Terpenes (general)

Terpene Profile: Borneol

Written by Petar Petrov

Borneol is a bicyclic monoterpene, meaning its molecular structure is made up of two rings fused together. But what’s more important are the practical, real-life implications which borneol’s chemical characteristics translate into, since borneol actually has a wide range of powerful medicinal properties.


Like all terpenes, borneol’s aroma is an evolutionary defense mechanism, meant to protect the cannabis plant from predators and pests. Its scent is usually described as earthy, along the lines of camphor, balsam, or even menthol.

Medicinal Properties

Pain and inflammation

Borneol has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years as an ingredient in topical preparations. But contemporary research keeps discovering new medical applications for borneol in modern medicine. The terpene has demonstrated an ability to relieve pain and inflammation in mice without causing sedation.1Furthermore, there have been speculations of borneol being used as a substitute for lidocaine, a localanesthetic.2Borneol has also demonstrated a potential for reducing the growth of mice fibroblasts, a type of cellwhich is also present in humans.3

Killing Cancer

The molecular process of programmed cell death is called apoptosis, in which cells commit suicide when they have been damaged or stressed beyond repair. An extension, or upgrade, of this process is called extrinsic apoptosis, when one type of cell influences another to kill itself. This is precisely what borneol has been found to do to cancer in human cancer cell lines.4

As you can see, borneol, like other cannabis terpenes, is far more than a “fragrant” cannabis compound. Studies have touched on its diverse medical properties, but we can only wonder of its exact power when participating in the synergy that is the “entourage effect.”


  1. Barreto, et al, Improvement of wound tissue repair by chitosan films containing – borneol, a bicyclic monoterpene alcohol, in rats, Wound J, 2016, 13(5):799-808.
  2. Park et al, Inhibition of acetylcholine-mediated effects by borneol, Biochemical Pharmacology, 2003, 65(1): 83-90.
  3. Almeida et al, Borneol, a Bicyclic Monoterpene Alcohol, Reduces Nociceptive Behavior and Inflammatory Response in Mice, Scientific World Journal, 2013 Article808460.
  4. Su et al, Natural Borneol, a Monoterpenoid Compound, Potentiates Selenocystine-Induced Apoptosis in Human Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cells by Enhancement of Cellular Uptake and Activation of ROS-Mediated DNA Damage, PLoS One, 2013, 8(5): e63502.

About the author

Petar Petrov

Petar is a freelance writer and copywriter, covering culture, art, society, and anything in-between that makes for a nice story. And as it so happens, cannabis is a great element to add to each of those conversations.

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