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What are Terpenes?

The Aromas, Flavors, and Benefits of Different Terpenes

Si estás leyendo sobre cannabinoides, como CBD, CBG o THC, lo más probable es que te hayas encontrado con la palabra terpenos o terpenos en el camino. Es posible que entonces te hayas preguntado: "¿ Qué son los terpenos y cómo los uso ?" ¿Qué hacen los terpenos y por qué la gente los usa con cannabinoides? ¿Qué beneficios tienen ciertos terpenos para nuestro organismo?

Los terpenos son moléculas aromáticas que trabajan en sinergia con los cannabinoides, lo que les permite inducir diferentes efectos dentro del cuerpo. Se ha demostrado que el mirceno, por ejemplo, aumenta la permeabilidad de la barrera hematoencefálica, lo que permite que los cannabinoides se muevan más libremente entre el torrente sanguíneo y el cerebro. Los terpenos no son cannabinoides, sino que funcionan en conjunto con ellos.

También se ha demostrado que los terpenos tienen una amplia variedad de beneficios médicos por sí solos, que van desde aliviar el dolor hasta combatir las células cancerosas. Los terpenos se encuentran de forma natural en miles de plantas diferentes y se encuentran en altas concentraciones en la mayoría de los aceites esenciales.

A continuación se muestra una lista de los aislados de terpenos más comúnmente encontrados y comentados, dónde se encuentran en la naturaleza, cómo huelen y saben, y qué beneficios se ha informado que tiene cada terpeno.

Alpha Bisabolol

alpha bisabolol chemical structure

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.

Alpha Bisabolol is found in:

  • candeia trees
  • cannabis
  • 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 reported medicinal benefits of alpha bisabolol include:

  • promoting skin health
  • pain relief
  • anti-cancer
  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-irritant
  • anti-bacterial
  • anti-oxidant

This wide ranging set of roles makes this terpene of interest to a variety of patient communities and lifestyle consumers.

Strains that feature alpha bisabolol include:

Alpha Phellandrene

alpha phellandrene chemical structure

Alpha phellandrene, also known as α-phellandrene and α-PA, is a minor terpene and, as its name implies, one of a pair of siblings involving beta-phellandrene (similar to the alpha-pinene/beta-pinene coupling). When isolated, this terpene delivers a minty and often citrus-like aroma that is sometimes described as spicy, woody, and peppery.

Alpha phellandrene is produced by a wide range of plant species other than hemp and cannabis, including

  • angelica
  • cinnamon
  • dill
  • several species of eucalyptus
  • ginger grass
  • lavender
  • mint
  • parsley
  • pine

When employed as a flavor agent in cosmetics and topicals, this terpene offers the advantage of ready absorption by the skin.

Alpha phellandrene is commonly used in commercial fragrances. Like many other terpenes and cannabinoids produced by hemp and cannabis, alpha phellandrene has been found to provide multiple wellness benefits, including

  • anti-inflammatory
  • pain relief
  • antifungal
  • anticancer

Strains that feature alpha phellandrene include:

Alpha Pinene

alpha pinene chemical structure

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:

  • basil
  • cannabis
  • eucalyptus
  • frankincense
  • oranges
  • parsley
  • rosemary
  • sage

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.

Notable strains that feature alpha pinene include:

Alpha Terpineol

alpha terpineol chemical structure

Alpha-terpineol, also denoted as α-terpineol, is the most common of five closely related isomers, or sibling terpenes, within the terpineol family (the other members being beta-, gamma-, delta-, and 4-terpineol). It conveys a decidedly lilac aroma featuring heavy tones of pine.

This compound is produced by cannabis and more than 150 other plant species, including eucalyptus, freesia, lemon peel oil, lime blossoms, marjoram, narcissus, oregano, pine, and rosemary. It is found commonly in cultivars of cannabis that also produce relatively rich amounts of pinene.

Alpha-terpineol has shown distinct antianxiety efficacy and may contribute to the sedative-like “couchlock” effect of some potent cannabis strains. The medicinal efficacy of this terpene is among the most diverse produced by the cannabis plant and includes antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antimalarial, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and antitumor benefits.

Strains that feature alpha terpineol include:

Beta Caryophyllene

beta caryophyllene chemical structure

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:

  • basil
  • black caraway
  • cannabis
  • cinnamon
  • clove
  • copaiba
  • hops
  • lavender
  • oregano
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • ylang-ylang

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.

Strains that feature beta caryophyllene include:

Beta Ocimene

beta ocimene chemical structure

Beta Ocimene, a monoterpene, is an uncommon terpene that's often found in lower concentrations of terpene profiles, though it can be found in larger amounts in strains like Dutch Treat, Green Crack, and Clementine. Known for it's sweet, herbal, and floral aromas, Ocimene is a commonly used terpene in the flavor and fragrance industry.

Found in several botanical sources, such as parsley, mangos, kumquats, and holy rope, researchers believe that Beta Ocimene plays a crucial role in the defense mechanisms of these plants, warding off insects and other pests. Ocimene is also believed to introduce an energizing and uplifting effect to the terpene profiles it's found in.

Strains that feature beta ocimene include:

Beta Pinene

beta pinene chemical structure

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:

  • basil
  • cannabis
  • dill
  • parsley
  • rose
  • rosemary
  • 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.

Strains that feature beta pinene include:

Camphene

camphene chemical structure

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). 

Strains that contain camphene include:

Citral

citral chemical structure

The terpene citral manifests as two distinct isomers, geranial (Citral A) and neral (Citral B). To add confusion to the issue, literature references to citral frequently employ the name “geranial,” but sometimes instead use “lemonal.” Citral is a  monoterpenes produced by cannabis, lemon, lemon balm, lemongrass, lime, and orange, among several other plant species. 

As its name suggests, citral conveys an aroma that is heavily citrus in nature, making it similar to its chemical cousin and fellow terpene, limonene. As readers might expect, the two terpene isomers, geranial and neral, convey aroma and flavor profiles dominated by citrus tones and, more specifically, lemon. In terms of both aroma and flavor, the one-word takeaway for this pair of terpene isomers is, without question, “lemon.” 

It should be noted that neral delivers a less intense, but sweeter, version of lemon. Both terpenes are employed as aroma and flavor agents by the cosmetics and food industries. Like other terpenes, geranial and neral exhibit a variety of medicinal benefits, most notable of which is their anticancer efficacy for a number of types of the deadly disease.

Strains that contain citral include:

Citronellol

citronellol chemical structure

Citronellol, sometimes called dihydrogeraniol, is a minor (secondary) terpene of cannabis. It conveys an attractive and popular floral aroma that mixes with delicate undertones of citrus and rose.

Citronellol is produced by approximately 70 plant species, including basil, cannabis, chamomile, citronella, geranium, lavender, lemongrass, neroli, and rose. It is related to the popular terpene geraniol, both of which are produced by geranium. It is unique in that it enhances other fragrances, specifically rose. In commercial applications, citronellol is used as an aroma ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products. It has been employed as a mosquito repellant for millennia.

Strains that contain citronellol include:

D-Limonene

d limonene chemical structure

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.”

A recent 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.

Strains that feature limonene include:

Fenchol

fenchol chemical structure

Fenchol, also called 2-fenchanol and fenchyl alcohol, is a minor terpene and an isomer of borneol that is produced by aster flowers, basil, cannabis, eucalyptus leaves, nutmeg, and wild celery (among other plant species).

Within the cannabis genome, fenchol, a somewhat rare terpene, delivers an earthy, piney aroma that may include undertones of lemon and camphor. Fenchol is a primary aroma element of basil and is principally responsible for the herb’s distinctive aroma.

Fenchol is a monoterpene, meaning that it is considerably smaller and less complex than other types of terpenes. The potential medicinal efficacy of this molecule includes support for pain reduction, antibacterial and antimicrobial effects, and antioxidant properties. 

Strains that contain fenchol include:

Geraniol

geraniol chemical structure

Geraniol is one of the most popular terpenes due to its attractive rose-like scent. First isolated in 1871, it is one of three molecular components responsible for the scent of roses. Outside of cannabis, geraniol is produced by geranium (revealed by their common name root), lemon, and roses.

Geraniol is also employed as a natural pest/insect control agent and sometimes preferred due to its relatively low toxicity. In addition, geraniol has been shown to be a “penetration enhancer for transdermal drug delivery.” This provides additional support for a potential synergistic role played by terpenes and cannabinoids in an “entourage effect.”

Strains that contain geraniol include:

Geranyl Acetate

geranyl acetate chemical structure

Geranyl Acetate, sometimes referred to as simply Geranyl, is a monoterpene that is ubiquitous in many different essential oils. Known for its powerful floral aroma, geranyl is commonly used by the flavor and fragrance industry in products such as perfumes, soaps, and of course terpene blends.

Strains that contain geranyl acetate include:

Humulene

alpha humulene chemical structure

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.

Strains that feature humulene include:

Linalool

linalool chemical structure

Linalool, a major (primary) terpene in the cannabis genome, produces a floral aroma involving complex tones of spice and wood. The pleasingly warm fragrance resulting from this terpene has been described as a spicy lavender.

Linalool is made by basil, bay leaf, birch bark, a range of fungi, ho leaf (Chinese rosewood), and lavender (the most commonly cited source). In total, more than 200 plant species in nature produce linalool.

Strains that feature linalool include:

Myrcene

beta myrcene chemical structure

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:

  • chamomile
  • hops
  • lemongrass
  • parsley
  • 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). 

Strains that feature myrcene include:

Nerolidol

nerolidol chemical structure

Nerolidol is a sesquiterpene found in the essential oils of various different botanical sources. Known for its woody aroma, this complex terpene is typically found in low concentrations of cannabis terpene profiles.

The most notable strains that contain nerolidol include:

Terpinolene

terpinolene chemical structure

Terpinolene, sometimes denoted as TPO, is a major terpene characterized by a floral aroma that is reminiscent of sweet pine that exhibits a citrus-like flavor. It is produced by a range of plant species other than cannabis and hemp, including allspice, cumin, juniper, parsnip, rosemary, sage, and tea tree.

The food industry employs terpinolene as a flavor agent. It is sometimes used to manufacture plastics and also as a repellent against insects such as mosquitos. The medicinal properties of terpinolene have been found to include anticancer and antioxidant benefits.

The most notable strains that contain terpinolene include:

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