Recent developments in medical science have been an incalculable benefit to the field of pharmacology. However, pharmacological technology isn’t the only thing moving forward. As an example, it’s often taken for granted how much recent research has invigorated the study of natural medicine. Over the last decade organic compounds and essential oils have been increasingly used to treat or reduce the symptoms of anything from cancer to anxiety disorders.
At the heart of this revolution of natural medicine are terpenes. In nature, terpenes provide plants with their distinct flavors and scents while simultaneously protecting them from predators. In this post, we go over everything you need to know about the alternative medicine industry’s exciting new molecule.
What Are Terpenes & How Do They Benefit Us?
Terpenes are the naturally-occurring compounds in plants responsible for their respective flavors and fragrances. Recent breakthroughs in medical research show that these natural compounds have tremendous medicinal and therapeutic value. The current mainstream awareness of terpenes and their benefits is primarily owed to marijuana advocacy (more on that later) and the alternative medicine industry.
Terpenes can be found everywhere in nature, and are consumed frequently throughout our daily lives. Three examples of the most commonly available and popular terpenes are:
- Alpha-Pinene known also as Racemic Alpha-Pinene or simply Pinene, this terpene is found primarily in cone-bearing trees such as conifers, pine or rosemary. As such, Alpha-Pinene gives off a woody, piney scent with herbaceous undertones. It’s also a potent bronchodilator; this makes it ideal for alleviating symptoms of respiratory conditions like asthma or bronchitis. Aside from its bronchodilative effect, Alpha-Pinene is shown to have antioxidant, antibacterial and even memory enhancing properties.
- Beta-Caryophyllene known also as Caryophyllene or simply BCP, this terpene can be found in large amounts in cloves, black caraway, black pepper and cinnamon. Beta-Caryophyllene is often described as spicy, sweet and woody in taste and smell. It’s analgesic and anti-pyretic properties make it remarkably effective at calming chronic pain and reducing fever. In combination, its anti-inflammatory qualities have been shown to provide considerable relief from the discomfort of serious conditions such as gout and sinusitis.
- D-Camphor known also as Bornanone, Camphanone or simply Camphor, this terpene is commonly found in basil and mint. Obviously, it’s found most abundantly in camphor laurel. In terms of flavor and fragrance, D-Camphor is sweet, leafy and heavily mentholic. It is also commonly known as a potent muscle relaxant, even among the uninitiated. D-Camphor is a long-standing staple of the fitness world in the form of cold rubs, salves and creams. Its aromatic and decongestant properties also make it a popular terpene throughout the wellness industry.
Terpenoids & Cannabinoids in The Marijuana Plant
Marijuana deserves a mention in any discussion regarding terpenes for two reasons: the medical marijuana industry produces hundreds of terpenoids from the marijuana plant alone. Secondly, marijuana advocacy – and its recent success – has indirectly brought the medicinal and therapeutic value of terpenes front and center under the public spotlight. National news stories such as the CNN’s “Charlotte’s Web” story highlight the potency and possibilities of terpenoid use in treating serious illness. Marijuana has also led to the discovery of the Entourage Effect
.• What is the Entourage Effect?The Entourage Effect was introduced by Israeli organic chemists S. Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam in 1998. The term is used to describe the process wherein cannabinoids and terpenoids work in tandem to greatly amplify each other’s effects – by way of their natural synergy and their effect on the human CB2 receptors during ingestion. Today, the Entourage Effect is used by both the medical and recreational marijuana industries to customize or optimize the effects of their respective products.
Terpenes are Extending The Frontiers of Medical Science
With continued study, terpenes are set to revolutionize not only the medical industry, but the health and fitness industries as well. Already terpenes are incorporated into beauty and hygiene products, sold as isolates and even mixed into recreational beverages. As public interest and medical research increases, it’s likely terpenes will play a part in treating many diseases we’d previously thought incurable.
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