What exactly are terpenes?
Terpenes, which we often mention and further enhance Essenz premium products with, are aromatic plant compounds that can reduce pain and stress, improve brain health, fight cancer and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and much more.
Terpenes are responsible for much more than just the scent of herbs, flowers or fruits. This secret weapon and key communicator of the plant world - about 20,000 different compounds have been identified in this group to date - essentially all of which can also produce a wide range of biological effects in the human body. There is evidence that certain plant terpenes can improve cognition, block pain, kill harmful bacteria, inhibit inflammation, fight cancer, reduce stress, and improve mood.
In the cannabis world, terpenes are a subject of ever-growing interest. In a study, recently published in Nature magazine. that used analytical chemistry to determine key differences between cannabis samples labeled Sativa and Indica, researchers found no evidence for the common assumption that the two terms represent different genetic lines of cannabis, nor was there a significant difference between the two in terms of cannabinoid profile. In the end, it all came down to differences in the content of a handful of terpenes such as farnesene, myrcene and eudesmol - compounds that, along with even less studied flavonoids, simultaneously affect the taste and effects of cannabis-together with the cannabinoinds profile they produce the so-called "entourage" effect.
Scientists continue to study terpenes and their place not only in the cannabis world, but in herbal medicine as a whole, with new and sometimes surprising discoveries about these fascinating plant compounds appearing almost weekly.
Beta-caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene (made up of three isoprene units) known for contributing to the spiciness of black pepper. It is also found in hemp, cloves, hops, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, basil, and many others. Because of its presence in so many common foods and spices, it has been the subject of considerable scientific attention over the past few decades - especially after the 2008 discovery that beta-caryophyllene binds to the CB2 cannabinoid receptor, making it the first known "dietary cannabinoid."
Recently, two more papers have added to the evidence base for beta-caryophyllene's potential medicinal properties. First, a team of Italian researchers reported in the journal Molecules, that hemp flower extracts containing three different forms of terpene, as well as the non-toxic cannabinoids CBD and CBC, were toxic to breast cancer cells. Most of this cytotoxicity was attributable to CBD, the authors write, with CBC and caryophyllene increasing its potency: a classic case of the entourage effect.
A week later, an article in the Journal of Food Biochemistry highlighted an entirely different result: improved cognitive function. A team of researchers affiliated with the Indian company Vidya Herbs administered black pepper seed extract, standardized to contain 30% beta-caryophyllene, to mice pretreated with a drug that induces an animal model of dementia. The authors report that the extract restored recognition and spatial memory in these mice in a dose-dependent manner, as measured by two behavioral tests, and also improved biological markers of cognitive function and exerted anti-inflammatory effects in the brain. While intriguing, these results should be treated with some caution given the authors' ties to the private company that produces the extract in question (Viphyllin) and their outright conclusion that "our data encourage the use of Viphyllin as a functional ingredient/dietary supplement for brain health and cognition."
Reducing pain through the endocannabinoid system
Two other recent papers highlight the ability of certain terpenes to alleviate various forms of pain. In one study, published in the October 2021 issue of the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, a team of Brazilian scientists, working with esteemed cannabinoid researcher Vincenzo di Marzo of Italy's National Research Council, tested the analgesic effects of kahweol, a diterpene derived from coffee.
By administering CB1 and CB2 receptor antagonists, the researchers found that kahweol reduces pain sensation through the endocannabinoid system - more specifically, through the release of the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide and its activation of CB1 receptors. "This compound could be used to develop new painkillers," - they conclude - although many of us already sniff and drink them every day.
The second study tested the ability of terpenes derived from hemp , alpha-bisabolol (which imparts a floral scent and is also found in chamomile) and camphene (whose scent is most often described simply as "pungent") to inhibit inflammatory and neuropathic pain. As reported in Molecular Brain, the authors found that both molecules showed "broad-spectrum analgesic effects" by modulating T-type calcium channels in the brain, previously identified as targets for certain phyto- and endocannabinoids.
Terpenes and antibiotic-resistant bacteria
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a serious problem in hospitals, health care facilities and other places where people are in close physical contact or share equipment and supplies. Infection with this bacterium, which spreads through the skin, is often harmless - but in some cases can lead to sepsis or death because it is so difficult to treat due to its resistance to commonly used antibiotics.
Interestingly, this common nursery plant, bred to produce a wide range of varieties for ornamental use in home gardens, was also historically consumed by the indigenous people of Mexico for its psychoactive effects. In their book Plants of the Gods, ethnobotanist Richard Evan Schultes, chemist Albert Hofmann and anthropologist Christian Rätsch note that Coleus shows some similarities to Salvia divinorum, a potent, dissociative hallucinogen also found in Mexico. The active ingredient in this plant is a unique diterpene called Salivorin A, which produces its effects through kappa opioid receptors.
In the above text, we have cited only a few examples of the effects of terpenes. However, you will find the following terpenes in Essenz Premium oils:
Alpha-pinene-has a very distinctive spicy, woody aroma of pine. It is the most common terpene found in nature and has a wide range of medicinal properties. Several studies have revealed that it has strong bronchodilator, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, sedative and anti-anxiety effects.
Beta-caryophyllene-research suggest that it binds to CB2 receptors and activates the endocannabinoid system.
Myrcene-has a calming and relaxing effect
Limonene-medicinal properties of D-Limonene are well known and include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antinociceptive, anticancer, antidiabetic, anti-allergic and antiviral effects..
Linalool-studies have shown that Linalool is one of the most potent calming terpenes.
Terpineol-offers a wide range of medicinal properties as a local anesthetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and blood pressure lowering agent.
Fenchol-like borneol, fenchol is an antibacterial and antifungal agent that has anti-inflammatory capabilities.