Trifecta Terpene: 3-Carene

Written by Nicholas Demski
What is 3-carene? How does it impact inflammation, bone growth, and sleep?

When humans first began migrating out of their ancestral homes and into new lands, they encountered new climates, landscapes, and—most importantly—forms of life. In a 2016 report, researchers from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the United Kingdom, showed that there are roughly 391,000 (known) vascular plant species on Earth. [1]

Given their sheer number and vast diversity, early humans would have encountered specific problems when finding new plants. Most pointedly, if they were poisonous or not.

When humans first stumbled upon cannabis growing in the wild, they likely gave it a smell. Sweet and pungent, they may have unknowingly detected notes of 3-carene, a bicyclic monoterpene and constituent of turpentine.

If those first humans were wise enough to consume it, they may have experienced 3-carene’s potential benefits, which include:

  • Anti-inflammatory activities
  • Effects on bone health
  • Sleep-enhancing effects

The anti-inflammatory potential of 3-carene was evaluated when researchers tested the essential oil of Bupleurem gibraltaricum, or hare’s ear (of the parsley family) against carrageenan-produced edema in isolated rat uteri. [2] Researchers posited that the anti-inflammatory properties derived from the oil application were “due to the delta-3-carene component.”

Another study evaluated similar essential oils from different areas within Granada [3]. Gil et al. wanted to know how the oils impacted acute and sub-chronic inflammation. They demonstrated that the variety of B. gibraltaricum with the most delta-3-carene showed the most significant anti-inflammatory effects against acute inflammation.

Nearly two decades later, researchers published a report which indicated that even low doses of 3-carene may have significant health benefits. [4] They tested 3-carene rich oils extracted from pine trees against mouse osteoblastic (bone forming) cells and found benefits, including:

  • Increased expression of alkaline phosphatase on day nine (a marker of osteoblastic differentiation)
  • A dose-dependent, enhanced induction of calcium

These findings led the researchers to conclude that “the use of natural additives [of 3-carene] to the diet, including essential oils [with 3-carene] could have a beneficial effect on bone health.” [4]

If that doesn’t help you sleep at night, more recent research published by Woo et al. looked at what 3-carene might do for you. [5] This study found that “oral administration of 3-carene increases the sleep duration and reduces sleep latency in pentobarbital-induced sleep test” and that it does so by acting as a positive modulator for GABAA-benzodiazepine receptors. These receptors and benzodiazepine drugs are involved with anxiolytic activity and sedation.

It seems 3-carene may help you sleep well and wake up feeling stronger with less inflammation. That’s why it may be the trifecta terpene.


  1. Thorn, JPR. “State of the World’s Plants.” Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2016. [Times Cited = 6]
  2. Ocete MA, et al. “Pharmacological Activity of the Essential Oil of Bupleurum gibraltaricum: Anti-Inflammatory Activity and Effects on Isolated Rat Uteri.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol 25, no 3, 1989, pp. 305-13, doi: 10.1016/0378-8741(89)90036-6. [Times cited = 44; Journal Impact Factor = 3.414]
  3. Gil ML, et al. “Comparative Study of Different Essential Oils of Bupleurum gibraltaricum Lamarck.” Die Pharmazie, vol. 44, no. 4, 1989, pp. 284-7. [Times cited = 31; Journal Rank = 0.305]
  4. Jeong, Jong-Geun, et al. “Low Concentration of 3-Carene Stimulates the Differentiation of Mouse Osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 Subclone 4 Cells.” Phytotherapy Research, vol. 22, no. 1, 2008, pp. 18-22, [Times cited = 26; Journal Impact Factor = 3.766]
  5. Junsung, Woo, et al. “3-Carene, a Phytoncide from Pine Tree Has a Sleep-enhancing Effect by Targeting the GABAA-Benzodiazepine Receptors.” Experimental Neurobiology, vol. 28, no. 5, 2019, pp. 593-601, doi: 10.5607/en.2019.28.5.593. [Times cited = N/A; Journal Impact Factor = 4.483]

About the author

Nicholas Demski

Nicholas Demski's latest venture is He's a poet, author, cannabis writer, and budding entrepreneur. You can follow his travels with his daughter on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram @TheSingleDadNoma

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