Although pulegone is a terpene present in relatively low concentrations in cannabis, it packs a powerful pepperminty camphorous punch! If you’ve ever walked by a large rosemary bush and accidentally brushed your arm against it as you did so, then you’ve smelled pulegone in all its glory as it is a major component of this highly fragrant herb. While you may enjoy taking deep breaths of its pleasant aroma, insects are repelled by it. For this reason, pulegone (and rosemary bushes) are often used to deter biting insects in backyards and along decks and porches. Pulegone is also a powerful insecticide that naturally occurs in most mint species, including peppermint, spearmint, and catnip (Nepeta cataria).
Pulegone is a popular terpene addition to aromatherapy candles, especially those that promise that the effect will “linger” for a long time after the candle is put out. It has the ability to produce a calming and sedative effect on most people who inhale it. Therefore, it is often used by people with social anxiety and performance anxiety to prepare for an event. In cannabis strains that are a bit higher in pulegone (but never high in pulegone), this pleasant smelling terpene can make vaping their essential oils a more pleasant experience, especially since it also seems to combine in pleasant ways with other aromatic terpenes. Pulegone is often added to hard candy as well, not only for the taste, but for the strong aroma it gives off as one sucks on the candy contaning pulegone.
One of the most important facts to know about pulegone from a therapeutic standpoint is that it is a good acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Acetylcholinesterase is a protein in the body that can block the action of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is an important chemical needed to store memories in the brain. Without acetylcholine, we would immediately forget what just happened! This is also why the presence of pulegone in CBD oils that contain THC, and in recreational marijuana, helps alleviate the memory loss issues induced by THC.
In addition to protecting memories, the terpene pulegone seems to help one increase their mental focus and increase their mental energy and alertness. This is probably why some college students swear by pulegone as a study aid and as a terpene to inhale before a big test.
Pulegone is also known to be a good expectorant, helping one to loosen up and cough out mucus in their air passageways and sinuses. Many of those who experience blocked sinuses report good results with pulegone. This is also a much desired bonus effect for many who take CBD oil primarily for other therapeutic reasons.
In very high concentrations, pulegone is a terpene that can have negative effects on the body, particularly on the liver. In fact, a study was conducted by the National Toxicology Program in 2014 that reported that pulegone could not only cause liver damage but also be carcinogenic in rats and mice when administered at very high dosages. Given the dosages required to obtain these results, many people will take this negative information about pulegone with a grain of salt. However, it is something to keep in mind.
On the other end of the spectrum, when pulegone is present in very low concentrations, as it is found in the cannabis plant and in the essential oil of the cannabis plant, pulegone seems to have a positive effect on the body. You can compare very high and very low concentrations of pulegone to what happens when you eat a lot of dark chocolate versus a little dark chocolate. If you eat a little dark chocolate, the polyphenols and flavanols confer a strong protective antioxidant effect on the body, i.e. dark chocolate is good for you at smaller servings. However, if you over-indulge on dark chocolate to the point of being outright piggy, the theobromide contained in dark chocolate can produce tremors, insomnia, anxiety, nausea, and other significant health issues. In other words, dark chocolate is bad for you at very high serving sizes, especially if you do so often. The same can be said about pulegone. At low concentrations, many people report a positive effect but at high concentrations, it may produce negative effects, especially if you do so often.
While pulegone is considered a secondary terpene in cannabis due to its relatively low concentration in cannabis, and you can get it at much higher concentrations in other plants, it is an important component in the “entourage effect” of CBD oil taken for therapeutic purposes.