anticonvulsant effect.
How to Use Linalool
While lavender has been used in medical and recreational contexts for a long span of human existence, we now have medical science on the case. Research backs up many claims about linalool’s proposed health benefits, including anxiety relief, as a sleep aid, and even to help prevent and fight seizures. While linalool is found in the terpene blend of many cannabis strains, it is rarely if ever a dominant terpene in cannabis. If you’re looking for more ways to incorporate this terpene into your life to enjoy it’s many benefits, here’s some other ways we’ve found:
Lavender tea: Yes, you can drink it! One study used lavender tea to relieve fatigue and depression in postpartum mothers, as well as improve their quality of sleep and mother-infant attachment.
As an essential oil: As essential oils grow in popularity, you may be able to even find lavender or linalool oil at your local grocery store. Remember to use caution with essential oils, as most are not safe for pets to ingest or inhale, and always dilute with a carrier oil if using topically.
In sleep aid products: Many products such as sleep masks and linen sprays use lavender scent to help calm and relax users at bedtime. Just make sure the ingredients actually contain linalool or lavender oil - artificial fragrances won’t have the same benefit!