These days terpenes are a subject of interest for many people, mostly because of their presence in medical and recreational marijuana products. But there’s a lot more to terpenes than the aroma they give to cannabis; a good example is their function in nature. Other than influence the qualities of countless plants, terpenes also serve as natural protection against insects, herbivores and inclement weather. When ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin, the medical benefits of terpenes provide a wide range of positive effects.
There is no more compelling evidence for the synergistic properties of terpenes than the current research on its presence in cannabis. When THC and CBD compounds act reciprocally with terpenes, the interacting compounds amplify their overall effects. This synergy has been dubbed by researchers and doctors as the “Entourage Effect”, and is the founding principle behind whole plant medicine.
The Medical Benefits of Terpenes
Whenever we cut open a mango, trim a hedge or mow an overgrown lawn, we’re releasing terpenes into the air that occur to us in the form of distinct scents and sensations. Here are some examples of common-variety terpenes found in fruits and plants available at the grocery store, or in the average backyard.
Alpha-Pinene is found in coniferous plants like pine trees. Aside from providing a wonderful pine scent, it is a bronchodilator with potent broad spectrum antibiotic, anti-carcinogen and anti-inflammatory properties. Alpha-pinene can reduce oiliness in skin and works very well in conjunction with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinoids (CBD).
Beta-Caryophyllene is what lends rich flavors and aromas to spices like cinnamon, black pepper and cloves. Because of its ability to bind to the CB2 receptors throughout the body, caryophyllene is a common ingredient in salves and topicals. These products are then used to treat anything from nerve pain to ulcers. When taken as prescribed, caryophyllene is even shown to help with alcohol cravings due to its anti-anxiety and anti-depressant properties.
Cineol is more commonly referred to as Eucalyptol, and provides the fresh scents of eucalyptus and mint. Cineol draws a lot of attention in medical research. It is currently publicized as the terpene that could potentially treat—or even cure—Alzheimer’s disease due to its ability to increase cerebral blood flow and improve memory. Cineol is also a potent analgesic, expectorant and mucolytic with smooth muscle anti-spasmodic properties.
Terpenes In Healthcare And Commercial Products
Terpenes have been used for aromatherapeutic purposes for many years. Through processes of solvent extraction or steam distillation, terpenes are harnessed as the building blocks for plant resins and essential oils. However, with continuing medical research and affirmation of their positive effects, it’s not surprising to see terpenes finding their place in the mainstream.
These days it’s common to find the use of terpenes in food additives, perfumes and athletic pain relief formulations. Concentrations from plants with high terpene profiles like rosemary, sage, basil and thyme are also frequently used in the production of soaps, facial cleansers and yoga candles.
The Long-Term Benefits of Research
As research continues to progress on the medical benfits of terpenes, medical researchers and scientists are expected to discover even more medicinal properties in the plants all around us. Once effective means of delivery have been established, we should see even more beneficial terpene products integrated into our daily lives.
As new technologies emerge to extract and maximize the usage of terpenes, it may become possible to realize a world with significantly less chronic and degenerative disease.