WHAT ARE TERPENES - OVERVIEW AND BENEFITS WHAT ARE TERPENES - OVERVIEW AND BENEFITS


WHAT ARE TERPENES - OVERVIEW AND BENEFITS

July 13, 2021

IN ESSENCE...

  • Terpenes are the aromatic compounds found in a variety of plants, which are responsible for each plant's unique fragrance.

  • They are a group of volatile unsaturated hydrocarbons, found in the essential oils of plants.

  • Terpenes are produced predominantly by plants, particularly conifers and citrus trees.

  • More commonly, people associate them with cannabis, as the cannabis plants contain high concentrations of them.

  • Terpenes are known to be bioactive, which means they may affect the body.

  • Due to the vibrant smells, terpenes form the basis of essential oils and are also an integral part of aromatherapy.


 

WHAT ARE TERPENES – OVERVIEW

 

Terpenes are the organic compounds that give flavors and aromas to all kinds of plants. They are the fragrant oils found in plants that produce a unique smell and taste. These are more common in coniferous varieties, as well as the citrus plants. The chemical compounds they secrete give fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers their distinctive scents. In general, their function is to promote the well-being of the plant. For example, by attracting pollinators or protecting it from pathogens and predators, but they also possess biological properties that are believed to support human health. Terpenes are also a major component of the essential oils, which are the crux of aromatherapy. While terpenes are increasingly trending today, they do have a history that spans civilizations. Scientists have been studying terpenes for ages in order to understand their properties and to figure out ways to implement their aromas in different applications. Terpenes can be found in food and beverage flavorings and also in medicines and disinfectants, serving as natural cleaners. Of late, terpenes are rapidly gaining popularity in the cannabis industry for their variety of flavors on offer and also for their reputed entourage effects. Regardless of their applications, terpenes are a fascinating subject that you may already be appreciating without prior awareness.



 

HISTORY OF TERPENES

 

As mentioned earlier, while terpenes are in demand today, especially in the CBD and cannabis space, they have been around for a very long time. Throughout history, terpene applications have been identified with Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans, Greeks, Hebrews, and even the Chinese. The common ground among all these cultures is their use of essential oils and terpene elements medicinally. Their usage can be traced back to Ancient Egypt, where they were used as fragrances in religious ceremonies. It is also believed that the chemists in that era, used to mix the terpenes into blends for creating fragrances and also for feminine hygiene purposes.

There are traces of terpenes in the 11th century, with the introduction of camphor in Eastern Europe by the Arabs, primarily for the treatment of pain and illness. Its strong aromatic properties were also used for fumigation during the Black Death Era. Camphor was known to be mixed into rosewater and sprinkled onto the dead, before burying them. Later, in the 17th century, a German chemist named Otto Wallach identified the structure of many terpenes. The rich aromas of the variety of spices found in Indian food are because of terpenes. This proves that no matter where in the world you are, terpenes are omnipresent, be it in vegetables, fruits, herbs or spices.



 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF TERPENES

 

Different terpenes are known to provide different benefits both to the mind and body. Some may offer cleansing and cosmetic benefits while other can alleviate pain. Similarly, some can provide stress relief while others can improve appetite as well. Basically, think of terpenes as natural compounds you may have never heard of, that can boost your health.

Similar to the way aromatherapy works, inhaling the aroma of certain terpenes are known to boost the emotional well-being. For instance, the floral scent of linalool terpene, found in lavender, has a soothing effect that helps you sleep better. Likewise, another terpene like limonene, which is found in peppermint and citrus fruits can elevate your mood.

Terpenes have a wide range of health benefits and have been studied for numerous medical applications. Terpenes are known to be studied for their antiviral characteristics. It is also believed that certain terpenes have shown potential for treating cancer and diabetes. For cannabis users, terpenes are known to provide a better experience without the usual side effects. Apart from these benefits, terpenes are known for their anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-bacterial, and anti-depressant properties.

Terpenes tend to be immediately associated with marijuana. This is for a very good reason as hundreds of terpene compounds have been found in cannabis. They have become a popular part of the marijuana conversation, as the legal usage of cannabis has been on the rise lately. Today, marijuana growers seek to prioritize terpenes in their strains to add a variety of aromas and flavors. This helps, both the marketing and taste of their product. As marijuana is still illegal on a federal level in United States, researchers find it hard to study the terpene effects in marijuana. The "entourage effect," as it is generally known, refers to terpenes reacting synergistically with cannabinoid compounds like THC in the endocannabinoid system in order to affect the body and mind.

Along with the mind, terpenes are also known to have physical effects. But, to what extent is that effect depends on the specific type of terpene. Overall, terpenes may be able to have the following physical effects like:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Anti-bacterial properties
  • Pain relief
  • Muscle spasm relief
  • Antifungal properties


 

GUIDE TO COMMON TERPENES

 

Terpenes are simple hydrocarbons, while terpenoids are a modified class of terpenes with different functional groups and oxidized methyl groups moved or removed at various positions. Terpenoids are divided into monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, sesterpenes, and triterpenes depending on their carbon units.

Most of the terpenoids with the variation in their structures are biologically active and are known to be used worldwide for the treatment of many diseases. Let's look at some of the key details of the most common terpenes, their aromatic profiles, which oils are known to contain them, and the reputed benefits they confer.

TERPENE AROMATIC PROFILE ESSENTIAL OILS REPUTED BENEFITS

Camphene

  • Woody
  • Earthy
  • Herbaceous
  • Cooling
  • Camphor
  • Citronella
  • Cypress
  • Ginger
  • Neroli
  • Rosemary (Camphor variety)
  • Purifying
  • Antioxidant
  • Helps open airways

Carvone

  • Sweet
  • Minty
  • Spicy
  • Herbaceous
  • Dill
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Caraway Seed
  • Improves circulation
  • Relieves digestive issues
  • Boosts respiratory function

Beta-Caryophyllene

  • Spicy
  • Peppery
  • Musky
  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Cinnamon
  • Relieves pain
  • Boost immune system
  • Alleviates stress
  • Reduces inflammation

1,8-Cineole

  • Fresh mint
  • Cooling
  • Eucalyptus
  • Mugwort
  • Bay Leaves
  • Soothe inflammation
  • Enhance memory
  • Antioxidant
  • Antifungal

Citral

  • Citrus
  • Sweet-lemony
  • Lemongrass
  • Orange
  • Antioxidant
  • Analgesic
  • Antidepressant
  • Neuroprotective

Eugenol

  • Pungent
  • Clove-like
  • Spicy
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon
  • Basil
  • Nutmeg
  • Bay leaf
  • Sedative
  • Restores appetite
  • Antispasmodic

Geraniol

  • Rose-like
  • Lemongrass
  • Geranium
  • Rose
  • Palmarosa
  • Analgesic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-cancer
  • Anti-bacterial

Humulene

  • Earthy
  • Woody
  • Spicy
  • Herbal
  • Musky
  • Clove
  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Coriander
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-depressant
  • Reduces anxiety

Limonene

  • Citrus
  • Lemon-like
  • Orange-like
  • Citrus Peel
  • Caraway
  • Elemi
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-stress

Linalool

  • Floral
  • Spicy
  • Woody
  • Lavender
  • Rosewood
  • Sweet Basil
  • Improves sleep
  • Reduce congestion
  • Anti-bacterial

Linalyl acetate

  • Floral
  • Sweet
  • Citric
  • Minty
  • Bergamot
  • Lavender
  • Clary sage
  • Anxiety relief
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular protection

Menthol

  • Minty
  • Cooling
  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Relieves joint pain
  • Headache-relief
  • Fever-reducing
  • Stimulate hair growth

Menthone

  • Minty
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pelargonium geraniums
  • Respiratory relief
  • Appetite suppressant
  • Improves athleticism
  • Improves digestion

Myrcene

  • Musky
  • Earthy
  • Grape-like
  • Fruity
  • Lemongrass
  • Chamomile
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Analgesic
  • Antibiotic
  • Sedative
  • Antimutagenic

Nerol

  • Floral
  • Rose-like
  • Citrus
  • Lemongrass
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Treat sepsis
  • Healing acne

Pinene

  • Piny
  • Woody
  • Rosemary
  • Cypress
  • Juniper Berry
  • Helichrysum
  • Antimicrobial
  • Bronchodilator
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Analgesic

Sabinene

  • Citrusy
  • Piny
  • Woody
  • Spicy
  • Norway spruce
  • Holm oak
  • Nutmeg
  • Bay Laurel
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-cancer compound
  • Antioxidant
  • Antifungal

Terpinene

  • Smoky
  • Woody
  • Tea tree
  • Peppermint
  • Cardamom
  • Eucalyptus
  • Antifungal
  • Antioxidant

*Antioxidant benefits mentioned in the table indicate that the terpene has demonstrated antioxidant activity in controlled laboratory studies.



 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

 

To learn more about the unique chemical makeup of different essential oils and how they can enhance a sense of well-being, check out our articles on Essential Oil Benefits and Categories of Essential Oils & Their Benefits. Be sure to browse our essential oil product pages for more information on the oils that catch your interest.



 

CONTRAINDICATIONS FOR ESSENTIAL OILS

 

As with all NDA products, the essential oils mentioned in this article are for external use only. Due to the highly concentrated nature of essential oils, they must be diluted with a carrier oil prior to topical use. We recommend consulting a medical practitioner prior to using any essential oil for therapeutic purposes, particularly for those who are pregnant, nursing, or who have a pre-existing medical condition.

Possible side effects from the use of essential oils include irritation or allergic reaction from topical use. To reduce the risk of adverse reaction, a skin patch test should be performed before prior to using the oil. The test can be performed by diluting 1 drop of essential oil in 4 drops of carrier oil and applying a dime-sized amount of the blend to a small area of skin that is not known to be sensitive. In the event of an adverse reaction, discontinue the use of the product and see a medical healthcare professional for appropriate remedial action. Certain essential oils may pose additional risks depending on individual health and medical history. To prevent side effects, it is best to consult with a physician prior to use.

Essential oils must not be used near the eyes, inner nose, ears, or on any areas of the skin that are known to be sensitive. They should always be stored in an area that is inaccessible to children, particularly those under the age of 7.



IMPORTANT: All New Directions Aromatics (NDA) products are for external use only unless otherwise indicated. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, and it should not be used by anyone who is pregnant or under the care of a medical practitioner. Please refer to our policies for further details, and our disclaimer below.

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