What are Terpenes and why do we use them?
Terpenes are the medicinal molecules extracted from essential oils.
Their healing properties for a variety of disease and conditions have been studied for centuries. Terpenes are non-psychoactive, pungent hydrocarbons.
Terpenes can not only relieve chronic targeted pain, inflammation and muscle tension, they can be a very relevant alternative to anxiety and depression medications.
As examples: limonene is a strong anxiolytic (drug used to reduce anxiety), is active against bacteria associated with acne and can induce the suicide of cancer cells, b-caryophyllene is a non psychoactive anti-inflammatory via CB2 binding, b-myrcene is a sedating muscle relaxant anti-inflammatory and a-pinene is an antimicrobial and more importantly acts as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor which may aid in memory loss associated with several human neurological diseases.
From a pharmacological standpoint, terpenes are highly evolved lipophilic molecules that can interact with other lipophilic structures like membranes and the many embedded receptors that reside there, resulting in neurological responses, the detection of odors, and downstream enzymatic changes. Terpenes’ lipophilic (hydrophobic) nature also gives them the unique ability to permeate skin.
Remarkably, terpenes are potent even when inhaled in ambient air and can subsequently be detected at quantifiable levels in your serum.
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The Entourage Effect
What’s more, terpenes are recognized as synergistic compounds that contribute to a complex phytocannabinoid environment. Terpenes work with CBD, THC and other cannabinoids, creating a union of compounds that achieve better results as a group than they would in isolation.
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Beta-caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene, with a sweet, woody, spicy, clove-like smell. It is a unique terpene due to its large size and structure. Due to these properties, beta-caryophyllene is able to activate several receptors in the body, including CB2, which is usually activated most by CBD. beta-caryophyllene has been shown to be an effective analgesic by regulating neuroinflammation and thermal hyperalgesia. Also, as an antioxidant, beta-caryophyllene is effective as demonstrated by preventing lipid oxidation and scavenging other radicals. Anti-inflammatory beta-caryophyllene has been proven to mediate kidney inflammation and its side effects. In addition, beta-caryophyllene has been eluted to be a gastric-protective.
Geraniol is toxic to bacteria and certain fungi. Further uses for the terpene include anti-inflammatory action. Also, as a topical drug enhancer and anti-inflammatory, geraniol has proven useful. The effects of Geraniol on relieving pain were investigated in mice. Upon administration, geraniol significantly affected the number of Fos-positive cells in pain neuron sites in the brain, signifying an analgesic outcome.
Limonene has been shown to be a potent antidepressant and anti-anxiety treatment comparable to some traditional medicines. Limonene has also been inferred to be an anti-inflammatory, lowering or preventing key stages in the reaction. Limonene was elucidated in being a potential treatment for breast, prostate and pancreatic cancer. Limonene demonstrated increased social interaction time and decreased immobility time, in the forced swim test using mice, indicating anxiolytic and antidepressant effects. The effects were comparable with the traditional anxiolytic diazepam and the antidepressant fluoxetine.
Limonene has been used as a house remedy for acne and athlete’s foot in the past.
Myrcene is hypothesised to help compounds enter cells through enhancing membrane permeation. Another benefit to myrcene is its ability to relax muscles and induce sleep.
Humulene is a powerful anti-inflammatory and an anti-pain compound. It also has anti-cancer properties. Humulene is unique because it acts as an appetite suppressant, showing promise for weight loss treatments.
Linalool acts as an anticonvulsant, having similar effects to diazepam. Linalool has been used as a relaxant and as a treatment for anxiety for thousands of years. In scientific studies, linalool was proven to sedate mice and mitigate anxiety.