Terpene Tuesdays: Everything You Need to Know About Ocimene Flavor, Fragrance, and Benefits
Ocimene, a monoterpene also identified as beta-ocimene, is one of the most common terpenes found in nature. “Ocimene” derives from the Greek word “ocimum,” which means basil. If you’re familiar with basil’s fresh, uplifting scent, you’re familiar with ocimene. It has a sweet fruity, citrusy flavor with strong earthy, woody, and herbal notes.
Countless plants contain ocimene, including basil, mint, parsley, mangos, lavender, and cannabis. Its pleasing scent makes ocimene a popular ingredient in many everyday products, particularly as a fragrance in the cosmetics and cleaning industries and insecticides. As a cannabis terpene, ocimene offers strains potential therapeutic benefits, including anti-viral, anti-seizure, and anti-inflammation.
What Do Terpenes Like Ocimene Do?
Terpenes are the natural chemical compounds and essential oils responsible for the aromas, flavors, and even colors of most plants, fruits, and vegetables, including cannabis. The scents from terpenes like ocimene are vital in helping plants protect themselves from invading insects and predators while attracting pollinators like bees. Research indicates that plants release ocimene specifically to deter pests and “warn” other plants nearby to ready their defenses.
There are thousands of terpenes, and over 200 occur in the cannabis plant. Different levels of terpenes across cultivars explain why the cannabis experience varies from strain to strain. Along with imparting scents and tastes, every terpene offers unique therapeutic effects, and every cannabis strain has a unique terpene profile that works alongside cannabinoids like CBD and THC.
High ocimene strains tend to have sweet, fruity aromas and flavors complemented by spice. Ocimene also displays energizing, uplifting effects and is more abundant in stimulating Sativa strains than in the more relaxing varieties.
Ocimene Terpenes and the Entourage Effect
Cannabis strains’ therapeutic value and sensory experience results from a sophisticated interaction between its chemical components, known as “the Entourage Effect.” This Effect describes the process where cannabinoids and terpenes blend in the human body to modify and enhance one another’s mechanism action. As a result of this phenomenon, ocimene makes strains more stimulating while contributing to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Research indicates numerous possibilities for ocimene’s medical use. Studies suggest ocimene binds to viral cells better than most other terpenes found in essential oils, giving it possible antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- A 2008 Chemistry & Biodiversity report indicates that the oil of plants containing high levels of ocimene, such as bay laurel, inhibits the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) and the SARS virus, which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome.
- A 2014 article published in Food Science & Nutrition assessed that tagetes minuta, an essential oil that includes ocimene in four different forms, is an effective antioxidant and could eventually be used in developing anti-tumor drugs.
- Another study found that ocimene in black pepper oil acts as an antioxidant and may inhibit enzymes that cause diabetic symptoms, benefiting those living with diabetes.
- Research indicates that tarragon, which is very high in ocimene, has antibacterial and antifungal properties and can help reduce food spoilage.
- A recent report said that ocimene shows potential as an antifungal drug to treat wounds.
- A 2015 Journal of Natural Medicines study found that cis-β-ocimene may effectively treat fungal diseases like ringworm and C. neoformans.
- Research shows that ocimene effectively inhibits the Candida albicans fungus and even works as an insecticide against the larval stages of some pests.
- Researchers in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal studied ocimene as an element of Oenanthe crocata essential oil, noting strong anti-inflammatory activity.
- A 2020 study in Pharmaceutical Sciences Asia found that ocimene “effectively inhibited COX-2 activity,” an enzyme that causes inflammation and pain.
- A study looking at an artemisia containing high levels of ocimene suggests it may have anticonvulsant properties that could help prevent seizures.
Do Terpenes Like Ocimene Get You High?
No. Isolated terpenes like ocimene are not psychoactive and will not get you high. However, terpenes are a crucial part of the entourage effect and can directly affect the cannabis experience.
For instance, ocimene has stimulating effects and likely contributes to the energizing qualities of various cannabis strains. Generally, ocimene relates to highs that are cerebral and invigorating rather than soothing and sedative.
Sources of Ocimene in Nature
The terpene ocimene occurs in numerous sweet, woodsy plants, including:
- Herbs like basil, mint, tarragon, and parsley
- Bay laurel
- Fruits like kumquats, mangos, and bergamot oranges
- Flowers such as lavender and orchids
Everyday household products touting a woodsy or forest scent often feature ocimene, such as:
- Perfume and cologne
- Fabric softener
- Surface cleaners
Although ocimene appeals to humans, its scent deters insects, making it a common ingredient in insecticides.
Which Cannabis Strains Have the Most Ocimene?
Ocimene concentrations vary significantly between cultivars, and ocimene is never the predominant terpene in cannabis strains. However, it is sometimes the second or third most abundant terpene, typically in sativa-leaning varieties. Cannabis strains with higher ocimene content include:
- Dutch Treat: A hybrid strain that smells like sweet fruits mixed with pine and eucalyptus trees, Dutch Treat leaves users feeling uplifted and euphoric. Its pronounced Sativa effects are perfect for combating fatigue, pain, and PMS.
- Jack Herer: A Sativa hybrid, Jack Herer makes users feel blissful, clear-headed, and creative. This spicy, pine-scented strain won numerous awards for its quality and potency.
- Clementine: Users love Clementine’s sweet taste and citrus aroma. This citrusy, energizing Sativa-dominant hybrid is perfect for increasing focus.
- Dream Queen: This hybrid strain leaves users in a euphoric, dream-like state and has a unique flavor mix of pineapple, bubblegum, citrus, and menthol.
- Green Crack: A potent Sativa, few strains compare to Green Crack’s intense energy, focus, and invigorating mental buzz. With a tangy mango flavor, Green Crack is a great daytime strain to help users fight fatigue, stress, and depression.
Reported Ocimene Benefits
Ocimene's defensive properties in plants also translate to numerous benefits for people.
- Natural pesticide: One of ocimene’s most significant benefits is warding off different bugs. Researchers know its scent is a natural insect repellent and look at ocimene as a sustainable solution for farmers fighting pests.
- Stimulating: Most research and anecdotal evidence identifies ocimene as a stimulant. In cannabis strains, it contributes to uplifting and energizing cognitive effects.
- Decongestant: Ocimene can help clear nasal passages and expel mucus and phlegm, making breathing easier. However, it also means strains high in ocimene can cause more coughing when smoking cannabis.
- Antioxidant: Ocimene possesses antioxidative properties that can help manage and prevent type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
- Antifungal: Ocimene has the potential to fight yeasts and molds, which can help fight infections and extend food storage. Plants containing exceptionally high levels of ocimene are traditionally used in the Middle East as a preservative to extend the shelf life of dairy products.
The Bottom Line
Ocimene’s sweet, woodsy fragrance appears in everyday plants and products, such as basil, pepper, perfumes, and countertop cleaners. It contributes to the stimulating effects of Sativa strains while displaying antiviral, antioxidant, and antifungal health benefits. It acts as a decongestant and natural insect repellant and can potentially fight infections and stop seizures. More research could reveal its full potential.
Consumers looking for high-ocimene strains should check the COA (certificate of analysis). A product’s COA typically lists potency and safety information. Additionally, the best brands will include terpene profiles. Consumers who need help should speak with their budtenders to find the products that best fit their needs.