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The Miracle of Monoterpenes

Posted by Eric Van Buskirk on

Thanks to rising public interest and promising scientific research, the global terpenes industry is expected to grow to a market size of just under a billion dollars by 2027. With more consumers than ever looking to purchase for infusion into food, beverages and vaporizer e-liquids, it's especially important to distinguish terpene functions for new hobbyists and DIYers.

Making use of the therapeutic potential of terpenes for your specific use case goes beyond getting on the computer to buy terpenes online. To maximize their utility, beginners should understand the key distinctions between the main terpene subclasses (i.e. monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes) and their respective interactions within the human system.

Is there a difference between terpenes and monoterpenes?
Monoterpenes are terpenes with a structure of ten carbon atoms derived from two isoprene units. Monoterpenes also consistently have at least one double bond. Because they react more quickly to heat and air sources, monoterpenes are less ideal for storing over long periods compared to other terpene subclasses.

Depending on your diagnoses, monoterpenes may be ideal for enhancing your cooking, vaping or aromatherapy experience.

In this post, we go over everything you need to know about monoterpenes. We’ll explore what distinguishes them from other subclasses, their presence in essential oils, and popular uses for monoterpenes among DIYers utilizing them for health care.

Nomenclature of Terpene Subclasses

Terpene hydrocarbons are expressed via a molecular formula of (C5H8)n, where n represents the number of isoprene units in subclass composition. The complete list of terpene subclasses ordered by molecular formula is as follows:

  • Monoterpenes (C10H16) 2 isoprene units, 10 carbon atoms
  • Sesquiterpenes (C15H24) 3 isoprene units, 15 carbon atoms
  • Diterpenes (C20H32) 4 isoprene units, 20 carbon atoms
  • Triterpenes (C30H48) 6 isoprene units, 30 carbon atoms
  • Tetraterpenes (C40H64) 8 isoprene units, 40 carbon atoms

There is a larger body of scientific literature around sesquiterpenes and monoterpenes than the latter three subclasses. This is likely because they both occur naturally in heavily researched plants like marijuana and hemp, along with other fruit, flower and herb sources.

Examples of Monoterpenes & Their Benefits

Monoterpenes are readily available in fruits and vegetables such as lemons, pine nuts, limes and mangos. You can also purchase them in isolates or strain profiles from the True Blue store.

Let's examine the characteristics and benefits of some of the most well-known monoterpenes below.

Limonene is easily one of the most recognizable monoterpenes on the market thanks to its aroma and flavor profile. Its antimicrobial and antioxidant benefits help to boost the immune response and neutralize free radicals in the body's cells to reduce or prevent damage caused by oxidation.

Studies show that a diet high in antioxidants like limonene (such as a Mediterranean diet) can reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

Pinene and Terpineol are examples of monoterpenes that function as bronchodilators, in that they help open up the airways and dry out mucus membranes. They also increase dermal penetration, making them an excellent choice for infusion into topical CBD products, or for use as homemade mosquito repellent.

Regular supplementation with pinene or terpineol during bouts of hay fever or influenza can help ease congestion in the nose, throat and lungs. They can also reduce fluid buildup associated with sinusitis, thereby reducing sinus migraines.

Myrcene is among the most abundant monoterpenes found in cannabis. Strains high in myrcene are commonly prescribed to patients struggling with anxiety disorders due to its anxiolytic properties. With regular supplementation of myrcene, users report a noticeable reduction of physical symptoms (e.g. shaking, elevated heart rate) as well as psychological symptoms (e.g. fear, panic) of anxiety disorders.

Myrcene also has unique and positive interactions with THC. First, it increases the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, allowing for greater THC saturation which extends its psychoactive effects. Myrcene also boosts THC's activation of CB1 receptors within the endocannabinoid system. The interaction by which terpenes and THC work synergistically is known as the Entourage Effect.

Examples of Essential Oils High in Monoterpenes

Monoterpenes are perhaps the easiest subclass of terpenes to make use of in aromatherapy, given so many of them are naturally found in essential oils. Examples of essential oil products with particularly high concentrations of monoterpenes include:

  • Citrus Essential Oils such as grapefruit, bergamot and wild orange typically come with concentrations of limonene and pinene as high as 95-97%. Because of the benefits of these monoterpenes, citrus essential oils are a good choice for infusion into DIY skincare items, such as face masks, bubble baths and cold cream (makeup remover.)

The benefits of citrus essential oils in aromatherapy include the easing of morning sickness. Many users also report energizing and/or cognitive stimulant effects.

  • Juniper Essential Oil contains pinene, sabinene and myrcene in average concentrations of 75%. This essential oil is favored for its direct topical uses such as dressing wounds, as well as nursing joint pain and sore muscles. Its benefits and unisex aroma profile make it a favorite among players of high-risk sports such as combat and X-Games athletes for deep-tissue massage. Simply combine a few drops of juniper essential oil with coconut oil and work into problem areas to feel a significant increase in circulation.

When inhaled with the use of a diffuser, juniper essential oil is effective at providing relief from bronchitis congestion and numbing chest pain from constant coughing.

  • Fir, Spruce and Pine Essential Oils contain moderate amounts of camphene with concentrations ranging from 40-47%. The unmistakable balsam, conifer and pine needle aroma profiles of these oils perfectly complement their utility as house cleaners, disinfectants and air fresheners. Personal uses for these essential oils include strengthening of hair follicles, controlling hair loss and as antibacterial agents on open wounds (e.g. snakebites).

Individuals diagnosed with mood disorders like depression commonly report sensations of calm and stability when using fir, spruce and pine essential oils for aromatherapy.

Terpenes are amazing. Nature is miraculous.



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