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Unfortunately, ‘terpene’ is not a household phrase. At least not yet. Those who have heard of terpenes may have heard it from shows like Bong Appetìt or Cooking On High, where contestants infuse cannabis and terpenes into their dishes and judges rank the taste and effectiveness of the dish. Others may have heard of terpenes from their prominent use in cartridges and distillate oil. But what will the terpene industry look like in 5 years, or 10 years?
Terpenes, the aromatic compounds found in plants, essential oils, and cannabis, have many applications outside of cooking and cannabis. For sure, limonene can be used to add a lemony zest to a dish or drink, and myrcene can be added to provide sedative effects to a hungry midnight snacker, but the other industries where we hope to see terpene application explode in are home, beauty and health & wellness.
Terpenes are perfect for beauty and skincare products like lotions, balms, and others for a plethora of reasons. They are aromatic and vary greatly in scent. Terpenes also provide a myriad of medical benefit, many are anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-proliferative making them great for bath bombs and lotions for those with sore, achy muscles.
There is nothing better after a strenuous workout, a stressful day at work, or simply just a long day, than a relaxing soak in the tub. There are a few different ways to use terpenes in conjunction with a hot bath, one of which is to simply add a few drops of your favorite terpene to running bath water, which helps it mix thoroughly throughout the bath. Because terpene extracts tend to be so concentrated, only one tablespoon or roughly 12 drops - are needed for a full standard-sized bath.
For added benefit, terpenes infused into bath salts or a bath bomb are the optimal choice. Bath salts are composed of Epsom salt (crystalized magnesium) and is often used as a home treatment by many for arthritis, bruises and sprains, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, and sore muscles among various other reasons. It is believed that the salt is absorbed through the skin and helps relieves aches and pains as it relaxes muscles and loosens joints.
When infused with terpenes from the eucalyptus plant, Epsom salt can help relieve muscle cramps and congestion while also providing pain relief. Eucalyptus oil is a very strong essential oil and may cause eye irritation, so start slowly with less than 5 drops in and see how that feels.
Terpenes have immense potential to create wonderfully smelling and powerfully healing products like bath bombs, lotions, facemarks, and other products. Click here to see the extent of products which can be made from home.
Perhaps the most exciting and dramatic industry which terpenes can implement into is the medicinal field. Terpenes in cannabis provide relief to countless diseases and can provide relief to those with chronic pain or those who suffer from ailments caused by inflammation. Terpenes like myrcene, limonene, linalool, and caryophyllene have been proven to reduce inflammation, relieve chronic pain and even reduce depression.
Pinene is shown to reduce inflammation associated with bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), osteoarthritis, and skin inflammation. While limonene exerts anti-inflammatory properties likely due to its antioxidant attributes, some terpenes are believed to even reduce neurological inflammation, a symptom of brain disease and other neurological disorders.
Some terpenes have been shown to reduce/slow tumor growth by acting on specific pathways throughout the body. Proliferation of tumors is multifaceted, including uncontrolled cell growth, weakened cell apoptosis, invasion activation and metastasis. The most well-known terpene to exert anti-tumor properties is limonene. It is powerfully effective in protecting against chemical-induced tumor growth including those that occur in the breasts, liver, pancreas, intestines and colon. Studies show that limonene stops tumor proliferation by inducing cell apoptosis and by suppressing the PI3K/Akt pathway, an intracellular pathway designed to regulate the cell cycle. Other profound effects terpenes have on the body are:
1. Analgesic (relieves pain)
2. Anorectic (weight loss)
3. Antibacterial (slows bacteria growth)
4. Anti-diabetic (reduces blood sugar levels)
5. Antidepressant (relieves symptoms of depression)
6. Anti-emetic (reduces vomiting and nausea)
7. Anti-epileptic (reduces seizures and convulsions)
8. Anti-fungal (treats fungal infections)
9. Anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation)
10. Anti-insomnia (aids sleep)
11. Anti-ischemic (reduces risk of arterial blockage)
12. Anti-proliferative (inhibits cancer cell growth)
13. Anti-psoriatic (treats psoriasis)
14. Anti-psychotic (tranquilizing)
15. Anti-spasmodic (suppresses muscle spasms)
16. Anxiolytic (relieves anxiety)
17. Appetite stimulant
18. Bone stimulant (promotes bone growth)
19. Gastro-esophageal reflux (reduces acid reflux)
20. Immunostimulant (stimulates the immune system)
21. Immunosuppressive (reduces function in the immune system)
22. Intestinal anti-prokinetic (reduces small intestine contractions)
23. Neuroprotective (retards nervous system degeneration)
24. Vasorelaxant (reduces vascular tension).
Limonene also has a profound impact on those suffering from depression. Studies have demonstrated diffusing limonene, at low levels, into rooms with depressed patients and their depression levels are measured on what is called a Hamilton Depression Score. Almost universally, their scores lowered, showing an improvement in their ailment. Depression is reported as the largest health concern of the 21st Century, afflicting roughly 350 million people globally, and while the terpene will obviously not cure the disease, it can certainly ease the symptoms and provide momentary relief. Limonene directly affects serotonin pathways and may be used as a substitute for or in conjunction with antidepressant medication.
Limonene also has astounding potential in the medical industry. The monoterpene is anti-proliferative, meaning it inhibits cell growth in tumors. This lemon-terpene has been shown to block cancer-forming chemicals and kill cancer cells in rats. More research is required on humans in order to know if this property translates. D-limonene is shown to build up in tumors of certain types of advanced cancer, when taken orally in 21-day cycles. The high levels of limonene in the tumors may slow down the progress of the cancer, but their effect on the patient’s survival is uncertain. It’s too early to recommend using the terpene in cancer treatment, but with continued research, we will see the potential future applications of this lemon-smelling monoterpene.
Inhaled linalool showed anxiolytic properties, increased social interaction and decreased aggressive behavior, three effects from which any society would benefit from. These results strengthen the suggestion that inhaling linalool rich oils and vapors can be useful as a mean to attain relaxation and counteract anxiety. Linalool also has anticonvulsant properties and may be beneficial for those who suffer from seizure disorders.
A study published in 2016 demonstrates linalool as a potential Alzheimer’s treatment. In a genetic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, linalool reversed many of the behavioral and cognitive impairments associated with the disease. Furthermore, it reduced the number of brain plaques and cellular tangles which contribute to brain degeneration.
In a study done on rats, geraniol was shown to ameliorate hyperglycemia by “attenuating key enzymes of carbohydrate metabolism in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.” That’s not all, the rose-extracted terpene has also exhibited anti-cancer properties. Experimental evidence supports the therapeutic or preventive effects of geraniol on different types of cancer, such as breast, lung, colon, prostate, pancreatic, and hepatic cancer, and has revealed the mechanistic basis for its pharmacological actions. According to the study:
“Geraniol controls a variety of signaling molecules and pathways that represent tumor hallmarks; these actions of geraniol constrain the ability of tumor cells to acquire adaptive resistance against anticancer drugs. In the present review, we emphasize that geraniol is a promising compound or chemical moiety for the development of a safe and effective multi-targeted anticancer agent.”
B-CP has been shown to modulate stress and prolong lifespan in worms. Studies have shown this terpene can reduce neuroinflammation (inflammation in the brain), increase antioxidant levels in the brain, and decrease brain damage after a stroke.[9,10] The terpene may also be able to prevent Alzheimer’s disease by activating CB2 receptors and regulating PPAR-gamma (a receptor in the brain). Beta-caryophyllene can reduce amyloid beta-plaques and immune-induced inflammation in the brain, thus mitigating cognitive dysfunction and preventing the horrible neurological disease which afflicts an estimated 5.7 million people.[12,13]
Because of stringent laws on the study of cannabis, terpenes have been largely understudied and underfunded, despite their inherently harmless properties. As we move forward, we need to raise awareness of terpenes and their immense medical benefits as there are countless numbers of people who suffer from chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and the many, many other ailments which terpenes may relieve. While terpenes are still involved in the billion dollar cannabis and culinary fields, we will soon see their shift towards these industries as well.