Terpenes are compounds in particular flowers and plants that give them their unique scents. One of the functions they serve for flowers is warding off predators. In our world, many use terpenes to create essential oils for aromatherapy because of their fragrances, but they’re also ingredients in disinfectants, food flavorings, and cleaning products.
As the industry of using terpenes grows, the need to know more about them also does too. There are just so many types of terpenes, each having distinct characteristics. That’s why it’s essential to understand what they do and how they differ.
The featured terpene today is para-cymene.
Also known as p-cymol or p-isopropyltoluene, para-cymene is a terpene found in over 100 species of plants and fruits, including bergamot, oregano, grapefruit, raspberries, and anise. Many companies use para-cymene to flavor food and drink and as ingredients in cosmetics and perfumes.
Some describe para-cymene’s smell and taste as citrusy and sweet, though others say it smells like lemons and aged wood. When extracted, the essential oils containing para-cymene have a colorless to pale yellow appearance.
Para-Cymene Health Benefits
Researchers studying terpenes found that para-cymene has various health benefits. Some of these beneficial properties are:
Scientists found that para-cymene has anti-inflammatory properties by applying it topically. Their study involved inducing inflammation in lab mice with carrageenan and then using para-cymene on the affected areas twice a day. They found that the terpene successfully decreased the swelling and inhibited nociception, the central nervous system’s pain response.
Related to the previous study, para-cymene also has analgesic properties, making it effective as a painkiller. Researchers did a set of tests involving male mice. After giving them para-cymene beforehand, the researchers injected the mice with carrageenan to induce swelling and also gave them acetic acid separately to cause stomach pain.
The test results showed that para-cymene could suppress the pain responses of both the swelling and the stomach pain. It also showed that the compound had low toxicity even in high concentrations, further proving its potential as an analgesic.
Para-cymene and many other terpenes possess antibacterial qualities. The compound inhibited their spread and growth when mixed with E.coli, Streptococcus mutans, and Vibrio parahaemolyticus. These bacterial strains can cause diarrhea, tooth decay, and cholera.
Since para-cymene can stop bacterial growth in these strains, companies could use it in food safety, especially for products in developing countries.
Several fungi can cause different diseases, such as thrush and ringworm. Scientists tested the effectiveness of para-cymene in thyme by using them on different strains of fungi. They placed the fungi in isolated glass chambers and exposed them to para-cymene in vapor form.
They found that the terpene was potent against Candida, making it a potential candidate as a safer alternative against chemical mold killers and fungicides for plants.
Free radicals cause degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s. Many foods contain antioxidants to fight free radicals and slow or prevent these diseases. Using these foods with high para-cymene content, scientists tested the compound’s potential antioxidant properties on mice.
By treating them with doses of para-cymene and dissecting them afterward, scientists discovered that the compound decreases the rate of lipid peroxidation within their brains. Lipid peroxidation is the process where free radicals attack the body’s lipids, forming lipid peroxides that can cause cell death in high concentrations.
A decreased rate of lipid peroxidation shows that para-cymene has the potential as an antioxidant, though scientists need to conduct more studies before making any conclusions.
6. Diabetes management
Currently, there is no cure for diabetes, though there are several ways to manage the disease. Many medicines help sufferers improve their insulin resistance, reduce oxidative stress, and regulate their glucose levels. However, because most come in drug form, which the body can build a resistance to, there’s been a push for more natural and low-toxic alternatives.
Scientists did experiments with diabetic rats by giving them para-cymene in different dosages. After studying the groups, they found that the para-cymene prevented diabetes from progressing and even reduced oxidative stress and liver injury. Though they need to conduct more tests, this study showed para-cymene’s promising potential to help manage diabetes.
There are many forms of cancer, each with its range of complications that could be difficult to treat. Because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, scientists wanted to test its effectiveness against tumors.
Using lab-grown cancer cells, they treated them with para-cymene in different doses and studied the results. Para-cymene was toxic to the abnormal cells but left the healthy cells alone. Through these culture tests, scientists suggest that para-cymene can effectively prevent tumors and metastasis.
A Wonder Terpene?
While there are currently no human trials using para-cymene, the results of several lab tests show that companies can use the terpene in health and food safety. Not only does it work through topical applications, but it’s also effective in vapor form.
Scientists still need to conduct more studies, but it’s clear that para-cymene has many benefits and could work as a natural alternative treatment for a host of medical ailments.