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A Brief Guide to Top Terpenes Found in the Forest

Forest Bathing

Top Terpenes Found in Forests

Established anthropological records and extensive anecdotal evidence shows that humans have been heading out into forests for the health benefits they provide since the very beginnings of civilization. Today, after over a century of living primarily in cities, social attention is shifting back to forests and the health benefits that they can bring humans once more. You can try out the aromatherapy benefits with the Forest essential oil blend, packed with terpenes that we get from taking a deep breath around an abundance of trees.  pine trees in fog

Health Benefits of Forest Air

Studies exploring the practice of Forest Therapy—the idea of relaxing while walking through a forest—have collected extensive lists of the physical and psychological benefits from that these experiences can bring. Part of these benefits come from the sensory stimuli found in forests, especially when it comes to how compounds in forest air interact with the sense of smell. An important aspect of Forest Therapy involves breathing in the air in a wooded atmosphere. The air in the woods is rich in naturally-occurring compounds produced by trees for a variety of purposes essential to the long-term survival of the forest. One of the primary constituents of forest air are terpenes, which are also the most abundantly occurring plant's secondary metabolites, which are not essential for basic metabolic functions but guarantee a plant’s long-term survival in the face of often harsh conditions. Trees and plants produce over 40,000 different types of known terpenes, and each one has a special function. These organic compounds also have important applications in pharmacology and have been collected and applied in some of the earliest types of medicine.1 A deep inhalation of the forest atmosphere floods the lungs with a variety of terpenes that have the potential to address different aspects of human health. One of the top benefits these compounds can provide is soothing the limbic system and balancing hormone levels. Then, individual terpenes can function as anti-inflammatories, antibacterials, analgesics, and many other curative, therapeutic, or preventive agents. sun shining in forest

Top Terpenes Found in Forests Environments

Many studies have shed light on an extensive selection of benefits for mind and body that the terpenes in forest air provide. Much like aromatherapy, the high concentrations of organic compounds present in forest air introduce their benefits through the tissues of the lungs and bronchial tubes as well as the membranes of the olfactory epithelium. Some of the most beneficial terpenes found in forest air are outlined below.    green leaves


The crisp scent of a coniferous forest after the rain or the scent of pine cones crackling in a fireplace are both richly infused with a-pinene. Additionally, this special terpene provides the signature woodsy overtone found in eucalyptus, juniper, and frankincense essential oils.2 In clinical studies, a-pinene has been noted for its anti-inflammatory benefits. By suppressing the activation of proteins, a-pinene inhibited the inflammatory response in white blood cells. Though the test subjects were mice, anti-inflammatory activity is a signature characteristic of essential oils containing a-pinene. For example, rosemary essential oils have been known to provide relief to the digestive system and soothe inflammatory responses.3


Highly-valued in the perfume industry, borneol is partially responsible for the minty camphor-like aroma found abundantly in forest air. Essential oils high in borneol have been valued for their cooling sensation and capacity to reduce swelling. In the forest, borneol is produced by shrubs like mugwort, marjoram, and sage.4 Much like a-pinene, borneol is a potent anti-inflammatory. For example, a set of lab rats with induced-lung injuries showed significantly reduced signs of pulmonary inflammation after a small treatment with borneol.5 cleaning supplies


Among the most prolific terpenes found in forests is linalool. Additionally, most individuals will recognize this ingredient in many home fragrances, detergents, and cleaning products. Linalool smells a little floral and a bit like mint and pine, but overall it smells fresh and clean. While the best product is extracted from plants, this fragrance is often created synthetically for use in commercial cleaning products or detergents.6 When natural linalool is inhaled, it has a cooling and soothing effect on the lungs and bronchial tubes. A study performed at the Harbin Medical University Cancer Hospital in China showed that inhaling linalool relieved the inflammation generally caused by smoking cigarettes. Because of this, linalool may be a potential candidate for maintaining healthy respiratory function.7


Nothing smells “lemony fresh” without an explosion of the terpene limonene. As the name implies, limonene is the sharp and bright fragrance most noted when peeling an orange or slicing open a lemon. Limonene is an excellent disinfectant, but it is most valued for its impressive mood-boosting properties.8


Perhaps most noted for its abundance in cannabis, beta-caryophyllene (BCP) is also found in copaiba, cinnamon, ylang-ylang, and many other trees and shrubs. The fragrance and flavor of this terpene were well-established before anyone knew that it was also a cannabinoid.9 Cannabinoids can interface directly with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates immune function, pain reception, and inflammatory activities, among many other processes. BCP, in particular, activates the CB2 receptors and therefore has none of the psychoactive properties associated with other cannabinoids, making it a cannabinoid with extensive pharmaceutical potential. Experimental studies have suggested BCP promotes heart health, acts as an antioxidant, relieves inflammation, and maintains a healthy immune system function.10,11


Noted for its pungent aroma, myrcene is another terpene found in Cannabis sativa. This terpene plays an important role in the interaction between cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. Myrcene is abundant in Vepris macrophylla an evergreen tree found in the subhumid forests of Madagascar, and local cultures have been aware of the curative properties of this tree for a long time. star anise


With a pleasant smell vaguely similar to licorice, cymene is the terpene that makes anise, cumin, and eucalyptus aromatic and pharmaceutically beneficial. Cymene exists in various forms in different plants—p-cymene is the most abundant of all and the one with the most classified benefits.12


Forests featuring the Norway spruce and holm oak as well as many members of their family will have higher levels of sabinene than most. Sabinene also lends its fragrant properties to bergamot, nutmeg, and several berries. Essential oils high in sabinene have a place of importance in the perfume industry. In the pharmaceutical world, sabinene also maintains a position of esteem. As one of the most potent antioxidants in the natural world, sabinene has been the subject of multiple studies. The scientific community has shown that this terpene contains antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.13


One of the first plants cultivated for medicinal purposes, camphor was originally collected from the camphor laurel tree and valued for its highly pungent aroma. Camphor comes from a family of evergreen trees known for their aromatic qualities. It can be sourced from several plants, and each will produce a slightly different chemical composition and aromatic profile. Since it was first discovered a few thousand years ago, camphor has been applied to treating conditions of the respiratory system. Simply crushing the leaves of the tree and inhaling the terpenes released provided a range of health benefits in the past. However, modern refining and extraction methods increase the qualities of this terpene and present it in a variety of essential oils, balms, and decongestants.14

guy holding Electric Oil Diffuser up to giant tree Mammoth California

Staying Healthy with Terpenes

The value of terpenes is well-documented, and these beneficial compounds can be found abundantly today in pure essential oils used in a variety of natural remedies. When you diffuse essential oil into the air, you flood the atmosphere with a special selection of terpenes. You can use these essential oils topically after dilution with a carrier oil or aromatically in a portable diffuser like Forest MONQ. Now that you know how many terpenes are out there and the potent health benefits they provide, staying healthy with terpenes found in essential oils should seem more appealing than ever. Photo credits:  ionatanR/, OlgaDanylenko/, MolecularArts/, RobynMackenzie/,  DavizrPhotography/, NapalaiStudio/, QuinVaStock/, GalynaAndrushko/

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