The Difference Between Natural and Synthetic Terpenes - Medical Terpenes
The Difference Between Natural and Synthetic Terpenes

The Difference Between Natural and Synthetic Terpenes

Terpenes are a diverse class of odorous and flavorful organic compounds produced by plants to serve as a deterrent against herbivores. They have a much more desirable effect on humans, with terpenes being a primary component of essential oils and have been widely used for flavoring and as an agent in homeopathic medicine.

While terpenes naturally occur in almost all plants throughout the world, modern technology has allowed us to produce these compounds synthetically. This article will compare the characteristics of naturally-derived terpenes vs. their synthetically produced counterparts. We’ll also weigh the pros and cons of each to better inform you before making a purchase.

How are terpenes naturally extracted?

Plants are subjected to a variety of processes to isolate valuable terpene compounds. Since plants only contain a small number of terpenes, a large number of plant materials are needed to produce a usable amount of terpenes.

The simplest method for extracting terpenes is through . In this method, the plant materials are placed in a vat of boiling water, which distills the organic compounds from the plant materials. The resulting vapor from the boiler travels up to a condenser which collects and condenses the vapor to liquid. The terpene compounds are then separated from the water, which results in a pure and undiluted substance.

Apart from steam distillation, some extraction methods use solvents to get the terpene out of the plants. In this method, gases like ethanol or CO2 are used to extract the terpenes from their base plant materials. This often yields greater amounts of usable terpenes compared to steam distillation. However, since the chemical compounds cause significant disturbance to the terpene compounds, the resulting yield is less pure than those distilled using steam.

Terpenes can also be extracted from plant materials using mechanical processes, the most common of which is the expression (cold-pressing) process. This method is usually used to extract essential oils from citrus peels. It entails puncturing the peels to rupture their oil glands. They are then mechanically pressed to squeeze out the oils from the peels. Since the resulting product will contain a mix of oils, juices, and solids, it will be placed in a centrifuge to separate these substances from one another. 

How are Terpenes Produced Synthetically?

Advances in technology have allowed laboratories to create a synthetic version of terpenes. Instead of extracting the terpene compounds from plant matter, synthetic terpenes are made by blending and manipulating certain chemicals to achieve an effect that is similar to natural terpenes.

This process usually starts by analyzing the chemical composition of natural terpenes in a laboratory and then formulating a chemical that simulates the same flavor and aroma that its natural counterpart has. This will also allow extractors to create the “perfect” terpene profile by manipulating the composition of the compounds to suit their needs better.

Also, since synthetic terpenes are produced in a lab-controlled environment, the end product has a more consistent quality compared to naturally-derived terpenes. This is because the chemical composition of fully plant-derived terpenes is affected by the weather, harvesting process, and where the plant was situated.

Natural vs. Synthetic Terpenes

While natural and synthetic terpenes are similar in makeup and their intended effects, each has profound differences over the other.

For one, synthetic terpenes are easier to mass-produce and thus are more affordable than natural terpenes. The synthetic compounds can also be manipulated to be more potent in taste and aroma. However, natural terpenes tend to be more structurally sophisticated than synthetic ones, giving a more subtle and complex aroma and flavor that can’t be replicated artificially.

There are also questions regarding the safety of synthetic terpenes, as our bodies may react differently to the more potent dose of synthetic terpenes compared to natural ones. Apart from that, the reproduced chemicals derived from the dilution, re-distilling, and reconstruction processes may create unnatural compounds that may be harmful to the body.

While further research is needed to understand synthetic terpenes better, the general consensus is that whole-plant derived, full-spectrum compounds are the best way to obtain the maximum benefits of terpenes.

Both are good, but keeping it natural is ideal

Both natural and synthetic terpenes are a good way to introduce terpenes to your day-to-day life. However, since the jury is still out regarding the safety and efficacy of artificial terpenes, you will be better off knowing that the terpene you will consume is all-natural and botanically derived. 

While current studies are pointing out the potential benefits of terpene usage on your health and wellness, more research is needed to prove the benefits of terpenes in general, so it is best to stay cautious and follow the dosage instructions to avoid complications.

For the best natural and botanically-derived terpene products in the market, head on over to Medical Terpenes today!