EducationThe best terpenes for arthritis pain

The best terpenes for arthritis pain

9 min read

Sam North

The best terpenes for arthritis pain


Arthritis is a prevalent condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by joint swelling and tenderness, often accompanied by redness and warmth in the affected area. This inflammation leads to pain and stiffness in the joints, making everyday activities challenging and sometimes unbearable. As the patient ages, the symptoms of arthritis tend to worsen, significantly impacting their quality of life.

Although it can impact people of any age, it is much more common among older adults, particularly those over the age of 65. Proper management and treatment, including medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes, can help alleviate the symptoms and improve the overall well-being of individuals living with arthritis.

The two most often encountered forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA). Both of these conditions involve the breakdown of joint tissues, leading to inflammation, pain, and stiffness.

So, what are terpenes, and where do they fit into a treatment plan focusing on arthritic symptom reduction?

That is what we are here to find out! In today's write-up, we will explain everything there is to know about terpenes and explore the exciting emerging research into how they may be able to help with arthritis symptoms.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes serve as the foundation of essential oils, comprising one of the largest and most diverse groups of naturally occurring compounds. Beyond their pleasing aromas, terpenes play a crucial role in repelling potential predators and attracting vital pollinators.

These compounds are found throughout the plant kingdom, but they come in particularly high concentrations in cannabis and hemp varieties. Responsible for the distinctive scent of cannabis and providing protection to the plants, recent advancements in medical cannabis research are uncovering the potential therapeutic properties of terpenes.

How do terpenes help arthritis patients?

Certain terpenes are showing great promise in offering arthritis patients a range of therapeutic benefits, including 

This makes them an excellent complementary treatment option for those looking to treat their arthritis symptoms. These terpenes are found in significant enough concentrations in many cannabis and hemp varieties to be able to have a potential effect on the patient’s symptoms.

Where cannabinoids (think THC and CBD) are known to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), most terpenes interact primarily with the olfactory (sense of smell) and gustatory (taste) systems. This suggests that they may be able to have a direct effect on the patient's symptoms through certain pathways within the body. The one caveat to this, so far, is beta-caryophyllene. This terpene is known to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system and has displayed anti-inflammatory properties in research studies.

And then we have the "entourage effect” to discuss. This theory states that when all of the compounds found in cannabis and hemp, including terpenes and cannabinoids, are administered together, the therapeutic benefits can be amplified. This means that some patients may experience more relief from their symptoms when taking a medical cannabis product that contains a balance of terpenes and cannabinoids.

Okay, which particular terpenes should arthritis sufferers look to potentially incorporate in their current treatment plan?

Let's see what the currently available science has to say…

The best terpenes for arthritis


Limonene is one of the major cannabis terpenes, and (unsurprisingly) offers a bright, citrusy aroma. It is one of the most heavily researched terpenes in regard to its potential benefits for arthritis patients, as it is found in high concentrations throughout the plant kingdom.

This European Journal of Pain paper looked at the pathways that limonene utilizes to help reduce joint inflammation and associated symptoms. The study identified that:

"Limonene activates nociceptive TRPA1 and elicits acute pain, when it is topically applied. In addition, systemic application of limonene exerts inhibitory effects on nociception induced by an oxidative stress-induced TRPA1 activation"

In simpler terms, this means that limonene, a natural compound found in citrus fruits, exhibits a remarkable inhibitory effect on the pain caused by joint inflammation in arthritis patients. By targeting the underlying inflammatory processes, limonene offers potential relief and improved quality of life for those suffering from arthritis-related discomfort. Its analgesic properties make it a promising avenue for further research and development of novel therapeutic interventions.


Myrcene is the terpene found in the heaviest concentrations within many cannabis and hemp strains, and offers that earthy, musky, dank aroma commonly associated with the plant.

This 2021 research paper found that myrcene was able to offer anti-inflammatory properties by

"inhibiting the inflammatory response induced by lipopolysaccharide, including cell migration and production of nitric oxide", "inhibiting the production of g-interferon and interleukin (IL)-4", and "decreasing the activation of ERK12 and p38, as well as the expression of inflammatory iNOS, while increasing the expression of anti-catabolic genes TIMP1 and TIMP3"

Lots of big sciencey terms there that won't mean much to the everyday reader, but this is essentially saying is that myrcene has the potential to inhibit the production of inflammatory compounds in arthritis patients, while also preventing the breakdown of muscle tissue- a key benefit for those with severe arthritis symptoms.


We mentioned earlier on that beta-caryophyllene interacts directly with the ECS, specifically the CB2 receptor which is responsible for the regulation of many physiological processes, including pain perception, inflammation, and immune response, making it the only terpene known to do so.

This interaction results in the production of anti-inflammatory mediators, and is accompanied by a reduction in inflammatory symptoms, which makes it an ideal terpene for arthritis patients.

On top of this function, beta-caryophyllene also has been shown to activate multiple mechanisms to help reduce arthritic symptoms. One of the more interesting is the effect it has on the receptor TRPV1. This receptor is known for its role in the regulation of pain, inflammation, and temperature sensation. In animal trials, its activation by beta-caryophyllene led to a significant reduction in pain associated with inflammation.


Pinene is one of the most abundant terpenes in nature and also carries the distinct earthy, woody, and fresh aromas reminiscent of pine. It is thought to offer a range of therapeutic properties, including anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.

This Frontiers in Psychiatry paper found that pinene may have analgesic effects involving GABA and m-opioid receptors, and that it has demonstrated efficacy similar to existing anti-inflammatory drugs.

How to take terpenes for arthritis

So, now we know which terpenes are thought to offer the most benefits for arthritis patients, but how should they take them?

Well, thanks to the slow but steady end to cannabis prohibition currently underway in many countries, there are now a number of ways to access the therapeutic benefits of terpenes.

The most straightforward method is via the administration of cannabis or hemp-derived products, which contain the full spectrum of terpenes and cannabinoids. Medical cannabis became legal in the UK in November 2018, meaning that those with a valid prescription can now legally access medical cannabis products.

If you would prefer to steer clear of cannabis in general, but still access the potential therapeutic power of terpenes, then there are a number of isolated terpene products available over the counter.

When considering arthritic symptoms in particular, topical rubs containing cannabis-derived terpenes may be the best route of administration. With topical application, the patient is able to target the site of inflammation directly, and with a minimal amount of systemic absorption.

It's important to note that while terpenes may offer therapeutic benefits for those with arthritis, the efficacy of any particular product can vary from person to person. For the best possible medical outcome, it is always advised that those looking to access cannabis-derived medicines should consult with a qualified medical professional before starting any new treatment.

Final thoughts

Though still in its relative infancy, the study of terpenes and their potential medical benefits is an incredibly exciting area of research, with many possibilities yet to be explored.

As we have seen here today, there is evidence to suggest that certain terpenes may offer relief for arthritis patients when used alongside existing treatments. A combination of novel approaches, conventional pharmaceutical treatment options, and lifestyle changes may provide the best possible outcome.

However, it’s essential to reiterate that those looking to access medical cannabis-based treatments should always consult with a qualified medical professional beforehand.

Releaf understands the importance of medical cannabis in treating various medical conditions. With our tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, you can access the treatment you require without worrying about the stigma. 

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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