How exactly do terpenes work?

By now you probably know what terpenes are. They’re responsible for the aromatic qualities we associate with many plants. While terpenes don’t get you high, they can promote some health benefits that are pretty neat. 


Linalool has been used as an anti-inflammatory, stress reducer, and as a way to ward off mosquitoes. Alpha-Pinene has even been used as a memory aid. We don’t know about you, but we think that’s pretty fascinating! These nifty little hydrocarbons have the ability to influence our everyday life. So it’s only fair to wonder...exactly HOW do terpenes have these affects on our minds and bodies?

You might not have been aware of it, but your body has been interacting with terpenes since the day you were born. And while it may have seemed like a bunch of hocus-pocus back in the day, the science behind it is surprisingly simple. 

Terpenes are all around us!

Connecting to nature has long been associated with health and mindfulness. And in 1982 Japan even went so far as to introduce a national health program for “forest bathing.”

Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is the practice of immersing yourself in the forest atmosphere. In doing so you’re able to reap the physical and mental health benefits that nature has to offer. Dr. Qing Li is the author of Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness. In his book he says that forest bathing can give your immune system a boost, make you less anxious, give you more energy, stabilize your mood, and promote relaxation. But how does spending time in nature have this effect?

First, let me ask you a question?

Have you ever noticed how when you try to visualize a calming setting it’s often oriented around nature? Maybe it’s a calming walk through a garden, fishing at the lake, or even sipping a tropical drink by the ocean. Well, just like the Japanese practice of forest bathing, all of these scenarios involve terpenes!

Some common terpenes you’re likely to come across in the forest are alpha-pinene, limonene, myrcene, and b-caryophyllene. On their own, these terpenes have benefits ranging from congestion relief and soothed airways to pain-relief and elevated moods.

However, because you’re spending time in nature, you’re exposed to many different terpenes at once. This allows different terpenes to work in harmony, giving you even more benefits. 

All you have to do is take a walk in the woods and breathe in that fresh forest air. That’s it! 

So now we know that terpenes are natural and that they can be good for us. We even know that all it takes is just some nice, deep breaths to get them into our system. But that still doesn’t answer the question of exactly HOW terpenes are interacting with our bodies to give us these awesome benefits. 

Well, get your notepad out because terpenes interact with our bodies in a LOT of ways.

Terpene forest

How Terpenes Work

The original belief was that terpenes worked because our sense of smell is tied to the parts of the brain that control emotion. Following that line of reasoning, it makes sense that certain scents can affect our mood. But there’s actually a lot more involved than that.

Each terpene interacts with specific receptors in your brain to have different effects. Beyond that, each terpene can actually affect multiple parts of your brain and nervous system at the same time. That’s why some terpenes have multiple effects!

Let’s look at a few common examples.


  • This terpene is most known for its lavender-like scent. If you’ve ever used a calming lavender bath soak, you’ve probably experienced its delicate, floral scent. 
  • Linalool actually blocks receptors in your brain for glutamate--an excitatory chemical. This could be why linalool has been used for potential anti-epileptic benefits. 
  • This terpene also weakens the signals your brain receives from a chemical called acetylcholine. This chemical is necessary for muscle-contractions, and that’s something your body needs if it wants to walk or move at all. By just weakening the signal from this chemical, linalool is able to promote muscle relaxation and pain relief. 


  • Found in thyme, lemongrass, mangoes, basil and MORE, this terpene interacts with your brain in a particularly interesting way.
  • Myrcene has the unique ability to increase blood-brain barrier penetration. The blood-brain barrier is basically a filter that chooses what is allowed to get to the brain and spinal cord tissue. So if myrcene makes it easier for other substances to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, it greatly boosts the effectiveness of any other terpenes it’s being used with.
  • This makes myrcene one of the most powerful terpenes when it comes to the entourage effect. So if you’re manufacturing a product that’s designed to offer certain benefits, consider adding myrcene to boost its effectiveness!


  • This terpene is mostly found in conifer trees like pine. However, it can also be found in rosemary, eucalyptus, and even orange peels. 
  • In the past, pine needles were often used for medical purposes as bronchodilators, anti-inflammatories, antimicrobials, and as memory aids. But all along, it was really the terpene alpha-pinene that was promoting these benefits! To accomplish such a variety of benefits, alpha-pinene has to interact with several different parts of your brain. 
  • In one study it was found to have anti-inflammatory effects by suppressing certain immune cells in mice that contribute to inflammation. By inhibiting acetylcholinesterase it’s also able to promote stronger short-term memory. It’s also helpful in treating fungal infections because alpha-pinene is toxic to candida albicans. And that’s just some of the ways that this terpene interacts with your brain!

Alpha Pinene Terpene 

That’s why we love terpenes!

It’s only been within the last handful of years that terpenes have been in the public eye, and before that the research was still limited. That’s why all of the new research coming out about terpenes and their benefits is so exciting. That’s why WE keep conducting research too!

We want to keep exploring terpenes because they have amazing potential to improve our quality of life. Happiness and health are the natural state, so it only makes sense that we would work as closely as possible with nature to find solutions. 

One of our favorite phrases is, “Made by nature. Perfected by science.” Not everyone has the time or ability to go forest bathing and connect with nature. That’s where science comes in. Using terpene blends in innovative ways allows you to create products that give consumers a specific experience. And knowing exactly how those terpenes are interacting with the human body helps you determine what products will be most effective.

If you have questions about specific terpenes or terpene blends then be sure to follow us on social media to stay up to date with our blogs and products. And as always, feel free to contact us when you’re ready to enhance your products with terpenes. 

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