Terpenes are organic aromatic hydrocarbons found in plants. When you hear the word Terpene you most likely think of hemp or cannabis. It is only recently that this term has become widely used thanks to the explosion of the hemp and cannabis industry. While terpenes are found in Hemp and Cannabis plants, they occur naturally in almost all plant life. Terpenes are what make a plant smell the way it does, but they also serve other purposes. Some plants use terpenes as a deterrent, giving off a scent that will ward off any insect or animal that might want to eat it. Other plants may use terpenes to attract pollinators, ensuring the plant’s continued survival. Terpenes are also the primary organic compounds that make up essential oils and give them their unique aromatic profiles. Here are three of the most common terpenes that you most likely smell every day:
Limonene - this terpene is one of the most abundant terpenes in nature, found in the skin of citrus fruits like lemon, oranges, and grapefruit. These citrus fruits utilize this terpene as a deterrent, which is why you will find limonene in a variety of botanical insecticides and repellents. It is characterized by a strong citrus smell and can be found in many household items, from cosmetics to cleaning products to foods and essential oils.
Linalool - characterized by a distinct floral scent reminiscent of lavender, this terpene can be found in over 200 types of plants. In fact it is so common that the average person will consume about 2 grams of linalool per year just by consuming a regular diet. It can be found in a majority of scented hygiene products as well as various household cleaning products. It is a predominate terpene in many floral essential oils including lavender (of course), coriander, and rosewood.
Pinene - there are two types of Pinene, beta-pinene and alpha-pinene. Alpha-Pinene is officially THE most common terpene in the natural world. If you love the earthy smell of pine you will be a fan of this potent terpene’s aroma. Found predominantly in pine and conifer trees (among other plants), pinene serves an important purpose to these trees by stunting the growth of unwanted bacteria. This is one of the strongest smelling terpenes and is the predominant aromatic compound found in various cooking herbs and essential oils including rosemary, frankincense, and sage.