What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are fatty aromatic compounds that serve many purposes in plants, such as protection from pests and disease. In addition, terpenes can act as both a repellant and attractant, bringing in pollinators like hummingbirds and bees. They are found all throughout nature in natural herbs, plants, flowers, and fruits.
Terpenes also have potentially beneficial effects on humans when consumed or inhaled. While they are not directly psychoactive, there is supporting evidence that they heavily influence the consumer’s physiologically and psychologically experiences. In addition to holistic medicines, you can find terpenes in essential oil blends, household cleaners, makeup, and skincare products.
Now that you’ve refreshed your memory of what terpenes are, it is time to learn about the major and minor terpenes in nature. The major terpenes will be most commonly found in nature, while the minor ones are usually found in smaller amounts.
Major terpenes are the ones that are most commonly found in nature. They are also some of the most studied terpenes out there. Some examples of major terpenes are:
Myrcene is found in mangos, thyme, hops, and lemongrass. It is often described as earthy and herbal. Functionally, it interacts with the opiate system to produce pain-relieving effects.
Pinene is found in dill, basil, rosemary, parsley, pine needles, and conifer trees. It may have positive effects on memory by inhibiting the degradation of certain neurotransmitters as well as anti-anxiety effects.
β-Caryophyllene is found in black pepper and cloves and is commonly used as a flavoring to add spicy and herbal notes. It is one of the only terpenes interacting directly with the body’s endocannabinoid system and producing anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects through the CB2 receptor. Additionally, there is evidence that β Caryophyllene is effective at easing localized and neurological pain.
Limonene is found in lemons and other citrus fruits and is the second most commonly distributed terpenoid in nature. It produces uplifting and energizing effects because of its agonist effects at the serotonin receptor 5-HT1A.
Linalool is most commonly found in lavender, flowers, citrus, and fresh spice. It potentially has anti-anxiety, anti-epileptic, anti-psychotic, and pain-relieving properties. Linalool is most frequently used to help people manage symptoms of depression, anxiety, convulsions, pain, and insomnia.
Scientists study other minor terpenes found in nature to understand their potential therapeutic uses. These minor terpenes occur less abundantly than the major terpenes and include:
Humulene, sometimes referred to as α-caryophyllene, is found in the flowering cone of hops.
This terpene is a significant anti-inflammatory and can help manage symptoms of chronic pain.
Camphene has a pungent and herbal smell and is present in many essential oils, such as camphor oil, citronella oil, cypress oil, ginger oil, neroli, turpentine, and valerian. Some use it as an antifungal when applied topically.
Farnesene smells sweet, fruity, berry, and woody. You can find it in turmeric, ginger, potatoes, and green apple peels. Not only is this terpene a natural pest repellant, but it has anti-inflammatory and calming effects on the mind.
Whether they’re abundant in nature or not, both major and minor terpenes can positively affect one’s health. In addition, they can be combined to create specific desired psychological and physiological effects and help determine how you will feel.