top of page

Study: Role of Terpenes in Human Health

Brought to you by the Higher Learning LV Cannabis for Anxiety seminar.

 

This article teaches students about the results from a detailed 2022 peer-reviewed research study about terpenes as bioactive compounds and how they might impact human health. The research also noted that terpenes show potential as natural food preservatives.


The learning goal of this article is a solid understanding of the multiple avenues of potential medical efficacy delivered by terpenes, including anticancer, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant benefits.

A woman walks thru the desert.
What are terpenes?

Role of Terpenes in Human Health Study

A January 2022 study entitled "Terpenes and Terpenoids as Main Bioactive Compounds of Essential Oils, Their Roles in Human Health and Potential Application as Natural

Food Preservatives" that was published in the journal Food Chemistry: X provided "an overview of current knowledge of essential oils (EOs) for application in pharmaceutical and medical industries, as well as their potential as food preservatives in the food industry."


"Terpenes are the major constituents of botanical essential oils and a particular type, monoterpenes, predominates essential oils."

The study explained that terpenes are the major constituents of botanical essential oils and that a particular type, monoterpenes, predominates essential oils (composing up to 90 percent of some essential oils). It noted that the second most common type of terpene in essential oils are sesquiterpenes. Other terpene varieties, including diterpenes, triterpenes, and tetraterpenes were "also detected in small amounts."


Role of Terpenes in Human Health Study Results

Role of Terpenes in Human Health. The study reported that prior scientific investigations over several decades "have reported that terpenes and terpenoids are essential in supporting human health." It noted that terpenes are the largest class of organic compounds produced by the essential oils of thousands of different plant species.


"Terpenes play a significant role in treating a number of diseases, including cancer, microbial infections, allergic reactions, problems involving inflammation, and pain."

The researchers noted that terpenes play a "significant role" in treating a number of disease states and conditions, including cancer, microbial infections, allergic reactions, problems involving inflammation, and pain—among others. Terpenes may also provide value in the treatment of neurological diseases of dementia due to their neurogenerative capabilities, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's.


The study noted that terpenes are used in a variety of industries, including "pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, food and beverage products, cosmetics, perfumes, synthetic chemicals, aroma and flavor additives, rubber products, and the biofuel industry."

A chart showing the many types of terpenes.
Many types of terpenes.

Anticancer Efficacy of Terpenes

The study explained that cancer is a regenerative disease that can affect any body part that results in "abnormal and uncontrolled cell growth." The researchers noted that cancer can "attack or spread to various other parts of the body and interfere with the normal function of homeostasis of its host cells."


The research report noted that cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the developed world and is second only to cardiovascular disease. Cancer is responsible for one in six human deaths and is responsible for nearly one-third of "all premature deaths occurring in adults (30–69 years)."


Antimicrobial Efficacy of Terpenes

The research noted that a number of studies have also indicated potential antimicrobial medical benefits of terpenes. The study's authors said that terpenes offer hope against infections caused by "sensitive and drug-resistant bacteria or other microorganisms" that can cause serious harm to human health. "Therefore, finding and developing new antimicrobial agents [such as terpenes] to combat multidrug-resistant organisms is essential," reported the research.


Terpenes serve an antimicrobial function for many industries, including "cosmetics, foods, and some health care products such as hair tonics, toothpaste, eyelid cleansers, hair restorers, skin soaps, and body lotions."

The study noted that a number of industries have employed terpenes for their antimicrobial function, including "cosmetics, foods, and some health care products such as hair tonics, toothpaste, eyelid cleansers, hair restorers, skin soaps, and body lotions." It reported that the terpene limonene synergises with the gentamicin antibiotic to prevent numerous types of bacterial infections. "In addition, a combination of limonene and ε-Polylysine demonstrates an additive and useful synergistic effect against E. coli, S. aureus, Bacillus subtilis and Saccharomyces cerevisiae," reported the study.

A sign at a shop in Los Angeles reads "terpenes."
Terpenes are all around us.

Anti-inflammatory Efficacy of Terpenes

The research reported that previous studies from recent decades have revealed that terpenes "are physiologically important to alleviate various symptoms caused by inflammation." It explained that inflammation is typically a protective response to "microbial infection and/or tissue damage" and that extreme inflammation can lead to "acute and chronic inflammatory diseases that cause excessive or long-lasting tissue damage."


Terpenes have been successfully employed in the mitigation and treatment of a number of conditions, including "respiratory inflammation, atopic dermatitis, arthritis, and neuroinflammation."

The study noted that terpenes have been successfully employed in the mitigation and treatment of a number of conditions, including "respiratory inflammation, atopic dermatitis, arthritis, and neuroinflammation."


The research noted that a number of specific terpenes have demonstrated efficacy for particular disease states related to inflammation, including the terpene myrcene's potential role in treating renal inflammation and the gastroprotective effects of limonene. It also reported that a number of other terpenes have shown anti-inflammatory powers, including alpha-terpineol, beta-pinene, alpha-pinene, and borneol (which did so involving antioxidant efficacy).

A list of 14 popular terpenes.
Many popular terpenes.

Antioxidant Efficacy of Terpenes

The study reported that terpenes play an important role in "reducing oxidative stress" and that, for this reason, they are frequently employed to prevent a number of chronic diseases. It noted that alpha-pinene exerts the strongest antioxidant effects of all terpenes, followed by limonene, nerol, terpinol, geraniol, and linalool. While myrcene provided antioxidant efficacy, it was reported to be the lowest of these terpenes.


Role of Terpenes in Human Health Study Conclusions

Role of Terpenes in Human Health. The study's authors concluded that the information they compiled "demonstrates that EOs [essential oils] and their main active constituent(s) [terpenes and terpenoids] are crucial in pharmaceutical and medical industries with several potential activities such as anticancer, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-allergic."


"Terpenes are crucial in pharmaceutical and medical industries with several potential activities such as anticancer, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-allergic."

The researchers stressed the need for additional studies that are necessary to understand the underlying biological mechanisms and properties of botanical essential oils and terpenes specifically. "Major bioactive compounds of EOs need to be clearly elucidated to improve their potential efficiencies in disease management," summarized the scientific investigation.


View the original study.

The Higher Learning LV text logo.

Did you enjoy Study: Role of Terpenes in Human Health? Are you a cannabis industry professional? Check out Higher Learning LV's Deep Dive Subscription that features dozens of long-form articles based on the latest peer-reviewed scientific research. Priced to accommodate personal and enterprise training budgets.

35 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page