3 Terpenes To Support Memory and Increase Focus

Posted by Jack O'Leary on

In the modern world, memory is becoming outdated. We are relying on our brain’s ability to recall less and less and our ability to remained intently focused on one thing is largely dissipating due to increased screen time, constant dings, and an over-saturation of content and media constantly demanding our attention, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Terpenes, in cannabis, or on their own, can provide a tremendous boost in both short-term memory and alertness.

If you had to pick one of the hundreds of terpenes to boost your brainpower, support your memory and improve you focus, it is pinene. Pinene provides a concentration boost coincided with a feeling of alertness. One of the major drawbacks to cannabis use is the short-term memory loss associated with THC. However, feelings of focus and alertness are common in strains containing high levels of pinene.

Pinene’s cerebral boost is explained by its ability to act as an inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase: this results in extra protection for the molecules transmitting information. Many drugs used to treat dementia are cholinesterase inhibitors, like alpha-pinene. This feature could counteract short-term memory deficits induced by compound-related intoxication. Upon consuming the monoterpene, one feels more lucid, with a better memory and attention span. Through the monoterpene’s cerebral properties, creativity can be stimulated, and short-term memory retention may also be improved.[1]

Alpha-pinene is an ideal terpene for those who medicate themselves with cannabis for chronic pain or for any other reason, but do not like the adverse effects cannabis has on short-term memory. It’s ideal for the person who suffers from an ailment or chronic pain and needs to medicate but also has to study or perform at the workplace. Consider (diff)using pinene isolate at your workplace or at your office in order to improve focus and improve productivity.

Cannabis strains high is pinene:

Linalool is a powerhouse of a terpene with vast array of benefits ranging from anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anxiolytic, but it is also a memory supporter as well.

Perhaps the most exciting therapeutic use for linalool is its emerging potential for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and currently irreversible disease caused by the buildup of brain plaques and cellular tangles which lead to brain degeneration. This degeneration causes severe memory and cognitive impairment, to the point where the simplest tasks cannot be fulfilled, and the most fundamental knowledge cannot be recalled. There are currently no cures for Alzheimer’s disease and current treatment strategies are generally ineffective at recovering brain function.[2]

A study published in 2016 demonstrates linalool as a potential Alzheimer’s treatment. In a genetic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, linalool reversed many of the behavioral and cognitive impairments associated with the disease. Furthermore, it reduced the number of brain plaques and cellular tangles which contribute to brain degeneration.[3]

Cannabis strains high in linalool:

  • Amnesia Haze
  • Lavender
  • LA Confidential
  • Master Kush
  • OG Shark
  • Pink Kush

Related: What Terpenes & Cannabis Strains Make You Laugh?


Limonene is not the French edition of Beyoncé’s classic, but a very citrusy terpene that also provides a cerebral uplift. This terpene is another which affects acetylcholine levels in the brain which impacts our ability to overcome memory impairments and improve memory. Limonene packed strains include:

Essential Oils

You can use essential oils to reap the benefits of terpenes without the intoxicating effects of THC. Oils like Sage, peppermint, cinnamon not only smell great but provide a mental boost and increase in focus. Consider diffusing them or adding them to a candle or air freshener to enjoy the benefits. Another essential oil nootropic combination is Bergamot, Black Pepper, Caraway, Cardamon, Cinnamon Bark, Clary Sage, Coffee, Frankincense, Ginger, Lemon Eucalyptus, Nutmeg, Rosemary, Spearmint, Sandalwood, Vetiver.

A nootropic is a cognitive function enhancer, particularly with memory and creativity, so use this combination when writing, studying, or doing any sort of creative venture. Sandalwood promotes mental clarity memory, and overall cognitive function.  Studies have evaluated the effect of sandalwood oil on attention, memory, and arousal levels. Any combination of the mixture would prove effective as an aid in focus and memory. Those who received the sandalwood oil, when compared to control subjects, felt more mentally aware and demonstrated behaviors linked to increased attention and cognitive brain clarity. Vetiver is often used in trauma helping with self-awareness, calmness, stabilization and brain focus. This is oil is great for boosting energy levels during exhaustion and has been proven to lower anxiety level in rats.[4]

Overworking is common for many working adults and the symptoms include irritability, mental block, lack of motivation, and disinterest. Research suggests that, if left unchecked, mental exhaustion impacts you negatively both short-term and long-term, and can even affect physical endurance. When you’re overworked, your mental battery is running low, you don’t have any energy or inclination, and you have a lot of upcoming work, the following oils can help tremendously:

*     Rosemary Oil – 10 drops
*     Basil Oil – 5 drops
*     Lemon Oil – 5 drops
*     Olive Oil – 2 tablespoons

*     Vetiver Oil – 10 drops
*     Cedarwood Oil – 5 drops
*     Sandalwood Oil – 5 drops
*     Jojoba Oil – 2 tablespoons

Vetiver is popularly used throughout India and neighboring countries for its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, sedative, and ‘grounding’ effects. Known as “khus” or “khus-khus” in North America, vetiver is a grass that can grow up to two feet tall with brownish-purple flowers, tall stems, and long, thin, rigid leaves. Vetiver has been used to treat ADHD, or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

In 2001, a study was undergone by Dr. Terry Friedman, who found that vetiver oil is effective in treating children with ADHD. The case study was conducted across two years (1999-2001), and it involved 40 children between 6-12 years old. Twenty of the children were not diagnosed with ADHD, and they served as the control group, while the other 20 children had been diagnosed with ADHD.

Related: Terpenes For Creativity Boosts

ADD and ADHD stand for attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. These are both common conditions in children and can contribute to low self-esteem, troubled relationships, and difficulty at work or school.

Lavender, vetiver, and roman chamomile oils are excellent in remedying the symptoms of both these ailments as it reduces anxiety, improves focus, and prevents meltdowns. Oils can be taken in through aromatherapy or through topical application. Filling a diffuser with the following recipe is great for when anyone with or without ADD or ADHD needs to focus and get work done.

    •    2 drops carrier oil
    •    2 drops lavender oil
    •    2 drops Roman chamomile oil

Being mentally clear and fog-free is vital in forming thoughts, making important decisions, and overall well-being.  In folk, medicine, rosemary has been associated with preserving memory, supporting focus, and other neurological benefits.  It’s even mentioned by Ophelia in Hamlet, the most well-known Shakespeare work, believed to have been written in 1603:

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray/ Love, remember: and there is pansies. that's for thoughts... There's fennel for you, and columbines: there's rue/ For you; and here's some for me: we may call it/ Herb-grace o' Sundays: O you must wear your rue with/ A difference." (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5).

There are compounds found in rosemary oil which are responsible for changes in memory performance, the most significant being 1,8-cineole. a wonderful-smelling compound which is thought to act in the same way as drugs licensed to treat dementia do. Limited research suggests that 1,8-cineole causes an increase in a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine by preventing the breakdown of the neurotransmitter by enzyme.[5] Other essential oils which may help clear mental haze include peppermint oil, clary sage oil, juniper berry oil, and citrus oil.

Terpenes can provide an immense boost in a lot of different realms of existence and I strongly urge you to experiment with them and see what does and does not work for you!


1 - Russo, Ethan B. "Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage
     effects." US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, NCBI, Aug. 2011,
2 - "Linalool reverses neuropathological and behavioral impairments in old triple transgenic Alzheimer's
     mice." US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, NCBI, Mar. 2016,
3 - Seuol, Geun Hee, et al. "Research Article Open Access Neuroprotective Effect of (-)-Linalool against
     Sodium Nitroprusside-Induced Cytotoxicity." Medicinal Chemistry, www.omicsonline.org/
4 – "Anxiety-like behaviour and c-fos expression in rats that inhaled vetiver essential oil." US
     National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, NCBI, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/
5 - "Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma."
     US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, NCBI, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles

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