Terpenes are compounds in many plants and fruits, characterized by their intense aromas and flavors. They have various functions, such as attracting pollinators, deterring predators, and helping keep harmful bacteria away. The most common sources of terpenes include different flowers, citrus fruits, and herbs like thyme and sage.
Terpenes are the primary constituents of many essential oils and contribute to fruits and vegetables’ distinct fragrances and tastes. In addition to their aromatic properties, they have several benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer effects.
16 Facts and Figures on Terpene You Need to Know
Benefits and uses
Terpenes offer different benefits not just to plants but to people as well. Some of the areas where they can be utilized include:
1. In aromatherapy
Many use terpenes for aromatherapy, as they have mood-enhancing properties that can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. For instance, researchers found that limonene, a terpene found in most citrus fruits, uplifts mood and eliminates stress.
2. In essential oils
Essential oils containing terpenes have many benefits that make them popular for aromatherapy and personal care products. Terpene-rich oils can help reduce inflammation and function as painkillers, making them valuable for chronic pain or inflammatory conditions.
Some terpenes, such as citronellol and eucalyptus, are also effective at repelling insects, and their properties make them excellent alternatives to chemical insect repellents.
3. In medicine
Scientists have been studying the potential medicinal uses of terpenes. As previously mentioned, some have painkilling properties, such as beta-caryophyllene and linalool. Meanwhile, experts found that they have the potential to reduce pain and inflammation through their interactions with the body’s endocannabinoid and opioid systems.
Other terpenes like alpha-pinene and terpinolene have antimicrobial and antifungal features that qualify them as perfect alternatives for these types of medication. They also show great promise in fighting and preventing more severe conditions like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, where scientists experimenting with limonene found it can suppress and eliminate cancer cells.
4. In cosmetics
Because they give plants their unique scents, many cosmetics companies incorporate terpenes in their products. For instance, manufacturers use geraniol in perfumes, lotions, and lipsticks because of its rose-like scent.
Another terpene called farnesol also has anti-aging and skin-smoothening properties, which make them ideal for products like hydrating face masks. Nerolidol is also a common ingredient in the industry, which improves the absorption of other ingredients into the skin, making them more effective.
Terpenes Facts and Statistics
You can find terpenes almost everywhere in the natural world. Here are some terpenes statistics and facts you may not know just yet!
5. There are over 20,000 different terpene compounds found in nature.
Plants that contain terpenes grow and thrive in all sorts of conditions. Scientists found that some species that grow in areas without many resources, such as deserts, secrete terpenes to inhibit a competitor plant’s growth.
Plants are not the only organisms that contain terpenes. Certain insects like millipedes, moths, and beetles also produce them, as well as bacteria and fungi.
6. Some terpenes, like limonene, can make up more than 90% of the essential oil in certain citrus fruits.
While you can find limonene in many fruits, the highest concentrations are in the peels of oranges. Manufacturers extract the oil from the rind and distribute it in cosmetics, cleaning products, and insect repellants.
7. Pinene is one of the most abundant terpenes in all other natural plant life on Earth.
You can extract pinene from pine trees, flowering plants like lavender and juniper, and a wide array of rosemary, parsley, and basil.
Additionally, there are two types of this compound: alpha and beta-pinene. To differentiate the two, you only need to remember that alpha-pinene is oil and ethanol-soluble, while beta-pinene is ethanol and water-soluble.
8. Experts estimate the terpene market to reach $1.01 billion by 2028.
Due to increasing demand, the market projects that the terpene industry will develop at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 8.30% from 2021 to 2028.
Many industries use terpene in their products, such as resin for rubber, adhesive, paper, and pulps. Terpenes are also a staple in the food and pharmaceutical sector because manufacturers use them as added flavorings.
9. Different terpenes wheels give a visual overview of the compounds by flavor and source, much like a color wheel.
While there are different variations of the terpene wheel, one of the common characteristics is grouping similar flavors. An example is that eucalyptol and guaiol taste spicy, while linalool and beta-ocimene taste sweet.
10. Myrcene is considered the “Mother of All Terpenes” as it’s the most abundant compound in many flowers.
Myrcene synergizes other terpenes’ activities and helps your body absorb other ingredients more effectively. Its ability to work with other terpenes makes it a valuable compound for creating the entourage effect in particular flowers.
Extraction and Analysis
Much like other common components in production, there are more ways than one to extract and analyze terpenes. Here’s how companies collect terpenes from their source and why examining them is essential:
11. Steam distillation is the essential oil industry’s most common method to extract terpenes from plants.
The process passes steam through the plant, which causes the terpenes molecules to vaporize. The compounds then go through a cooling system, condensing into a liquid. Manufacturers separate the fluid to collect the resulting essential oil containing the terpenes.
The advantage of steam distillation is that equipment is reasonably inexpensive, making it ideal for even smaller brands to start their in-house manufacturing. It’s also possible to scale up for more extensive operations.
12. Terpene analysis in product development optimizes the terpene profile of a product for maximum efficacy.
Analyzing terpenes means that experts can understand the unique properties each one possesses and how they can work together to achieve desired effects. During this process, businesses can also determine if terpenes adversely impact the body, in what concentration, and if using it with another compound is possible.
The analysis is also essential due to possible contaminants in the products. By performing these steps during development, companies can maintain product quality and consistency that are safe for the market.
13. New research suggests terpene efficacy against COVID-19.
A Forbes article states that scientists from Israel found that a combination of terpenes could be more effective in treating COVID-19-related inflammation than corticosteroids. The terpene treatment reduced cytokine production by up to 90%, while corticosteroids only reduced it by 30-40%.
However, further research is required before confirming that the compounds can fully treat the virus.
Future of Terpenes
As researchers conduct more studies to uncover the potential benefits of terpenes in various industries, the market’s future looks promising. Here are some of the more recent findings that are worth noting:
14. Future in the food industry
Experts are constantly exploring the use of terpenes as flavorings and preservatives due to the increasing demand for natural and organic products. Using terpenes in food production and management could reduce the reliance on synthetic chemicals and additives, which makes the process more sustainable and eco-friendly.
15. Advancements in terpene extraction and analysis techniques
Terpene research focuses on developing more efficient and sustainable compound isolations. One is supercritical fluid extraction, which forces fluid to pressure and temperature above its critical point. This method causes the liquid and gas phases to be indistinguishable.
It also provides experts with a more detailed analysis of terpenes, which could lead to discovering more uses for the compounds. Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry are other processes that experts use for terpene studies.
16. Industry outlook and market forecast
In 2022, experts estimated the terpenes market to be worth around $693 million, predicting it to grow to $940.7 million by 2027’s end. The largest market is North America (30%), with Europe (25%) and China (25%) trailing behind.
Prices for terpenes products may also rise due to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.
Terpenes have a vast array of uses, many of them beneficial for your overall health and well-being. As the industry continues to evolve and scientists carry on with their research, they may discover more benefits or confirm their initial findings of terpenes’ potential as medicinal alternatives.
The advancements in extraction and analysis methods, a positive industry outlook, and an upward market forecast indicate that terpenes will continue to be an area of interest for many years.