Welcome to Talking Terpenes: Behind the Blends, the educational series that explores the biochemistry of the aromatic molecules produced by cannabis, hemp, and 20,000 other species in the plant kingdom called terpenes.
The evolutionary function of terpenes—and their multilayered aromas—is the propagation of the plant species that produce them. This is accomplished by repelling pests and predators while simultaneously attracting pollinators (a group comprised of both humans and insects). Terpenes also deliver potential support for health and lifestyle benefits to humans via their interaction with the endocannabinoid system.
The Talking Terpenes series exposes readers to the wide range of wellness support offered by these efficacious compounds. Followers learn how terpene blends and terpene flavors deliver lifestyle and health benefits in addition to their complex and attractive fragrances and flavors. Humans have been adding terpenes and related flavor molecules to their beverages, foods, topical lotions, medicines, and perfumes for literally thousands of years.
This edition of Talking Terpenes investigates the popular Extract Consultants terpene flavor: Wedding Cake Solvent Free Terpene Flavor.
Introduction to Wedding Cake Terpenes
Terpenes, the natural phytomolecules featured in the Wedding Cake Terpene Flavor, convey a sweet and fruity aroma and flavor profile punctuated by an alluring hint of vanilla. This distinctive flavor and aroma profile of Wedding Cake results from the terpenes alpha bisabolol, camphene, d-limonene, alpha humulene, and l-limonene (among others), as well as a special molecule called vanillin, which also conveys exceptional aroma and flavor.
Vanillin* is an aldehyde, not a terpene. All of these compounds have been derived from individually isolated and naturally occurring botanical sources.
*Most commercial food and beverage products incorporate vanilla flavoring via use of a synthetic compound called ethyl vanillin.
Because the Extract Consultants Wedding Cake Terpene Flavor features only naturally occurring (botanically sourced) flavor ingredients, we have elected to use organic vanillin instead of the industry standard, ethyl vanillin.
Sometimes called Pink Cookies, Wedding Cake results from the genetic crossing of Cherry Pie and GSC (formerly Girl Scout Cookies). An indica-dominant hybrid cultivar, Wedding Cake is popular due to its unique mix of stimulating and calming effects. Its mix of terpenes, referred to as its terpene profile, may support the treatment of common conditions such as depression, anxiety, cancer, and insomnia. It may also be effective in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.
Extract Consultants terpene flavors involve more than merely the aromatic terpenes that are the subject of this article series. Terpene-based aroma and flavor formulations often integrate aromatic ancillaries, or support, such as aldehydes, esters, hydroxyls, and ketones. Vanillin is a member of the aldehyde family and is a natural compound known for its distinctive vanilla aroma and flavor.
It is the primary chemical component that is extracted from vanilla beans and is employed as a flavor ingredient in food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, and perfume. The most common use of vanillin is in ice cream. This aroma molecule was first isolated in 1858 by pharmacist and biochemist Nicolas-Theodore Gobley in France and its molecular structure determined in 1874 by German scientists Ferdinand Tiemann and Wilhelm Haarmann.
Tiemann and Haarmann also devised a method for synthesizing vanillin in commercial volume and launched the first industrial production of this distinctive flavor molecule in Holzminden, Germany in 1875 as the company Haarmann & Raimer.
Medicinal Research on Vanillin
A 2007 study on vanillin, entitled “The Antioxidant Activities of Natural Vanilla Extract” that was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that vanillin and other vanilla extract components may serve as antioxidants “for food preservation and in health supplements as nutraceuticals.”
A different study on vanillin done in 2018, entitled “Vanillin Alleviates High Fat Diet-Induced Obesity and Improves the Gut Microbiota Composition” that was published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, investigated the effect of vanillin on obesity.
This rodent study observed that vanillin is produced in nature by various plant species. “Although vanillin is often used as a flavor compound in the food industry, experiments demonstrate that it can also enhance appetite and alleviate inflammation and anxiety,” reported the study’s authors.
The scientists reported that vanillin may also “have the capacity to restore balance following intestinal distress.” The study concluded that the data it collected demonstrates that vanillin “significantly reduces HFD [high-fat diet]-induced obesity.” The study also found that vanillin may be of value in the treatment of “obesity-related metabolic syndromes, including hyperglycemia…and inflammation.”
A 2020 study on vanillin entitled “Vanilla: Potential Health Benefits” that was published in the journal Nutrition Today, explored the potential medicinal efficacy of vanillin and reported that it has “complementary medicinal applications, including alleviation of fever, spasms, and gastrointestinal irritations, to name a few.”
The study reported that vanillin may convey “antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antisickling, antimicrobial, and hypolipidemic properties. ” The researchers concluded that vanillin may “alleviate neurological disorders…and cardiac distress, in particular.”
Bisabolol, also called alpha-bisabolol (α-bisabolol), is a minor terpene that appears in relatively small quantities in raw hemp samples. In isolation, alpha bisabolol delivers a light, fresh aroma punctuated by sweet floral notes that sometimes feature citrus and spice. This distinctive terpene is produced by candeia trees, cannabis, and chamomile.
Alpha bisabolol has shown promise in the support of skin health and has served as a popular ingredient in cosmetics for hundreds of years. The medicinal benefits of bisabolol include support in the form of analgesic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. This wide ranging set of roles makes this terpene of interest to a variety of patient communities and lifestyle consumers.
Medicinal Research of Alpha Bisabolol
A large volume of peer-reviewed research has demonstrated the benefits of α-bisabolol. This complex terpene, known as a sesquiterpene, has been found to be effective in the treatment of several types of bacterial infections and also in fighting cancer tumors, as cited below.
A 2004 study on alpha bisabolol entitled “α-Bisabolol, a Nontoxic Natural Compound, Strongly Induces Apoptosis in Glioma Cells” that was published in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, investigated the ability of bisabolol to treat cancer. The scientists reported that “α-bisabolol...was found to have a strong time- and dose-dependent cytotoxic effect on human and rat glioma cells.”
The study determined that the viability of the cancer cells “was reduced by 50 percent with respect to untreated cells.” Importantly, the study also examined the safety profile of bisabolol, stating that “the viability of normal rat glial cells was not affected by treatment with α-bisabolol at the same concentrations as above.”
The study also confirmed that the underlying mechanism involved in the death of the cancer cells was apoptosis involving genetically pre-programmed steps in which the malignant cells kill themselves in a literal demonstration of cellular suicide. The researchers concluded that α-bisabolol “may be considered a novel compound able to inhibit glioma cell growth and survival.”
A 2011 study of alpha-bisabolol entitled “Fungicidal and Bactericidal Properties of Bisabolol” that was published in the Journal of Essential Oil Research, explored the potential role of bisabolol as a fungicide and as an antibacterial agent. The study revealed that the compound “displayed statistically significant lethality for the tested microorganisms.” It found that α-bisabolol “produced nearly 98% viability loss” in a wide range of bacterial infections.
The study’s authors concluded that alpha bisabolol exhibits “potent fungicidal and bactericidal properties against the tested strains,” adding that “because the compound is safe for use in cosmetics, the data presented here suggest potential utility as [an] antimicrobial in cosmetics, food, and as a topical antifungal treatment.”
A 2018 study entitled “Leishmanicidal Activity of α-bisabolol from Tunisian Chamomile Essential Oil” that was published in the journal Parasitology Research, investigated the potential role of bisabolol in the treatment of this tropical disease. The researchers found that bisabolol caused “a programmed cell death process in the promastigote stage of the parasite,” similar to the apoptosis mechanism caused in some varieties of cancer by a range of terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids produced by cannabis and hemp.
Camphene is a common terpene that, in isolation, produces a pungent fragrance that is woodsy and damp and often features strong notes of pine. Similar to the aroma of myrcene, it is found in several plant species other than cannabis, including bergamot, camphor, citronella, cypress, ginger, neroli, nutmeg, rosemary, and valerian.
Camphene exhibits a range of wellness benefits, including antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory efficacies. Research has also revealed cardiovascular value, pain relief, and a potential role in the treatment of cholesterol.
Camphene has also demonstrated anticancer properties, specifically for breast cancer, including a role in triggering apoptosis within the cancer cells. Like many other terpenes, camphene is used as a food additive and as an aroma agent (it is often combined with pinene).
Medicinal Research on Camphene
A 2009 study on camphene entitled “Geraniol and Camphene Protect Against Oxidative Stress” that was published in the journal Toxicology in Vitro, explored the potential health benefits of two popular terpenes. “In this study, two terpenoids, camphene and geraniol, were assessed for their cytoprotective and antioxidant potential.”
The study reported that these terpenes improved the ability of cells to perform tasks such as combating cancer cells. “Both of the test substances, geraniol and camphene, increased the cell viability significantly,” wrote the researchers.
A 2015 study entitled “Camphene Induces Intrinsic Apoptosis in Melanoma Cells and Displays Antitumor Activity” that was published in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, investigated a potential anticancer role for this terpene. The researchers found pronounced anticancer properties displayed by camphene, as derived from the essential oil of piper cernuum.
They concluded, “Importantly, camphene exerted antitumor activity…by inhibiting subcutaneous tumor growth of highly aggressive melanoma cells.” The study suggested a potentially promising role for camphene in cancer therapy.
According to this 2019 study, d-limonene is “a ubiquitous terpene that is found in essential oils of lemon tree, orange, neroli, bergamot, and tangerine. D-limonene is one of the major constituents of citrus peel” and is also produced by cannabis and hemp.
Also known as r-limonene, orange peel oil, citrene, or simply just limonene, d-limonene (the more common isomer to l-limonene) conveys an aroma that is “like lemon, making it widely used as a flavor and fragrance additive in common foods, such as fruit juices, candies, chewing gums, soft drinks, and ice creams.”
The study noted that d-limonene is one of the most common fragrances used in the formulation of cosmetics and can be found in many types of beauty products.
Medicinal Research on D-Limonene
The potential wellness and lifestyle support offered by this popular terpene includes anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and gastrointestinal qualities. A 1998 study on 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, investigated the safety profile of d-limonene for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
The study concluded that “d-limonene is well tolerated in cancer patients at doses which may have clinical activity.” Based on the favorable toxicity profile of this terpene, the researchers stated that they believe it “supports further clinical evaluation.”
A 2007 study on D-Limonene, entitled “D-limonene: Safety and Clinical Applications” that was published in the journal Alternative Medicine Review, supported the idea that d-limonene conveys an acceptable safety profile for use in human patients who may have an extremely compromised health status, including advanced cancer patients. “In humans, d-limonene has demonstrated low toxicity after single and repeated dosing for up to one year,” reported the study’s authors.
The researchers noted several mechanisms demonstrated by D Limonene. “d-limonene has been used clinically to dissolve cholesterol-containing gallstones.” The researchers noted that it may be an effective support therapy for heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux due to its “gastric acid neutralizing effect and its support of normal peristalsis.”
The study also observed that d-limonene demonstrates “well-established chemopreventive activity against many types of cancer” and that evidence from a phase I clinical trial “demonstrated a partial response” in patients with breast cancer and also colorectal cancer.
Humulene, also known as alpha humulene (α-humulene) and alpha caryophyllene (α-caryophyllene), is an isomer of the terpene beta caryophyllene (BCP) that, in isolation, emits a similar aroma. Alpha humulene is produced by cannabis, coriander, ginseng, hops, marsh elders, oranges, pine, sunflower, and tobacco.
Humlene, a common and popular terpene, delivers a hoppy and earthy aroma that features notes of wood and spice. The medicinal support benefits of humulene include antibacterial, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and appetite suppressing (anorectic) qualities.
Because it decreases appetite, humulene may be valuable in products formulated for those with eating disorders, including type 2 diabetes, binge eating disorder, and obesity. Visit these articles in this series to learn more about the terpene humulene:
L-limonene produces an aroma that is dominated by pine, with robust notes of turpentine. Its isomer, d-limonene, features a similar fragrance, but one that is more citrus in character. In nature, pinene and the two limonene isomers often appear in the same chemotypes of cannabis or hemp.
D-limonene is much more common than l-limonene. L-limonene is produced by cannabis and a variety of other plants, including several species of mint, pine needles, and pine cones. Both limonene isomers feature the same chemical formula, but different molecular structures. L-Limonene is found commonly in “sativa” varieties of cannabis.
Anecdotal reports indicate that L-Limonene is energizing and uplifting. Both limonene terpenes have been shown to deliver anti-inflammatory and antioxidant medicinal support and may be helpful for those with intestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s.
Strong anti-inflammatory qualities may make l-limonene a therapy in treatment of a variety of cancers. Limonene and pinene have also shown benefit for lung conditions such as asthma and bronchitis due to their bronchodilation properties.
Medicinal Research of L-Limonene
A 2013 study on L-Limonene, entitled “Chemical Composition and Anti-inflammatory Effects of Essential Oil from Hallabong Flower” that was published in the EXCLI Journal, investigated the ability of a variety of terpenes, including l-limonene, to combat systemic inflammation and cancer. “In the present study, we investigated the anti-inflammatory effects” of a variety of terpenes, including b-ocimene, l-limonene, linalool, sabinene, terpinene, and terpineol.
The study’s researchers observed evidence that essential oils containing terpenes such as l-limonene “downregulated the production of...inflammatory cytokines” and had a positive effect on decreasing inflammation.
The researchers concluded that terpenes such as l-limonene and the terpene-rich essential oils that contain them “can be considered potential anti-inflammatory candidates for therapeutic use in humans” while identifying a potential role in the treatment of cancer.
A 2019 study of L Limonene, entitled “Limonene: Natural Monoterpene Volatile Compounds of Potential Therapeutic Interest” that was published in the American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products, explored the role of both limonene isomers. The study investigated a wide range of mechanisms and potential benefits for limonene, including antidiabetic, anticancer, antioxidant, and analgesic (pain management) benefits.
Also studied were the limonene terpenes’ gastrointestinal and respiratory benefits, as well as their overall anti-inflammatory mechanisms. The researchers noted the favorable safety profile of limonene and how it has resulted in their common use as flavor and aroma ingredients by the food and snack industries.
The researchers concluded the study with, “The high availability of limonene in nature, its safety, and its wide mechanism of action make this monoterpene a promising preventive agent,” adding that it shows potential for use in “a complementary approach to conventional therapeutic drugs using anti-inflammatory and anti-infectious drugs.”
The Wedding Cake Solvent Free Terpene Flavor from Extract Consultants features a distinct and pleasing sweet fruity aroma and flavor thanks to its carefully balanced mix of terpenes and a special vanilla component. These include alpha-bisabolol, camphene, d-limonene, humulene, l-limonene, and the organic aldehyde vanillin.
These terpenes have been revealed, via a number of peer-reviewed research studies, to provide potential therapeutic support for a range of disease states and conditions. These characteristics include anticancer, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
Research indicates that vanillin may be helpful for anxiety and gastrointestinal issues. Together, the terpenes and aldehydes of the Wedding Cake Terpene Profile synergistically craft an inviting and balanced fruity sweetness that features notes of vanilla and—more important—potential support for a range of conditions and disease states.
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.