What Are Terpenes? Everything You Need To Know
Posted on June 14th, 2022
Terpenes are classified as aromatic compounds that are present in just about every herb and plant, even though most people seem to link them to cannabis since these plants contain very high concentrations of these compounds.
These compounds create characteristic scents of a variety of plants, including lavender, fresh orange peels, pine, and of course cannabis. The fragrance or scent of a plant is mainly due to these combinations of terpenes. In the wild, terpenes play a role in protecting certain plants from infectious germs or even animal grazing.
They might also provide health benefits for us as humans. As the regulations that once surrounded cannabis have started to ease or fall away, scientists and researchers are starting to discover more about these potential benefits.
Carry on reading to find out more about terpenes, and some of their possible health benefits.
What Are Terpenes?
As mentioned above, a terpene is an aromatic compound that often determines the fragrance or smell of herbs and plants. Manufacturers also use “isolated” terpenes to create scents and flavors in common products like foods, body products, and perfumes.
In plants, these compounds play an essential role. For some, they attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, while in others, they can create strong reactions designed to repel foraging animals or insects. There are also certain types of terpenes that play protective roles in a plant, such as assisting plants to recover if they have sustained damage. Some also play a role in the plant immune system by warding off infectious germs or diseases.
Some people also refer to terpenes as terpenoids. However, they are two different things. A terpene is a compound in its natural form, which means when it is present in a live plant. When we dry and cure a plant, or when processing a plant such as cannabis, the terpenes will oxidize, converting them to terpenoids.
What Are Terpenes And Which Plants Contain Them?
These compounds are extremely abundant and present in just about every type of plant. Some of the more well-known terpenes have turned into household names, yet we have barely begun to scratch the surface when it comes to learning more about these non-intoxicating, beneficial plant compounds.
Some of the more well-known plants that contain these terpenes include:
– Evergreen shrubs
– Spanish sage
– Citrus fruit
To date, scientists and researchers have discovered approximately 20,000 terpenes. Around 150 of them live in the Cannabis sativa plant. From these results, it’s clear that cannabis is not the be-all or end-all when referring to these compounds. While often linked with cannabis plants, terpenes are actually a lot more varied and plentiful in a variety of non-cannabis plants.
The latest catalog of these compounds is already extensive. However, it is very likely that there are still many more to discover. Based on the latest statistics and estimates, scientists have only identified about 20% of these terpenes.
If the species of plants that are still undiscovered contain similar concentrations of terpenes to the plants that have already been identified, there might be 100,000 or more terpenes that are yet to be discovered.
What Is The Role Of Terpenes In Plants
Terpenes play an essential role in a plant’s life, such as acting as powerful magnets to draw natural pollinators. They also act as a defense for some of these plants. Some terpenes act as natural repellents, using their chemical characteristics to generate just the right reaction to repel foraging creatures and insects.
From established studies, it is clear that terpenes play a very active role in nature. Since terpenes play both productive and protective roles over the course of a plant’s life, they are important for the survival of certain plant species. They are also far more than just additions to essential oil or cannabis products, they form a very important part of life systems that have undergone developments over hundreds of years.
The main roles of terpenes in living plants include:
– Warding off infectious germs
– Assisting a plant to recover from any damages
– Attracting pollinators
– Repelling certain predators such as foraging animals or insects
What Are Terpenes And How Can They Benefit People?
Since many terpenes are regarded as bioactive, this means they have the potential to have a potentially dramatic and direct impact on our bodies. With this in mind, these impacts often vary according to the individual since each person has their own unique health profile.
Understanding that terpenes might impact each person differently, it is still possible to look at a few of the defining traits of these terpenes and what a user might experience.
To obtain a better understanding of these terpenes, here is a list of some of the more well-known terpenes and what they might impart on a human once consumed.
Limonene is a very common terpene due to its pleasurable and distinctive citrus scent. Limonene imparts a fragrance or smell that is similar to freshly sliced oranges or lemon rinds. In some of the studies performed, a terpene like Limonene was shown to change the way the immune cells perform, which could help the body to ward off certain types of disorders.
Potential Benefits Of Limonene:
An abundant and natural terpene, it is split into b-pinene and a-pinene. Pinene imparts a fresh and vibrant fragrance similar to pine needles and basil. Known for a range of beneficial characteristics, Pinene is popular in Japan for its rejuvenating and restorative effects, especially when used as a natural bathing product.
Possible Benefits Of Pinene
Commonly found in lavender plants, linalool is one of the most common additions to a range of essential oil products. Due to its potent lavender smell, linalool is also a common addition to aromatherapy practices and products. Researchers are divided on the actual efficacy relating to this terpene, but the preliminary research and studies show some positive interactions when it comes to bodily health.
Reported Benefits Of Linalool
Humulene has been found in the hop plant and may provide anti-allergenic effects for individuals with conditions such as allergies or asthma. Humulene has been tested on animals to decrease allergic reactions, making it an exciting and interesting prospective therapeutic.
Researched Benefits Of Humulene
A popular ingredient used by home brewers, this terpene is commonly found in lemongrass, thyme, hops, and the flowers of the cannabis plant. A powerful and natural antioxidant, studies and research has discovered that myrcene is a compound that may work to provide protection to the heart and brain after an event such as a stroke.
Potential Benefits Of Myrcene
– Protective properties
What Are Terpenes? – Final Thoughts
Terpenes are classified as “active compounds” that are present in many species of plants. Found commonly in cannabis plants, terpenes are also abundant in many other plants, herbs, and fruits, and are also linked to all essential oil formulations and products. According to preliminary research, it has been shown that terpenes can provide health benefits, but more studies are needed to establish and understand the actual potential relating to these wonders.