What are terpenes?
We break down the wonderful world of terpenes
The sweet, tart smell of a mango, the freshness of mint, and the relaxing scent of lavender oil. All of these things are caused by terpenes.
You might not have heard of terpenes, but you experience them every single day. They’re the compounds that determine how plants smell, and their intense aroma helps plants attract pollinators and detract pests.
But terpenes do more than emit an aroma - recent research shows that terpenes could have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, as well as mental and physical benefits. These benefits range from pain reduction to stress relief, to enhancing the emollient benefits of topical hemp seed oil preparations.
While terpenes occur everywhere in nature (there are around 20,000 known terpenes), different species of the cannabis plant all contain between 120-140 different terpenes. The high number of terpenes in the cannabis plant is why marijuana and hemp oil/CBD oil are often associated with terpenes.
Terpenes are also thought to interact with other compounds in cannabis to create an “entourage effect.” Essentially, the therapeutic effects of each compound in cannabis, such as CBD or THC, is thought to be enhanced by terpenes.
How and where are terpenes used?
The amazing thing about terpenes is that the same terpenes that are present in the cannabis plant (and many other plants), can be extracted as stand-alone compounds and added to other products.
The most obvious use of terpenes is in essential oils. Terpenes give essential oils their scent and are an integral part of aromatherapy.
How do terpenes and hemp seed oil work together?
Right now, CBD oil is not legal in Australia. But hemp seed oil and terpenes can be blended with terpenes to make a formulated supplementary food.
While terpenes are still being researched, there is a lot of interest in the therapeutic benefits of different terpenes such a myrcene and beta-caryophyllene, as well as the effects of combining different terpenes together in hemp oil and hemp seed oil.
Curious about hemp seed oil and terpenes? Find out more about our Relax Hemp Seed Oil tincture.
What are the benefits of terpenes?
There’s no doubt that certain smells can have a beneficial effect on us. When you smell lavender, it’s a terpene called linalool which has that calming, sedative effect. When you smell fresh scents like mint leaves or a freshly cut orange, the energising effect comes from the limonene.
However, the effect of terpenes isn’t just mental. Studies have shown that the Japanese practice of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, which involves immersing yourself in a terpene-rich environment, has potential anti-inflammatory, anti-tumorigenic, and neuroprotective effects on human health.
Terpenes have also been linked to lower inflammation, reduced anxiety, enhanced alertness and better sleep. However, the response to terpenes will vary from person to person, and the evidence isn’t conclusive (yet!).
Are terpenes good for sleep?
There have been several studies and reports on anti-inflammatory and anxiety-reducing effects of terpenes.
Lowering inflammation and reducing the level of stress hormones in the body can both aid sleep, but scientists are still discovering the exact mechanisms of terpenes and how they work in relation to sleep, pain relief, inflammation and overall mood improvement.
This article written by The Sleep Doctor explains the theories relating to terpenes and sleep.
Description of common terpenes
Beta-carophyllene contributes to the spiciness of cracked black pepper, and is found in cloves, hops, rosemary and cannabis.. It was one of the first cannabis-derived compounds other than THC, CBD, and CBN shown to bind directly to endocannabinoid receptors.
Beta-carophyllene has been found to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties, and other studies are being done to around the effect of beta-caryophyllene on anxiety, pain, cholesterol reduction, and the effect on neurodegenerative diseases and cancers.
Beta-carophyllene is included in our Relax Hemp Seed Oil tincture.
Myrcene is found in hops, lemongrass, basil and mangoes.
Myrcene is thought to have relaxing properties and there have been studies done on its sedating, anti-inflammatory effects. However, more conclusive evidence is needed before myrcene can officially be crowned as the ‘sleepy terpene.’
Myrcene is included in our Relax Hemp Seed Oil tincture.
Limonene is found in many citrus fruits, and is used in cosmetics and skincare formulations. Limonene is also used as a food additive to improve the scent and taste.
Essential oils that contain limonene, such as orange peel oil, are also being studied for other potential benefits. According to new research published in The Journal of Cancer Research, limonene may be beneficial in helping to support cancer treatments.
Limonene is included in our Relax Hemp Seed Oil tincture.
There are two types of pinene structures, alpha and beta. Alpha-pinene is one of the most abundant terpenes found in nature.
Pinene is found in a wide range of herbs like rosemary, parsley, basil, and is (unsurprisingly) also found in pine needles. When you wander through a forest of pine trees, that uplifting aroma is pinene.
Studies have been done on the effects on the gastro-protective, cyto-protective and anti-anxiety effects of alpha and beta pinene.
Terpinolene is a little more obscure than other terpenes but can be found in lilacs, nutmeg, and cumin. It has an unusual smell, ranging from smokey and woody to floral or herbal.
The wide-ranging scent profile of terpinolene, and its purported antibacterial and antifungal qualities, could be why this terpene is often added to soap and cosmetics.
Linalool is usually associated with lavender, but over 200 plants produce linalool. It can be found in citrus, mint, rosewood, cinnamon oil, and many other essential oils. It’s also found in many other spices like coriander, mint, as well as certain species of fungi.
In a study on the effects of linalool inhalation by rats, researchers found it had an anti-anxiety effect. In products like lavender oil, linalool has anecdotally had a sedative effect and there are numerous other studies on its anti-inflammatory, anti-epileptic effect.
We could list hundreds more terpenes, but this should give you an idea of how amazing terpenes are and what they could possibly do for you.