All About Terpenes
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes (pronounced tur-peens), are the building blocks of essential oils. They are aromatic organic hydrocarbons and are found in the essential oils of plants, fruits, vegetables, and more. For example, the smell of pine, pepper, roses, lemons, and hops are produced by powerful terpenes. Terpenes are extracted from plant essential oils by a process called molecular distillation.
Terpenes have many properties and are very beneficial to the plants that produce them. For the plants that produce them terpenes are protective, they provide the plant with natural defense from bacteria, fungus, insects, and other environmental stresses.
In humans, terpenes have been indicated to have several effects, they:
- act on receptors and neurotransmitters
- are prone to combine with or dissolve in lipids or fats
- can act as serotonin uptake inhibitors (similar to antidepressants like Prozac)
- can enhance norepinephrine activity (similar to tricyclic antidepressants)
- can increase dopamine activity
- can augment GABA and reduce neural spasticity
- have some antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties
Myrcene, β-myrcene, is a monoterpene and a very common terpene found in nature. It has been described as having a musky, earthy, herbal aroma – similar to cloves. Myrcene is a relaxing terpene a lower concentrations, and sedating at higher concentrations. Myrcene is found in oil of hops, citrus fruits, bay leaves, eucalyptus, wild thyme, lemon grass and many other plants.
Myrcene has been indicated to have several medicinal properties, including:
- the ability to increase the motility of chemicals crossing the blood brain barrier
- potent analgesic
- sedation and relaxation.
Its sedative and relaxing effects also make it ideal for the treatment of insomnia and pain.
Humulene, α-humulene, is a sesquiterpene found in hops, some cannabis sativa strains, and Vietnamese coriander among other naturally occurring substances. Humulene is what gives beer its distinct ‘hoppy’ aroma. Humulene is suggested to have many beneficial properties, including:
- anorectic (suppresses appetite)
Humulene has commonly been used as a natural remedy for inflammation. In fact, it has been used for generations in Chinese medicine and holistic practices. Additionally, it's anorectic properties make it a beneficial aid in weight loss by acting as an appetite suppressant.
Citral is different from other terpenes in that it is actually a pair of isomers connected by a double bond; geranial (citral A) and neral (citral B). Often citral will be referred as lemonal. Citral is found naturally in varying citrus fruits such as lemon, orange, and lime. This terpene is also found in lemongrass and lemon balm. Citral is the aromatic chemical that gives specific citrus fruits and grass their lemony scent.
Citral is used worldwide for a variety of health benefits, including:
- combating occasional depression and moodiness
- easing the bodies response to allergies such as runny nose, cough, mucus production, etc.
- reducing fevers
- easing menstrual pain
- reducing muscle spasms
Delta-3-carene is a monoterpene with a pungent sweet odor. It is found naturally in many essential oils, including cypress oil, juniper berry oil, and fir needle essential oils. Delta-3-carene is also naturally present in pine extract, bell pepper, basil oil, grapefruit and orange juices, citrus peel oils from fruits like lemons, limes, mandarins, tangerines, oranges and kumquats.
Delta-3-carene acts similarly to central nervous system depressants, thereby naturally inducing relaxation and sleep.
Limonene is a monoterpenoid and one of two major compounds formed from pinene. Limonene has a strong citrusy smells like oranges, lemons and limes. Limonene promotes a general uplift in mood and attitude. This citrusy terpene is found in citrus fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper and peppermint.
One special quality of limonene is that it assists in the absorption of other terpenes through the skin and other body tissue. It is also a well documented anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent, seemingly able to inhibit the growth of these microbes. Additionally, limonene may be beneficial in protecting against various cancers, and orally administered limonene is currently undergoing clinical trials in the treatment of breast cancer.
Limonene is indicated to:
- promotion of weight-loss
- act as a natural insecticide
- be a anti-microbial agent
Terpinolene, also called Terpinene, is a powerful monoterpene with amazing anti-inflammatory properties. Terpinolene is a common component of sage and rosemary. Terpinolene is known to have a piney aroma with slight herbal and floral nuances. Its flavor profile tends to have a sweetness reminiscent of citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons.
Terpinolene has been found to be a central nervous system depressant used to induce drowsiness or sleep, or to reduce anxiety. Additionally, terpinolene was found to inhibited cell proliferation involved in a variety of human cancers.
Chinese and Indians have been using edible camphor for centuries, chiefly for religious purposes, but also as a remedy to treat ailments. In Ayurveda, the fumes of camphor are considered to be healing for the human body and mind. Edible camphor is a common ingredient in several Ayurvedic medicines and remedies, including those that treat coughs, colds, vomiting, diarrhea, eczema, gastritis, and even poor libido. There are also Ayurvedic medicines that use camphor to treat speech problems and psychiatric maladies. Edible camphor has, throughout time, been used in a variety of ways, for a variety of reasons including:
- reducing pain
- treating cough and colds
- reducing anxiety
- improving circulation
- aiding digestion
- preventing cell mutation and reducing oxidative stress