While the sense of smell is typically overlooked, it is stronger than you would expect. The human nose detects smell molecules and transmits information to the olfactory bulb, which then relays it to the brain receptors. This process affects many of your emotions and memories.
Because scents can influence the human brain, aromatherapy is often recommended as a natural treatment for anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, and depression. Moreover, research shows that pleasant fragrances help improve mood, making aromatherapy a popular self-soothing strategy.
To further understand the effects of scents on human health, it is important to first discuss the compounds that create them: terpenes.
Terpenes are organic compounds that provide plants with their distinct natural aromas. They also release chemical substances that can affect how plants taste.
Terpenes are especially abundant in herbs, citrus, and coniferous plants. They can help them propagate by attracting pollinators and safeguarding them from predators by emitting strong scents. In general, their job is to support the plant’s well-being.
Terpenes are often called terpenoids. While this may seem correct, there is a difference between the two. The presence of oxygen sets these two compounds apart. Terpenoids contain oxygen, while terpenes do not.
While terpenes are commonly used today, they have an extensive history that dates back to ancient times. Scientists have long studied terpenes to understand their characteristics better and find ways to use their fragrances in various applications. Nowadays, terpenes serve as natural aroma and flavor enhancers in food and beverage. They are also typically added to skincare products and disinfectants.
The History of Terpenes
The use of terpenes through aromatherapy has been popular throughout human history and can be traced back to the ancient Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese. In ancient Egypt, people utilized them to create perfumes for religious events. Terpenes are also responsible for the complex and captivating aromas of the various spices in Indian cuisine.
Terpenes first appeared in the 11th century, with the Arabs introducing camphor to Eastern Europe to treat pain and disease. During the Black Death, people used strong fragrances for fumigation. Camphor was said to be blended with rosewater and sprinkled on the deceased before burial.
Where to Purchase Terpenes
As stated, terpenes can be found in most plants’ essential oils. You can widely use them in fragrances and traditional medicine. They also have a wide therapeutic profile associated with improving autoimmune disorders. They are extracted by growers, added to blends, and often sold in diluted form.
There are many businesses specializing in terpene profiling. They typically offer terpene blends with extensive isolate ranges. There are also strain-specific terpene products sold online, which contain higher concentrations of isolates for stronger flavors.
However, liquid terpenes should be transported and handled with extra caution. They must be heavily diluted by mixing with carrier oils or distillates. These lower the strength of the extract, making it safe to use. Additionally, most terpene blends are not intended for direct consumption.
Generally, buying less than 5% terpene concentration is recommended. Terpenes can be harmful if not used and prepared properly, so consumers must consult an expert on the safety and stability of their application or finished product. It is dangerous to create your own terpene mixtures without adequate research or the instruction and guidance of a qualified professional.
If you are not confident about combining blends, you can stay on the safe side by choosing to buy terpene-infused products instead of pure extracts.
Fortunately, many wellness and skincare products are infused with terpenes, including body lotions, moisturizing creams, massage oils, aromatic spritzers, bathing salts, facial steamers, and diffusers. They contain lower amounts of terpenes and are formulated for daily use.
The Effects of Terpenes on Human Health
Certain terpenes are bioactive, meaning they deliver effects on the human body. These effects will vary depending on the concentration level of the terpenoid and how it is used. Even if it is solely the terpenes’ aroma, it can have an effect on your mood. Numerous research is also looking into the effects of terpenes on human health as an alternative treatment for some diseases.
It is vital to note that terpenes are still being studied for their potential uses, and brands can make no absolute claims of therapeutic benefits yet. However, terpenes are vital to various alternative treatments and traditional medicine.
Accordingly, terpene compounds are classed as mono, di, tri, tetra, or sesquiterpenes, depending on the number of isoprene units they contain. Each class is being researched for different modern medicinal applications.
For instance, monoterpenes have been investigated for their antiviral properties. Several terpenes have also shown promise in the treatment of cancer and diabetes. The antiplasmodial action of some terpene strains also suggests the potential to combat malaria.
Moreover, specific terpenes, such as humulene, pinene, and bisabolol, provide potent anti-inflammatory benefits. They are effective at alleviating skin irritation, inflammation, and redness.
In addition, many terpene strains have soothing properties that can help patients with skin conditions like rosacea, burns, and rashes. Furthermore, while the research is still in its infancy, terpenes may help restore and enhance skin strength and thickness in people diagnosed with atopic dermatitis.
What is more amazing is that terpenes show promise in reducing symptoms in patients with epilepsy. A study published in Frontiers in Neurology discovered that individuals with epilepsy who used a terpene-rich extract reported improved symptoms and experienced fewer adverse effects.
To add, there have been a lot of medical studies done on isolated terpenes, and some strains may find their way into clinical applications. According to a study from Chemico-Biological Interactions, the terpene limonene provides many positive health effects, including anti-cancer, antidiabetic, antioxidant, antiviral, antinociceptive, and antihyperalgesic properties.
The Benefits of Terpenes on Mental Health
Different terpene strains have their own distinct benefits to offer. Some are used to improve skin health, while others provide pain relief. Apart from these physical effects, terpenes can help optimize mental and emotional well-being.
You can enjoy the benefits of most terpene strains by inhaling fragrances, which is exactly how the aromatherapy treatment works. For example, the floral aroma of linalool, which is found in lavender, has a soothing effect that promotes relaxation and better sleep.
Moreover, the minty scent produced by camphor helps relieve nausea, headaches, and respiratory congestion. Similarly, limonene, a terpene found in peppermint and citrus fruits, can enhance one’s mood, making it the ideal terpene for anxiety and stress reduction.
In addition, many plant-derived terpenes are being researched for their neuroprotective effects.
For instance, existing data indicate that the terpenes linalool and pinene need to be investigated further as potential medicines for neurological and psychiatric illnesses, such as ischemia, stroke, cognitive impairment related to aging and Alzheimer’s disease, depression, anxiety, migraines, and neuropathic pain.
Terpenes: Can They Help You Relax?
As the examples above suggest, terpenes can help reduce anxiety and stabilize a person’s mood. However, the potency depends on the type of terpenes used.
For example, because each terpene has a distinct chemical structure, some terpenes will be better at addressing insomnia than others. Some terpenes are excellent at soothing the mind and lowering tension, while others elevate the mood and improve focus.
Combining various terpenes can be more beneficial than utilizing a single terpene alone, providing a better state of relaxation and enhancing sleep quality.
The terpenes myrcene, limonene, linalool, pinene, and caryophyllene, linalool, and pinene all demonstrate anti-anxiety effects. However, each has different attributes, so choosing blends that mix as many as possible is helpful since the concentrations are restricted to safe amounts.
Why is it Important to Get Quality Sleep?
The American Sleep Association reports that as many as 50 to 70 million adults in the U.S. suffer from a sleep disorder. Moreover, 67% of adults worldwide say they experience sleep disturbances at least once each night.
These statistics are very alarming, considering sleep is key to optimal health. Everyone needs good sleep to function properly every day. Also, having enough rest is necessary for tissue healing and mind rejuvenation.
Sleep impacts practically every body tissue, growth and stress hormones, the immune system, appetite, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health. Experts recommend getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night, but a huge part of the global population does not reach this amount.
Sleep deprivation can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and other health issues, such as mental distress. Furthermore, sleep disorders are caused by various underlying problems, including anxiety, stress, and depression. Sleep can also be hampered by physical ailments such as inflammatory and chronic pain.
While you may take over-the-counter and prescription drugs to improve sleep, terpenes can be an alternative, natural solution. Understanding the cause of your poor sleeping habits may give you a glimpse into which terpenes will benefit you the most or whether terpenes are right for your case. However, you must consult your doctor if you are unsure about what is causing the problem.
Terpenes for a Restful Night’s Sleep
Many terpenes function as either sedatives or stimulants. If you are looking for a terpene to help you sleep, it is critical to look for the former. Here is a list of the best types of terpenes for improving sleep.
Commonly found in spices like cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper, caryophyllene emits a spicy, peppery aroma. This terpene is the only cannabinoid receptor ligand that binds directly to the receptors found within the human body.
This strong terpene is known to relieve inflammation and physical discomfort. Hence, it can help individuals with minor to moderate pain sleep better. This terpene also helps reduce anxiety, which is beneficial for people who frequently get anxious thoughts at night due to stress and worry.
Nerolidol is a milder terpene with sedative properties. It is known to demonstrate anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. If aching joints and muscles keep you awake at night, this terpene may be the right choice.
The aroma profile of nerolidol combines the scents of wood, soil, and bark. Lemongrass, tea tree, ginger, lavender, and jasmine are all common sources.
Abundant in cardamom, thyme, mangoes, and hops, myrcene has a fruity, herbaceous aroma. It is beneficial for relieving sore muscles and urging drowsiness. Hence, people involved in strenuous activity may sleep more soundly at night if they use myrcene. This terpene is also good for individuals who are nervous and uptight since it can help them feel relaxed and calm.
Have you ever come across lavender essential oils that promise to give you quality sleep? What about those trendy lavender-scented silk pillows? These products stay true to their promise because lavender contains a lot of linalool.
If your mental health stops you from sleeping, it probably will not hurt to try linalool to see if it helps. Linalool is capable of lowering anxiety and tension as well as lifting mood. It also helps regulate behaviors linked to depression.
Aside from lavender, linalool is also found in over 200 plants, including coriander, clary sage, mint, rosewood, and sweet basil. It is also linked to several antioxidant, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits.
There are two types of pinene: alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. They have distinct effects on the mind and body. If you are seeking relaxation and tranquillity, try alpha-pinene. This terpene is said to have qualities that provide significant relief from both physical and mental stress.
Alpha-pinene has a fresh, woodsy perfume similar to a pine forest (hence the name) and is found in rosemary, parsley, and orange peels.
Terpinolene can make you feel drowsy, so if you have a restless mind as soon as you lay down, this may be the terpene for you. However, be careful with the dosage because some people who use terpinolene report heightened energy.
This terpene has a pleasant aroma that blends pine, floral, and citrus hints. Terpinolene can be found in lilacs, fir, apples, cumin, tea tree, and nutmeg.
Other Types of Terpenes Worth Mentioning + Their Uses
Also known as levomenol and bisabolol, alpha-bisabolol is found in chamomile flowers and candeia trees. It produces a sweet and enticing flowery aroma. This terpene was originally used in the cosmetics business, but it has recently piqued the interest of researchers due to its medical benefits.
Alpha-bisabolol is beneficial in treating bacterial infections and wounds and is a great source of antioxidants. Because of its anti-irritation and analgesic qualities, this terpene can help people with skin conditions like itchiness and redness to sleep better at night.
This secondary terpene is typically found in flowers such as jasmine, lemongrass, and tea tree oil. Trans-nerolidol smells like a combination of rose, citrus, and apples and can be described as woody, citrus, and floral.
The antiparasitic, antioxidant, antifungal, anti-cancer, and antibacterial effects of trans-nerolidol are well documented. It can also act as a sedative for promoting calmness and uninterrupted sleep.
The first terpene discovered in hops was humulene. It has earthy, woody, and spicy overtones in its scent. Humulene is present in clove, sage, and black pepper.
This terpene is being researched for its extensive range of medicinal effects. Humulene has been found in preliminary testing to be anti-proliferative, which means it blocks cancer cells from developing. It also demonstrated significant hunger suppression, making it a viable weight loss tool.
Furthermore, it decreases inflammation, soothes pain, and fights bacterial infections. Humulene may be worth a try if mild pain or increased appetite interrupts sleep.
Eucalyptol, also known as cineole, is the main terpene of the eucalyptus tree. It has a distinct minty and cool aroma, making it a popular ingredient in candies, toothpaste, and cleaning solvents.
This terpenoid is commonly used in both cosmetics and medicine. Regarding medicinal efficacy, eucalyptol not only soothes pain but also prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi. Although research is still early, this terpene has shown some potential effects on Alzheimer’s disease.
Eucalyptol helps alleviate lung and sinus congestion, so if you feel under the weather and cannot sleep, this may be the perfect solution.
Camphene’s aroma is best described as fir needles, musky soil, and wet woodlands, which is why it is frequently confused with myrcene. This terpene has a lot of potential in the medical field. Moreover, it becomes a potent antioxidant combined with vitamin C. Its greatest potential is in its capacity to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, decreasing the risk of heart disease.
It is commonly used in traditional medicine as a topical treatment for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Hence, if itchy skin keeps you from sleeping soundly at night, talk to your dermatologist about trying camphene-infused creams or ointments.
· Carene Delta 3
Also called delta 3-carene, this terpene can be found in plants such as rosemary, basil, bell peppers, cedar, and pine. It has a pleasant scent similar to that of a cypress tree. Carene appears to be most useful in healing shattered bones on the medical side. It gives individuals with osteoporosis, arthritis, and even fibromyalgia bigger hope.
This terpene is fascinating because it enhances your mind and aids memory retention. It is a significant step toward discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Carene can also help improve sleep quality. Research shows that it uses neurological pathways similar to traditional sleep medications.
Borneol is in rosemary, mint, and camphor and has a minty herbal fragrance.
This terpene is a natural insect repellent, effectively avoiding infections transmitted by ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and other insects. What is remarkable about this terpene is, according to a study, it can eliminate breast cancer cells. It is also commonly utilized in Chinese traditional medicine, specifically acupuncture.
If you are going camping and do not want to sacrifice sleep, using a borneol-infused insect repellent spray or cream can help you catch more than a few winks.
This terpene gets its name from delectable Valencia oranges, which contain many. It is also typically used as an insect repellent due to its sweet lemony scents and flavors. Valencene is also a powerful skin protectant with anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. Thus, valencene is a good option if you are prone to skin allergies that mess up your sleeping schedule.
Present in the oil extracted from camphor trees, this terpene is often added to the formula of salves, balms, and vapor rubs. It helps ease muscle aches and joint pain. Plus, it treats skin problems like eczema and atopic dermatitis effectively.
Whether irritated skin or sore muscles are the culprits, a quick massage using camphor oil can help give you an amazing sleep. It can also help soothe a headache that keeps you from falling asleep.
Geraniol can be found in lemons, hemp, and tobacco. It has an aroma profile reminiscent of peaches, rose grass, and plums. It is a popular ingredient in body lotions and shower gels.
Moreover, geraniol has demonstrated significant potential as a neuroprotectant and antioxidant. It also has soothing effects that can help treat insomnia and increase sleep duration.
It is vital to remember that most research on terpenes and their effects on health involves animal studies and isolated molecules. However, myriad anecdotal research from aromatherapy patients supports the numerous health benefits of terpene compounds. Hence, more research is needed on how effective they truly are in optimizing the overall well-being of humans.
There are many ways you can benefit from terpenes and their sleep-promoting properties. You can safely ingest some types. Terpene products can be applied topically or inhaled. It is best to consult a medical professional to find out which formulation is best for you.
Furthermore, there are natural ways to include terpenes in your nighttime routine. You can purchase a lavender-filled pillow or lavender-scented case to enjoy the benefits of linalool. You can also diffuse essential oils in your bedroom and meditate before sleeping.
Having a cup of chamomile tea with slices of citrus fruits allows you to ingest sparse amounts of terpenes. Using a terpene-infused shower gel or body cream may also help you relax.
Remember, adequate sleep is key to staying healthy, so incorporating terpene products into your nightly routine may prove worthwhile in the long run.