What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are the compounds responsible for the way most plants smell. They are abundant in many plants, fruits, and herbs.
They may play a role in the health and survival of the plants in which they exist.
In some cases, smelling specific essential oils, ingesting terpene-rich plants, or spending time in areas with high terpene content may provide some health benefits to humans.
Limonene is a common terpene that most people can recognize by its scent. As the name suggests, limonene gives the rinds of fruits such as lemons and oranges their citrusy smell.
A study in Chemico-Biological Interactions notes that limonene contains the following therapeutic properties:
Limonene appears to modulate the way certain immune cells behave, which may protect the body from a range of disorders. Limonene is also safe for people to take as a supplement.
Pinene is another naturally abundant terpene. There are two forms of pinene: a-pinene and b-pinene. Pinene provides the fresh, bright scent of many plants, including pine needles, rosemary, and basil. Pinene may also have some therapeutic benefits.
Shirin-yoku, which means “forest bathing,” is a Japanese therapy that involves taking leisurely walks in the forest, soaking up the atmosphere, and enjoying the scent. Shirin-yoku may have preventive and restorative effects trusted Source on a person’s psyche and physiology.
Studies notes that the amount of pinene in the air of a healthy forest is enough to be therapeutic. Pinene acts as a bronchodilator, allowing more air into the lungs. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect and may fight against some infectious germs when inhaled.
Linalool is most abundant in the lavender plant and gives the flower its rich scent. Linalool is one of the more important compounds in aromatherapy and is responsible for the calming effect many people get when smelling lavender or its essential oil.
A study in Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces notes that linalool may affect the body in a variety of ways due to a range of properties, including:
Linalool does appear to act on the body, but researchers must study its effects further to understand how people can use it to benefit their health.
Myrcene is a terpene commonly found in plants such as hops, lemongrass, and thyme. The flowers of the cannabis plant also contain myrcene.
Myrcene is a powerful antioxidant.
Another study found that myrcene had a similar protective effect in heart tissue. The researchers note that myrcene may be a useful alternative treatment after ischemic stroke.
However, it is important to bear in mind that these studies used very high concentrations of myrcene, up to 200 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) (mg/kg) of weight.
Another study trusted in a cell model of osteoarthritis noted that myrcene appears to have an anti-inflammatory effect and may prevent the breakdown of some cartilage cells. This could make it useful against osteoarthritis.
Beta-caryophyllene exists in many herbs and vegetables, such as cloves and black pepper.
Similarly, to other terpenes, beta-caryophyllene may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body that could reduce pain levels in some people.
In one study Trusted Source, beta-caryophyllene reduced pain from inflammation and nerve pain. The researchers noted that this anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect might be useful for treating long-term chronic pain because the body showed no sign of developing a tolerance to these effects.