Terpene Science

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What are terpenes?

Terpenes belong to a large class of volatile aromatic secondary metabolites naturally produced by a diverse group of plant species

Where are terpenes produced?

Plants produce terpenes in specialized cells or resin glands. Terpenes can also be created synthetically or semi-synthetically in a laboratory using a natural molecule as the modifiable building block.

When are terpenes produced?

Plants can produce terpenes at different stages of their life cycle. Scientists can also organically synthesize terpenes on demand in a laboratory.

Why are terpenes produced?

Terpenes are classified as secondary metabolites, meaning their production is not directly involved in the growth, development or reproduction of the plant. Depending on the plant species, terpenes may assist in survival through pesticidal effects or increasing reproductive rate. Terpenes can also be naturally extracted or organically synthesized for human and animal use.

How are terpenes produced?

In nature, terpenes are derived biosynthetically from activated forms of the isoprene molecule. Terpenes are also commonly extracted from plants by various extraction methods. They can be further refined into the state of a single isolated terpene. Isolated terpenes can be organically synthesized in a laboratory setting.

What is the entourage effect?

The entourage effect describes the synergistic interaction between the phytochemicals as they exist in nature


Types of Terpenes

Alpha Pinene

Natural sources:  conifer trees, rosemary, frankincense, eucalyptus, tea tree

Aromatic Characteristics:  Pine trees

Physiological effects:  anti-inflammatory, bronchodilatory, memory enhancement

Beta Myrcene

Natural sources:  hops, mango, bay laurel, lemongrass, thyme, myrcia

Aromatic Characteristics:  balsam, peppery, rich, earthy

Physiological effects:  analgesic, sedative, muscle relaxant

Alpha Humulene

Natural sources: hops, sage, ginger, ginseng, spearmint

Aromatic Characteristics:  Hoppy, bitter, sour

Physiological effects:  anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, analgesic, anoretic

Beta Caryophyllene

Natural sources:  black pepper, clove, hops, basil, lavender, rosemary

Aromatic Characteristics:  clove, spicy, sweet, woody

Physiological effects:  CB2 receptor agonist, anti-malarial, gastroprotectant


Natural sources: citrus

Aromatic Characteristics:  sharp tangy, zesty

Physiological effects:  immunostimulant, antimicrobial, anti-anxiety


Natural sources:  lavender, basil, thyme, mugwort, bay laurel, palmarosa

Aromatic Characteristics: sweet, floral, woody, spicy

Physiological effects:  analgesic, anticonvulsant, anti-anxiety, sedative


Natural sources:  conifer trees, petitgrain, tea tree

Aromatic Characteristics:  pine, citrus, woody, floral

Physiological effects:  antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, sedative, anti-tumor


Natural sources:  lemongrass, rose, neroli, ginger, lavender

Aromatic Characteristics:  citrus, floral, woody

Physiological effects:  sedative, antimalarial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotectant