Ene – Mene – Terpenes: What are terpenes actually?
Terpenes, even if you were not aware of it until now, are an integral part of our lives. When we breathe in the characterful smell of the resin of a conifer during a walk through the forest, or smell the wonderful scent of a flower, we encounter terpenes.
We also owe the fruity taste of fresh fruit to them, because all natural flavors in food originally come from terpenes.
These are volatile organic compounds that occur in plants and are responsible for their characteristic fragrance. Especially in the flowers, leaves, fruits, roots and resin, high concentrations of terpenes can be found. In general, it can be said that all plants that can be bought as essential oil also contain a large amount of terpenes.
But terpenes unfold their effect not only through the fragrance, because the essential oils can also be absorbed through the skin. Therefore, they are often used in the cosmetics industry, especially in skin care products, as natural fragrances. Linalool and limonene are particularly common in beauty products, while menthol is found in toothpaste and provides a fresh taste.
In addition, terpenes can also be used as natural preservatives. In this way, the spread of bacteria in food and natural cosmetics can be prevented.
Short trip to school: Biology and chemistry are on the timetable
Biologically, terpenes are potentially found in all existing plant species. Their purpose is to attract insects for pollination through their unique aroma, but at the same time, as a natural insecticide, also protect against pests.
Terpenes are basically hydrocarbon molecules, more precisely they are a group of natural, oily and aromatic hydrocarbon compounds. All terpenes have the basic structure in common – it is a simple carbon framework with five atoms – but there are some differences in appearance and specific aroma.
Due to their chemical status as secondary metabolites, with terpenes accounting for around 60% of all phytochemicals, they are not vital for a plant, so they can be extracted without endangering the plant.
Cannabis, Cannabinoids and Terpenes: An Overview
Terpenes are, among other things, one of the reasons why there is such a variety of different cannabis plants, as they give each strain its own aroma.
Around 200 different terpenes have been identified in cannabis plants, but only a few of them are concentrated enough to be considered significant.
The cannabis terpenes are mainly found in the flowers, but only female hemp plants can form terpenes.
Hemp contains a number of important cannabinoids, such as CBD, CBG, CBC and CBN. But industrial hemp also contains flavonoids and terpenes. Since different cannabis strains have different terpene profiles, the smell of each strain is also individual.
In CBD products, a high concentration of terpenes can intensify the positive effect of cannabinoids. The synergy of cannabinoids and terpenes is called the entourage effect. This means that a combination of different substances, i.e. a plant mixture, has a higher biological activity than an isolated pure substance.
Each terpene has its own advantages. In most hemp varieties, the terpenes myrcene, limonene, pinene, linalool and caryophyllene can be found. Oils with a high proportion of linalool and myrcene, i.e. terpenes known for their relaxing properties, are particularly effective for sleep. CBD oils with terpenes such as caryophyllene or limonene can help to increase energy balance and concentration.
However, terpenes also offer other therapeutic functions. They are, among other things, anti-inflammatory, antitumorous, analgesic and antimicrobial.
The terpenes introduce themselves: aroma, occurrence and effect
Myrcene terpenes are most commonly associated with CBD as they give the product its typical earthy taste. In cannabis, myrcene is the smallest terpene, but it is one of the best researched terpenes.
Aroma: Mango, tropical fruits, cloves, light citrus note
Occur: Hemp, mango, thyme, lemongrass, peppermint, sage and hops
Effect: relaxing, soothing, antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and relaxing
Limonene is the terpene most commonly found in plants. It is also found in many hemp extract products and completes the aroma profile of any CBD oil. Adding limonene to CBD oil can also increase the absorption rate of other terpenes.
Aroma: Limonene, lemons, grapefruit, peppermint
Occur: Oranges, oregano, anise, coriander, juniper and rosemary
Effect: mood-enhancing, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, promotes the ability to concentrate and think
Pinene or alpha-pinene can be found everywhere in nature and are contained in various hemp varieties. This terpene has already been appreciated in traditional Chinese medicine for its therapeutic properties.
Aroma: woody, earthy, spicy
Occurrence: hemp, pine, pine needles, turpentine, dill, rosemary and basil
Effect: anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and bronchodilating
Another common terpene in hemp is linalool. In aromatherapy, it is mainly used for relaxation. On insects, however, the scent of linalool has a deterrent effect.
Aroma: floral, delicate, lavender, rose
Occur: Hemp, roses, lavender, ginger, coriander, oregano and thyme
Effect: sleep-promoting, anxiolytic and relaxing
Caryophyllene is one of the most abundant terpenes and is also known as beta-caryophyllene. The most intriguing property of this terpene is its ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system in the same way as cannabinoids.
Aroma: peppery, spicy, woody
Occur: Hemp, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, figs and whole grains
Effect: analgesic, relaxing and anti-inflammatory
The terpene humulene is mainly responsible for the taste of beer.
Aroma: earthy, woody, spicy
Occur: Pepper, basil, cloves, coriander and sage
Eucalyptol is particularly popular for cold baths and massage oils.
Aroma: refreshing, cool
Occur: Hemp, eucalyptus, mint, rosemary, tea tree, mugwort, basil and sage
Effect: antioxidant and antibacterial
Due to its aroma, geraniol is used for perfumes, body oils and other cosmetics.
Aroma: delicate, floral, rosy
Occur: Geraniums, lemons and cannabis
Effect: antioxidant and sleep-promoting
Aroma: Herbs, wood
Occur: Mint, pepper, mangoes, basil, kumquats and orchids
Effect: antibiotic, antiviral and antiseptic
EsScential – Terpenes in aromatherapy
Terpenes also play a role in aromatherapy, which was already known in ancient Egypt (without oil embalming, mummies could not have been preserved so long and well). The fragrant scent of the essential oils is used therapeutically to increase well-being and relieve discomfort.
Basically, aromatherapy assumes that certain scents can positively influence our brain activity. Fruity citrus aromas are said to bring sun into the mind and stimulate creativity, while lavender fragrance is said to have a relaxing effect on the body. Of course, every person reacts differently to certain smells, yet countless people are convinced of the effect.
While most active pharmaceutical ingredients have large molecules, the terpene molecules are so tiny that they can go directly into our central nervous system and from there unfold their full effect.