Pine rosin has a notorious name in the market as an adulterant in fake shatter. Used properly with a cannabis extract, however, the resin from pine trees has benefits in topical products.
Incorrect use of pine resin — fake shatter
Fake shatter products have been quantified but also identified through a more basic test. That is, around 2019, cannabis extracts left behind a mass that would not dissolve after being soaked in isopropyl alcohol. Normally, all of the active and desired constituents in an extract should dissolve in alcohol.
Previously, scientists quantified pine rosin as an adulterant in cannabis extracts in Israel in 2015. (1) And Robert Strongin and Jiries Meehan-Atrash from Portland State University in Oregon made a similar analysis in 2020. (2) Pine resin, like cannabis, however, dissolves in alcohol. And so any adulterants identified after soaking an extract in isopropyl cannot be pine rosin. (3)
Pine rosin in cannabis topicals
Despite its notorious reputation in products intended for inhalation, pine rosin has a purpose in creams and salves. Cannabis topical formulations are only intended for external use on the skin, albeit still highly versatile.
Pine rosin is an effective topical with low risks. At least, according to a study authored by two researchers who both work for an Australian pharmaceutical company. And, adding to their conflict of interest, that company makes a profit by selling pine resin for topical products. (4)
Abeitic acid, terpenes, and other beneficials
Pine rosin is fifty percent comprised of abietic acid, a special diterpene. To identify the resin in cannabis extracts, scientists looked for abietic acid, (2) it’s dehydro analogue, as well as pimaric, sandaracopimaric and palustric acid. (1) The benefits that abietic acid has on wound healing were published in a study on mice in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. (5)
Pine resin also contains terpenes, especially alpha and beta-pinene, (6) which function as anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agents. And to add to its prowess, pinene is relatively effective against MRSA bacterial infections.
Hair growth (7)
Contradictions with male sexual health
Pine rosin is listed in Korean and Japanese pharmacopeias as Resina Pini, and has been used in medicine for centuries. The primary side effect of the resin is irritation, although studies report the effect as mild. Abietic acid’s primary mechanism of action is to inhibit an enzyme that metabolizes testosterone. This means that cannabis topicals made with pine resin might affect male sexual and reproductive health. (8)
Pine rosin indeed has a notorious name in the cannabis extract industry. In the realm of topicals, though, the resin can be given a breath of fresh air.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments regarding pine resin in cannabis topicals rather than inhalable extracts.
Photos courtesy of Canva.
Hanus, Lumir & Vega, Dafna & Roman, Michael & Tomíček, Pavel. (2015). False hashish without cannabis resin. Israel Journal of Plant Sciences. 62. 1-6. 10.1080/07929978.2015.1053202.
Meehan-Atrash J, Strongin RM. Pine rosin identified as a toxic cannabis extract adulterant. Forensic Sci Int. 2020;312:110301. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2020.110301
Nong, Weijian; Chen, Xiaopeng; Wang, Linlin; Liang, Jiezhen; Wang, Hailing; Huang, Yingying; Tong, Zhangfa (2014). Measurement and correlation of solubility of abietic acid in ethanol+water mixtures. The Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics, 68(), 199–204. doi:10.1016/j.jct.2013.07.015
Barnes TM, Greive KA. Topical pine tar: History, properties and use as a treatment for common skin conditions. Australas J Dermatol. 2017;58(2):80-85. doi:10.1111/ajd.12427
Park, Jun Yeon; Lee, Yun Kyung; Lee, Dong-Soo; Yoo, Jeong-Eun; Shin, Myoung-Sook; Yamabe, Noriko; Kim, Su-Nam; Lee, Seulah; Kim, Ki Hyun; Lee, Hae-Jeung; Roh, Seok Sun; Kang, Ki Sung (2017). Abietic acid isolated from pine resin (Resina Pini) enhances angiogenesis in HUVECs and accelerates cutaneous wound healing in mice. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 203(), 279–287. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2017.03.055
Brandon Doss. Pine Resin Terpene Analysis by GC-MS. University of Northern Arizona.
Park, Gunhyuk & Kim, Yong-ung. (2016). Hair Growth-promoting Effect of Resina Pini and Its Main Constituent, Abietic Acid, in Mouse Model of Alopecia. Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists of Korea. 42. 203-209. 10.15230/SCSK.2016.42.3.203.
Roh, Seong-Soo & Park, Moon-Ki & Kim, Yong-ung. (2010). Abietic Acid from Resina Pini of Pinus Species as a Testosterone 5α-Reductase Inhibitor. Journal of Health Science – J HEALTH SCI. 56. 451-455. 10.1248/jhs.56.451.