Welcome to Talking Terpenes: Behind the Blends, the educational series that explores the biochemistry of the aromatic chemical compounds produced by cannabis, hemp, and 20,000 other types of plants called terpenes.
The evolutionary function of terpenes—and their enticing aromas—is the propagation of the plant species that produce them. This is accomplished by repelling pests and predators (which are offended by the odor) while at the same time attracting pollinators (a group involving both humans and insects). Terpenes also deliver potential health support and lifestyle benefits via their interaction with the endocannabinoid systems (ECS) of both humans and their mammalian pets.
The Talking Terpenes series exposes readers to the range of wellness advantages offered by these efficacious plant-based molecules. Followers learn how terpene blends and terpene flavors deliver potential biochemical advantages, in addition to their complex and attractive fragrances and flavors. In fact, humans have been adding terpenes to their beverages, food, topical lotions, and perfumes for thousands of years.
This edition of Talking Terpenes investigates the organic Extract Consultants terpene flavor: Strawnana Solvent Free Terpene Flavor.
Examining Our Strawnana Terpene Flavor
The natural phytomolecules that populate our Strawnana Terpene Flavor convey a tropical banana aroma and flavor profile that features dominant notes of earth and delicious sweet berry. Strawnana's terpene profile results from the following terpenes among others:
In addition, the special terpene-like molecules isoamyl acetate and ethyl caproate (both flavor-rich esters) play a synergistic role in the creation of one of our most popular flavors. In tandem, they deliver a carefully orchestrated flavor note that distinctly communicates powerful strawberry and sophisticated banana.
Aldehydes, esters, hydroxyls, and ketones—all of which have been derived from individually isolated and organic botanical sources when used in Extract Consultants product formulations—are chemically similar to terpenes. These organic aroma agents are widely embraced by the food, beverage, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical industries.
Isoamyl Acetate & Ethyl Caproate
Isoamyl acetate (also denoted as iso-amyl acetate and sometimes called isopentyl acetate) delivers the rich signature banana aroma for this standout formulation. Ethyl caproate provides a floral, fruity, and sweet flavor involving strawberry and apple, with hints of banana (making it the perfect partner for isoamyl acetate).
Ethyl caproate is an important fermentation ingredient for the popular Chinese liquor baijiu. Both of these flavor enhancers are involved in the brewing of sake, during which the two compounds are created from rice and yeast.
Isoamyl acetate is also sometimes used in peach flavored formulations by the candy industry. It has been described as “similar to both banana and pear.” Pure isoamyl acetate and formulations that include isoamyl acetate and amyl acetate are sometimes referred to as banana oil.
Due to its powerful aroma and low toxicity, isoamyl acetate is sometimes used to test the effectiveness of respirators. It is naturally occurring and produced by the banana plant, although much modern isoamyl acetate use involves synthetic molecules produced in industrial quantities for commercial purposes.
A 2020 study regarding isoamyl acetate and ethyl caproate, entitled “The Aromas of Japanese Sake Have a Physiological and Psychological Relaxing Effect” that was published in the Journal of Healthy Psychology Research, investigated the efficacy of both isoamyl acetate and ethyl caproate on humans. This small clinical trial involved “18 women in good health in their 30s and 40s.”
The researchers found that “both ethyl caproate and isoamyl acetate received roughly the same points in each rating: Preference, Soothing aroma, Elegant aroma, and Relaxing aroma.”
The study’s authors reported that ethyl caproate “generated an overall stronger reaction in subjects than isoamyl acetate, with [its] aroma having a significantly higher score—in particular [because it was perceived to be] more floral, fruity, and sweeter—than that of isoamyl acetate.”
The scientists wrote, “After smelling ethyl caproate and isoamyl acetate samples, the scores for stress, desire, depression (anxiety), hostility, and liveliness—perhaps reflecting heightened emotion and nervousness—were significantly decreased compared to before smelling the aroma samples.”
The researchers concluded that these phytomolecules “both have physiological sedative effects, but the mechanisms are different.”
Alpha-pinene, also denoted as α-pinene and often called simply pinene, is not merely abundant within the plant kingdom, but is the most common terpene on earth. Alpha pinene is the isomer to beta-pinene, a minor terpene that is typically produced in significantly lower quantities by cannabis plants (described below).
The aroma of alpha pinene is fragrant and raw, with an earthy, fresh, and musky body that features a distinct undertone of pine. This major terpene is produced by hundreds of plant species in nature (more than 400, actually).
Sources of alpha pinene include:
Alpha pinene provides a variety of potential medicinal benefits, including reductions in systemic inflammation (of benefit to hundreds of disease states) and bronchodilation (the opening of bronchial pathways).
Alpha pinene has also been shown to possess antibacterial and antiviral properties. Anecdotal reports indicate that alpha pinene may have the ability to increase energy levels and improve mental focus.
Medicinal Research of Alpha Pinene
A 2014 study on alpha pinene, entitled “Anti-inflammatory and Chondroprotective Activity of (+)-α-Pinene” that was published in the Journal of Natural Products, aimed to “further characterize the potential antiosteoarthritic activity of selected pinene derivatives by evaluating their ability to modulate inflammation.”
The research reported that alpha-pinene “elicited the most potent inhibition of the…inflammatory and catabolic pathways,” but that beta-pinene, which was also examined, “was inactive.”
The study’s authors concluded that their data “show isomer- and enantiomer-selective anti-inflammatory and anticatabolic effects of α-pinene” and that this terpene is “promising for further studies to determine its potential value as an antiosteoarthritic drug.”
A 2020 study on alpha pinene, entitled “Alpha-pinene Attenuates Kindling Development and Astrocytosis in an Experimental Mouse Model of Epilepsy” that was published in the journal IBRO Reports explored “the anticonvulsant effect of α-pinene on epileptic seizures.” The study reported that “pretreatment with α-pinene...was found to suppress an increase in seizures.”
The study’s authors not only found that alpha pinene “may contribute to epileptogenesis and…may prevent epileptic seizures,” but also uncovered a potential underlying mechanism by which this terpene accomplishes the task.
Visit these articles in this series to learn more about alpha pinene research:
Beta pinene, also called β-pinene, is the isomer twin to alpha pinene. It is a minor terpene and is typically found in relatively small quantities in cannabis loose-leaf flower and concentrate products. Beta-pinene delivers an aroma that is earthy, woody, and green and that features heavy undertones of fresh spice.
Beta pinene is produced by:
- many other plant species
Beta-pinene has been shown to be a potential aid in bronchial conditions such as asthma and bronchitis due to its ability to act as a natural bronchodilator, similar to its sibling alpha pinene.
Beta pinene also displays anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antioxidant properties. Research shows that it also may possess neurogenerative qualities of value to those suffering cognitive decline conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Medicinal Research on Beta Pinene
A 2019 study on beta pinene, entitled “Therapeutic Potential of α- and β-Pinene: A Miracle Gift of Nature” that was published in the journal Biomolecules, investigated “the most prominent effects of α- and β-pinene, namely their cytogenetic, gastroprotective, anxiolytic, cytoprotective, anticonvulsant, and neuroprotective effects.”
In addition, the research explored the efficacy of these two terpenes “against H2O2-stimulated oxidative stress, pancreatitis, stress-stimulated hyperthermia, and pulpal pain.”
The study observed that beta pinene and alpha pinene may be “useful for various applications, e.g., as fungicidal, flavor, fragrance, antiviral, and antimicrobial agents,” but noted that the bioavailability of both molecules is relatively short lived (especially at low doses) because they are “rapidly metabolized and eliminated from the body due to their volatile nature.”
The researchers concluded that it is “clear that these terpenes have antimicrobial, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antiallergic properties.”
Beta caryophyllene, also called BCP or caryophyllene, in isolation delivers a decidedly spicy and pungent aroma, is a major constituent of black pepper, and is produced by many plant species, including:
- black caraway
Beta caryophyllene stands alone in that it is the only of the more than 200 terpenes found in the cannabis genome that has been categorized as both a terpene and also as a cannabinoid by researchers.
This sesquiterpene provides a list of wellness benefits, including analgesia (pain management) and anti-inflammatory qualities. Beta caryophyllene has also demonstrated anticancer behavior in peer-reviewed research studies. This terpene’s pain management prowess may result from its unique ability to bind with CB2 receptors (similar to cannabidiol, or CBD) in the endocannabinoid system—a behavior not typically exhibited by terpenes.
Visit these articles in this series to learn more about beta-caryophyllene research:
Like many other terpenes, d-limonene is one of a pair of isomers (which includes l-limonene). It is a major terpene and conveys a fruity and fresh fragrance populated by tones of citrus, including lemon and lime.
D-limonene is produced by many plant species, including:
D-Limonene is the second most common terpene in nature, behind alpha-pinene. This terpene provides a range of potential wellness benefits, including reductions in anxiety and depression.
It also conveys antibacterial properties, may be an effective ingredient in treating heartburn and gastric reflux, and has been found to act as an antifungal.
D-limonene may help improve the absorption of other terpenes when applied topically as a cream or lotion. This terpene is employed by the food industry as a flavoring agent and is also commonly added to cosmetics to provide an attractive citrus-like fragrance.
Medicinal Research on D-Limonene
A 1998 human trial study on d-limonene, entitled “Phase I and Pharmacokinetic Study of D-limonene in Patients with Advanced Cancer” that was published in the journal Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology, observed that “d-limonene is a natural monoterpene with pronounced chemotherapeutic activity and minimal toxicity in preclinical studies.”
The clinical trial, which involved 32 cancer patients with advanced cases, concluded that d-limonene “is well tolerated in cancer patients at doses which may have clinical activity. The favorable toxicity profile supports further clinical evaluation.”
A 2019 study on d-limonene, entitled “D-Limonene: A Promising Molecule with Bradycardic and Antiarrhythmic Potential” that was published in the journal Arquivos Brasileiros de Cardiologia, investigated “the cardiovascular effects and potential antiarrhythmic response produced by the monoterpene d-limonene in rats.”
The study revealed that d-limonene “produced intense and persistent bradycardia associated with hypotension in the heart of rats, corroborating the results observed in isolated hearts...in which d-limonene...reduced left ventricular pressure.”
The authors of the study also noted antiarrhythmic activity (suppression of abnormal rhythms of the heart, including atrial fibrillation and ventricular fibrillation) delivered by d-limonene.
The researchers concluded that their study data “provides evidence of the antiarrhythmic activity of d-limonene,” but noted that the mechanism of action underlying this effect was not clearly understood and, therefore, stressed the need for additional research.
Myrcene is the most common terpene produced by the cannabis plant. When isolated, it presents an earthy and musky aroma that is sometimes described as dank and moist. Like many terpenes, myrcene is employed as a food flavor agent and in cosmetics for fragrance.
Myrcene is produced by many plant species beyond cannabis, including:
- wild thyme
- several others
Myrcene, also referred to as beta myrcene, is reported to reduce anxiety and, in sufficient doses, to act as a sedative (the cannabinoid cannabinol, or CBN, serves as a better sedative, however).
In cannabis and hemp plants, the earthy scent produced by myrcene typically is commingled with humulene and beta caryophyllene (most consumers never smell a terpene in isolation unless they are using a testing kit featuring individual samples).
A 2021 study on myrcene, entitled “Myrcene—What Are the Potential Health Benefits of This Flavoring and Aroma Agent?” that was published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, investigated this “abundant monoterpene which occurs as a major constituent in many plant species, including hops and cannabis.”
The scientists described myrcene as “a popular flavoring and aroma agent used in the manufacture of food and beverages” and reported that the goal of their study was to reveal the “biological and toxicological profile of β-myrcene.”
The study reported that the “main biological properties” of myrcene include its delivery of “anxiolytic, antioxidant, anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory, [and] analgesic properties.” The researchers noted that, while myrcene “has shown promising health benefits in many animal studies,” data gathered from studies involving humans are lacking.
The study’s authors concluded that “there is potential for the formulation and production of non-alcoholic beers, functional foods and drinks, and cannabis extracts (low in THC) [that are] rich in β-myrcene.”
Visit these articles in this series to learn more about myrcene research:
The terpenes involved in the formulation of Extract Consultants’ Strawnana Solvent Free Terpene Flavor—including alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, beta-caryophyllene, d-limonene, and myrcene—combine with the distinctive esters isoamyl acetate and ethyl caproate to deliver a sweetly powerful and aromatic fragrance dominated by banana and strawberry, with subtle notes of apple and pear.
Together, these efficacious phytomolecules form one of our most popular flavor profiles. The earthy sweet berry notes of this Flavor are not only unique, but also convey a long list of appealing characteristics.
Collectively, scientific research has revealed that the aromatic terpenes and esters formulated into this flavor perform far beyond mere olfactory stimulation by offering a range of potential medicinal support mechanisms. These include benefits for multiple types of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, heart disease, respiratory ailments such as asthma, depression, and diseases involving convulsions, including epilepsy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Curt Robbins is a technical writer, instructional designer, and lecturer who has been developing science-based educational and training content for Fortune 200 enterprise companies for more than 30 years. He is Director of Course Development at Higher Learning LV™ in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Robbins began writing about the biochemistry and science of the various wellness molecules produced by plants such as hemp in 2003. He has since developed more than 600 educational articles about hemp and its health components—including terpenes, cannabinoids, flavonoids, and the human endocannabinoid system.