Terpenes are a major component of essential oils, so many people associate them with aromatherapy. However, they have a much wider range of potential applications, and are now being used to boost the health benefits of various items including homemade protein shakes and designer cocktails.
Thanks to evolving technologies, the number of methods for enjoying the health benefits of terpenes is increasing everyday. In this post, we’ll explain what terpenes are, and how they affect the human body. We’ll also go over the particulars of some consumer favorites within the industry and ways they can be used.
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes contribute to a plant’s unique aroma and flavor. They evolved as a means of aiding in plant proliferation and as a defense mechanism against insects and disease. Terpenes are found in most plant life, including cannabis, lavender, peppermint, pine trees and lemons.
At least 2000 terpenes have been identified in nature. A wide variety of terpenes can be found within the various parts of a single plant, including the roots and fruit. In cannabis, for example, researchers have already found over 250 different terpenes.
Within the legal cannabis industry, terpenes are available as concentrates, isolates and strain-based terpenes that can be infused into everyday preparations, like smoothies or vinaigrettes. You can learn about strain-based terpenes by researching the terpene profile of cannabis strains before selecting accordingly.
Function & Examples of Terpenes
Terpenes have the ability to affect our mood and physiological well-being. This is because terpenes interact with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is composed of receptors within the nervous and immune systems. The ECS is just one of the modulatory systems built into our bodies.
What is the ECS, in a nutshell?
The endocannabinoid system is a group of receptors that respond to various chemical compounds. These receptors are also found in our brain, immune system, and peripheral organs. The brain and nervous system contain the largest number of these endocannabinoid receptors.
The abundance of these receptors creates a highly sensitive system that impacts mood, appetite, sensation of pain or temperature, and even memory as a response to neurotransmitters and signaling molecules.
The therapeutic potential of terpenes varies from person to person. Let’s go over three examples of popular terpenes, where they can be found in nature and some ways to seamlessly incorporate them into your daily life:
Limonene is the most common terpene in nature. This terpene is abundant in citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges, as well as our Ivory Purple CBD Hash. It is used as a natural food flavoring in many high-end confectionaries and is a key component in orange and lemongrass essential oils.
Limonene has antifungal and antibacterial properties, which is why it’s frequently used in cleaners and room fresheners. One of its most common applications is as a solvent to dissolve chemicals that don't mix well with water, such as fats and oils.
Pinene is the main ingredient in turpentine. Pinene has stimulating effects on the brain. Its name comes from its abundant presence in conifer trees. It is used as an insect repellent, medicine to treat asthma, and fungicide. In the body it can help with respiratory congestion or relieve muscle spasms.
Research has shown that it can help relieve asthma symptoms and reduce inflammation. As an inhalation therapy, pinene can be used as a treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung conditions. In addition, some research suggests that the pine scent might improve cognitive function in healthy adults by increasing alertness and reducing fatigue
Myrcene is a terpene found in a variety of natural sources, including bay leaves, mangoes, and thyme. Myrcene is also the most common terpene found in most varieties of marijuana. It’s currently being researched for its potential in reducing symptoms of pain and inflammatory disorders.
Myrcene is a terpene that has been shown to induce sleep. A 2021 study found that “myrcene presented sedative as well as motor relaxant effects,” implying that it showed promise as a natural remedy for insomnia, anxiety and muscle spasms.
How Terpenes Are Used in Everyday Products
The therapeutic properties of terpenes are already very well known thanks to the popularity of aromatherapy. However, new methods of terpene isolation have vastly widened the range of their potential applications.
Terpenes are already being used to customize the health benefits, flavors and scents of countless everyday items. Examples include:
- Perfumes/Colognes The perfume industry is currently experimenting with the incorporation of terpenes, whose aromas combine to give a perfume or cologne its own unique ability to affect the wearer and those around them at a neurophysiological level.
- Beauty Products Terpenes can also be used as a natural ingredient in skincare products to help moisturize, soothe, and protect skin from UV rays. Some terpenes have antioxidant qualities while others signal the skin to retain more moisture. An example of this is the incorporation of lavender into night creams; this makes use of lavender’s primary terpene, linalool, which has been used as a sleep aid since the days of the Roman empire.
- Food and Beverages In so-called “cannabis pioneer states” like California, terpenes are even being added to create interesting aromas and flavor combinations in specialty burger joints and beer breweries. They can even be used as preservatives since they help prevent spoilage by acting as natural antioxidants.
Article by Tina Richadson