Welcome to the Talking Terpenes: Cliff Notes Educational Series
This collection of articles summarizes the science of one of the most common types of molecules in nature, terpenes, into an easy read for the average consumer. New articles will be released periodically that explore their characteristics, including many health benefits, offered by terpenes and—more specifically—terpene blends.
What Are Terpenes?
Some plants, like lavender, sandalwood, and rosemary, have tiny things called terpenes that make them smell great. Terpenes are also known as isoprenoids and terpenoids. Terpenes are used to make things like tasty flavors and smells in food, cosmetics, and even in energy drinks and beer! Scientists have found out that terpenes can do more than just make things smell good, they can also benefit our health. The medical industry uses terpenes because they can help people feel better in many different ways.
Terpenes as Aroma Agents
Terpenes, also called terps, are important for some new businesses like cannabis and hemp. Research has shown that terpenes are part of what makes these plants helpful. Terpenes were first discovered a long time ago, in the 1880s, but scientists have found out that there are over 40,000 different kinds of terpenes made by about 20,000 plants. Terpenes help plants protect themselves from bugs and animals that might harm them, and also help them grow by attracting bees and other helpful insects. Terpenes can also help plants stay safe from the sun's rays.
Native Terpenes vs. Botanical Terpenes vs. Synthetic Terpenes
Terpenes come from three main places:
- Cannabis or hemp plants (called Cannabis Derived Terpenes or Hemp Derived Terpenes)
- Thousands of other plants (called Botanically Derived Terpenes or Botanical Terpenes)
- A lab (called Synthetic Terpenes)
Scientists use all three ways to get terpenes, depending on what they need. Many studies have been done on terpenes and found that they can potentially help with things like reducing inflammation, anxiety, and cancer. In this series, we'll learn more about how terpenes can help people's health. To learn more about native, botanical, and synthetic terpenes, see the Extract Consultants article “The Benefits of Botanically-Derived Terpenes.”
Major vs. Minor Terpenes
When cannabis or hemp plants grow, they produce terpenes. There are two types: major and minor. Major terpenes , a.k.a. primary terpenes, are made in larger amounts than minor terpenes, a.k.a. terpene varieties.
Major terpenes include:
Myrcene is the most common terpene in cannabis/hemp, while pinene is the most common terpene in nature.
Minor terpenes are usually found in very small amounts in plants. Some examples of minor terpenes in cannabis/hemp are:
No terpenes are unique to cannabis/hemp plants. Many other plants also produce the same terpenes, like humulene and pinene. For example, humulene can be found in basil, clove, ginseng, hops, and sage. Pinene is the most common terpene in conifers and pine trees.
Beneficial Properties of Terpenes
Terpenes are useful because they give things like food and cleaning products a nice smell and/or taste. Some terpenes can also help fight germs and illnesses like allergies, infections, and cancer. Scientists have found that terpenes can be used to make medicine, and even help things like skin creams work better. A 2013 book, Natural Products, supports these facts stating that terpenes can do many helpful things like fight germs, reduce inflammation, and help your immune system.
Terpene Profiles, Blends, & Isolates
Plants make different types of terpenes that join together to create a terpene profile, which makes a unique smell and can help with certain health issues. For example, lavender has a sweet and spicy smell because it has more linalool than other terpenes. The amount of each terpene in a plant affects its smell and health benefits. Companies can copy these natural terpene mixes and make them into products that have the same smell and health benefits. This is called a terpene blend. Terpene blends are good because they always have the same smell and health benefits. Another way to use terpenes is to use just one terpene as an ingredient in things like perfumes and cleaning products. This is called an isolate and is the opposite of a terpene blend.
The Entourage Effect & Synergy
Scientists have found out that terpenes work together to produce something called the entourage effect. The entourage effect is when different molecules, like terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids, change each other's effects and create new benefits. This happens when they are in specific groups and amounts. The entourage effect means that when all these molecules work together, they can produce better and different benefits than when they work alone. The term "entourage effect" was made up by a group of researchers in Israel in 1998. They published their groundbreaking research in the European Journal of Pharmacology.
Terpenes are special molecules that come from plants and have a nice smell. There are many different kinds, and they can be made from plants, cannabis, or in labs. Because of new laws in some areas, people are interested in terpenes again. People are using them for health benefits and in products used on a daily basis.