Updated: May 7
The first recorded use of borneol as a treatment to improve heath was in 659 A.D. in the Tang Benacao during the Tang Dynasty (it was described as "bitter, acrid, and slightly cold, used to dispel pathogenic factors in the chest and abdomen"). In 1842, this terpene was named by French chemist Charles Frédéric Gerhardt.
The borneol molecule
Several research studies have revealed the wide range of potential benefits provided by the terpene borneol. Wellness benefits include bronchodilation, anticancer mechanisms, and anti-inflammatory effects.
A 2017 study entitled "Terpenes from Forests and Human Health" that was published in the journal Toxicological Research investigated the role of borneol in reducing inflammation within the lungs. The researchers found that borneol "alleviated acute lung inflammation by reducing inflammatory infiltration."
The study found borneol to be effective in reducing lung inflammation. Reported the researchers, "Borneol alleviated acute lung inflammation by reducing inflammatory infiltration, histopathological changes, and cytokine production."
In addition, the study found borneol to be potentially effective in treating certain types of pain and observed that it might play a role in treatment regimes "as an anti-inflammatory agent for neuropathic-pain."
The report also noted the acute anti-inflammatory properties of other terpenes, including BCP, pinene, limonene, cymene, linalool, and terpinene. The study's authors concluded that a variety of terpenes, including borneol, "have presented important results in cell and animal systems according to their anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, or neuroprotective activities."
A 2013 study entitled "Borneol Potentiates Apoptosis in Human Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cells" that was published in the journal PLOS ONE explored the ability of the borneol terpene to combat certain varieties of cancer.
The study reported that borneol is, in fact, "significant" in its ability to cause apoptosis in cancer cells. Apoptosis is the genetically pre-programmed and directed self-destruction of cancer cells. Wrote the study’s authors, "we demonstrated that borneol significantly enhanced...antiproliferative activity...by induction of apoptosis."
The study's authors concluded, "borneol strongly potentiates...apoptosis in cancer cells by enhancement of cellular uptake and activation of ROS-mediated DNA damage. Borneol could be further developed as a chemosensitizer...in treatment of human cancers."
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