Terpenes are natural aromatic compounds found in plants and although people tend to associate them with cannabis, simply because it’s well known that cannabis plants contain high concentrations of terpenes, they are actually found in a very wide variety of plants. For example, the familiar scent of pine, lavender and citrus fruit peels are all created by terpenes. In most cases, the smell of a plant is the result of a combination of terpenes, whose job is not simply to produce smell but also to protect the plants from being eaten by grazing animals or being infected by germs, among other things.
Terpenes also have various health benefits that humans have been enjoying since ancient times and for the past few years, scientists have been carrying out many studies to uncover and prove these potential benefits.
What Terpenes Do
Apart from providing the scent of many plants and herbs, terpenes also determine the smell of some animals, but in this article we will focus only on plants.
The role of terpenes is vital: in some plants they attract pollinators, while in others they repel predators in the form of insects and grazing animals. In addition, terpenes protect plants by helping them recover from damage and being part of their immune system.
The terms ‘terpene’ and ‘terpenoids’ (which are chemically modified terpenes for example, through oxidation) are used interchangingly by some, but terpenes are the natural forms of these compounds while terpenoids are the modified version.
Both terpenes and terpenoids are an important constituent of essential oils and isolated terpenes are commercially used to create both flavors and scents of products used daily, such as beauty products, perfumes and foods, as well as in the production of cannabis.
The Effects Of Terpenes
Terpenes affect the body in different ways and the effect itself varies according to the usage and the concentration of the terpenes.
The main use of terpenes is in aromatherapy, a holistic practice that promotes health by using natural plant extracts and their scent. Inhaling the different scents may improve and enhance physical, emotional and mental health.
Such health claims are being researched widely on isolated terpenes and there is a good chance that some of them will be used medically. A research conducted by São Paulo State University (UNESP) found that many terpenes have health benefits and could be used as alternative medicines and therapies.
Here are some examples of terpenes and their health benefits.
This aromatic compound is naturally found in cannabis and it smells like pine (obviously). Pinene naturally occurs in pine needles, rosemary and basil and may have health benefits. In fact, one study found that in a healthy forest the concentration of pinene in the air can have therapeutic benefits. The reason is that pinene serves as a bronchodilator, which means it allows more air into the lungs, has an anti-inflammatory effect and can protect against infectious germs when inhaled.
This citrusy smelling terpene is one of the most recognized scents that occurs in fruits such as lemons, oranges and so on. It’s therapeutic benefits include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antidiabetic and anticancer.
A terpene found in lavender and one of the most important components in aromatherapy. Research found that linalool may affect the body in many ways thanks to the wide range of its properties, such as anti anxiety, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory anticancer and more.
Lemongrass, thyme and hops contain this terpene, as well as the flowers of cannabis. The main health benefit of myrcene is antioxidant and research found it can help treat the oxidative damage in the brain following a stroke and in the heart following ischemic stroke.
Naturally found in the hop plant as well as clove, ginger and more, humele was studied and found to help prevent allergic reactions including asthma.
A terpene that exists in herbs and vegetables, particularly cloves, rosemary, black pepper and hops, and has anti-inflammatory attributes that may alleviate pain.
Terpenes And Smoking Herbal Cigarettes
The main purpose of herbal cigarettes is to enjoy smoking without inhaling nicotine and other harmful chemicals. When you add the right terpenes, you may also enjoy their health benefits. Imagine smoking lavender to manage inflammation and pain, or smoking rose and enjoying not only its pleasant scent but also its health benefits, which include anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.