The Magical World of Terpenes
How some can be very aromatic, while others produce the most offensive of smells? How some plants can have the most beautiful and liveliest of colours, while others just look plain and boring?
Or even the way they taste!
What makes them sweet, bitter, sour, or salty?
All these unique features are made possible by terpenes.
What are Terpenes and Where Can You Find Them?
All plants produce terpenes. These compounds are found in all flowering plants, fruits, vegetables, herbs, root crops, trees, grass, and even weed
Terpenes give plants their features and characteristics. They contribute to the plant’s vibrant colours, and they also produce distinctive aromas and flavours that make each plant unique.
Terpenes are the chemical compounds that naturally occur in plants and serve as their defense mechanism as well as immune system. They’re commonly located in the skin of the plants as well as resin glands or trichomes.
Terpenes give off distinctive aromas and flavours. These can either protect the plants from their natural predators such as pests and herbivores or attract pollinators like bees and other animals. In a way, terpenes assist in plant reproduction and ensure that they’ll grow and thrive by repelling pests.
In addition to this, terpenes also protect plants from the harsh environment. They function as a sort of natural sunblock, protecting the plant from the sun’s harmful UV light.
Terpenes also protect plants from changes in temperature. They increase or decrease in concentration to help the plant cool down, preserve its water content, or maintain its normal temperature.
In the human body, terpenes also produce many beneficial effects. They interact with our cells and help many biological systems maintain our health and wellbeing.
What are the Common Terpenes and What Do They Do?
According to experts, there are over 20,000 different types of terpenes. Of these numbers, only a few have been extensively studied, so far.
Below are the most common terpenes, their distinctive aroma and flavour, where they’re commonly found, as well as their effects on the human body.
Citrusy and spicy, limonene is found in citrus rinds as well as herbs like juniper, rosemary, and peppermint.
This terpene is said to ease depression and anxiety as well as fight bacteria and fungi.
Woody and spicy with hints of cloves, caryophyllene is abundant in oregano, black pepper, cloves, as well as hops.
This terpene is reported to have potent effects against anxiety, as well as pain and inflammation. It also is said to help relieve gastrointestinal problems, as well as kill bacteria and fungi. Many people try chewing black pepper when they feel the effects of THC too strongly as it helps calm them down.
Fruity, earthy, and musky with herbal notes and cloves, myrcene is commonly found in fruits like mango and herbs like lemongrass and eucalyptus.
Myrcene is said to have a powerful relaxing effect that induces sleep and relaxes the muscles. Some studies claim it helps reduce pain, inflammation, and symptoms of depression.
Citrusy and spicy with a sweet floral scent, linalool is very abundant in lavender, citrus fruits, rosewood, as well as coriander.
This terpene is said to have a refreshing effect that eases anxiety, relieves pain, and calms nerves. Linalool also reportedly has powerful anti-inflammatory effects that can help fight acne caused by bacteria.
With its characteristic invigorating scent of pine trees, pinene is commonly found in conifer trees as well as turpentine trees. You’ll also find pinene in rosemary.
This terpene is famous for its supposed ability to effect mental clarity and focus.
Pinene also reportedly decreases pain and controls swelling.
Spicy, woody, hoppy, and earthy, this terpene is very abundant in hops, Asian ginseng, and sage.
Humulene is said to have a strong analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. It’s also known to fight cancer cells and help maintain weight by suppressing appetite.
Floral with robust notes of herbs and pine, terpinolene can also be found in conifer trees as well as cumin, tea tree, and even nutmeg.
Terpinolene is used by some to help promote sleep and function as an antioxidant.
Refreshingly minty with a camphor-like aroma, eucalyptol is found in tea tree, eucalyptus, rosemary, sage, and camphor laurel.
Eucalyptol is said to help reduce pain and swelling. It is also said to kill bacteria as well as fungi and ease decongestion and helps relieve asthma.
Sweet, musky, and woody with herbal and tropical notes, ocimene is found in mangoes, sweet basil, kumquat, and hops.
This terpene reportedly fights bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. It also said to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Citrusy with floral tones, bisabolol can be found in chamomile and Candeia tree.
Some studies show it helps combat pain and swelling. Bisabolol is said to be a skin-friendly terpene that protects it from the effects of oxidants and aging.
Earthy and musky with robust hints of cloves, camphene is found in ginger, sage, rosemary, and some pine trees.
Camphene is said to help decrease swelling as well as controls obesity.
Sweet, musky, and earthy with hints of pine, carene is abundant in thyme, pepper, star anise, rosemary, cumin, and bay laurel.
Carene reportedly decreases pain and swelling. It also is said to improve memory loss, as well as promotes bone health. This terpene also is said to promote alertness and maintain immune system health.
With its strong floral scent reminiscent of roses, geraniol is commonly found in citronella, thyme, lemon balm, catnip, basil, and coriander.
This terpene reportedly eases pain, controls inflammation, and protects against bacteria and fungi. Geraniol also is said to act as an antioxidant. According to some studies, geraniol may also have some anti-cancer effects.
Of note, cannabis plants contain rich amounts of these terpenes.
Cannabis’ terpene profile, together with the cannabinoids, is one of the reasons why cannabis produces many therapeutic and medicinal effects.
Terpenes protect plants from the environment, their natural predators, and common plant diseases. Their varying concentrations also make the plants unique from each other in terms of their color, aroma, and taste.
They are an essential part of all plants, and in humans, they also play significant roles in maintaining our health as well as controlling symptoms.