Have you ever taken a walk through the woods and instantly felt a sense of calm wash over you? Many people turn to nature when the city becomes too overwhelming, and there’s actually a scientific reason behind this. Terpenes and secondary metabolites released by plants are beneficial to both physical and psychological health. Human ancestors grew up among these plants, and humans evolved to thrive under these conditions. With the rise of industrialization and the increasing number of humans who live in cities, individuals are losing touch with these essential terpenes.
Plants produce both primary and secondary metabolites. While primary metabolites play an essential role in photosynthesis, secondary metabolites are produced for defense purposes. Terpenes are classified as a secondary metabolite, and a lack of terpenes can lead to chronic stress and fatigue in humans.
By reconnecting with nature, individuals can bring themselves back to a state of homeostasis and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
If you’ve been feeling a bit "off" lately, a quick walk through a forested area may help. Forest bathing is a practice that has gained popularity in Japan, and the concept is simple: simply take a mindful walk through a forest and breathe in the beneficial terpenes released by a variety of plants.
A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2017 studied the effects of forest bathing on 128 individuals. Each participant was evaluated after a two-hour forest bathing session in Taiwan. The results of the study showed that participants exhibited significantly lower anxiety levels, as well as lower levels of tension, anger, fatigue, and sadness. 1
A meta-analysis was published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2017, focusing on the effects of forest bathing. The review included 20 studies and 732 volunteers. Throughout all studies involved, the blood pressure of volunteers who had participated in forest bathing was significantly lower than of those who hadn’t. 2 Forest bathing has also been shown to assist in promoting overall wellness, increasing heart health, boosting mood and energy levels, and reducing pain.
How Do Herbs Play a Role?
In this busy world, many city-dwelling people simply don’t have the time to take a walk through a forest. Maybe work is too demanding, or the closest forest is a few hours drive away. When you can’t go out into nature, the second best choice is to bring nature to you.
All plants produce terpenes, including herbs. Terpenes contribute to the flavor, scent, and color of all of your favorite herbs. When you smell a sprig of rosemary or admire the color of fresh mint, you’re really admiring the qualities of the combination of beneficial terpenes involved.
While brewing a mug of herbal tea or adding a handful of fresh basil to a dish can introduce more terpenes into your life, essential oils offer terpenes in a more concentrated form. Luckily, you can find an essential oil derived from nearly all of your favorite herbs and spices.
Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil
Cinnamaldehyde is a powerful antifungal and antibacterial terpene that can help prevent infections and boost the function of the immune system. Carophyllene boasts analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve pain from stiff or achy muscles and joints. Eugenol is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, and linalool can improve sleep by reducing feelings of stress and anxiety.
You can diffuse cinnamon bark essential oil throughout your home to reduce symptoms of terpene deficiency syndrome. If you don’t have the essential oil on hand, try adding a few cinnamon sticks to a pot of water on the stove. Turn the stove on low heat and allow the warm, soothing scent of cinnamon to permeate your home.
Basil Essential Oil
Basil essential oil is composed of a lengthy list of terpenes. Some of these are a-pinene, b-pinene, camphene, camphor, geraniol, limonene, linalool, and myrcene. No wonder the therapeutic effects of basil are so extensive.
Alpha-pinene is a therapeutic powerhouse, with the ability to help boost memory, prevent infections, and support the respiratory system. A-pinene is a terpene that is very common to coniferous trees, so using herbal essential oils that include this terpene is almost as good as taking a walk through a forest.
Camphene has anti-fungal, analgesic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic properties. Camphor helps maintain healthy circulation, prevent infection, improve respiratory function, alleviate stress and anxiety, and reduce inflammation.
Geraniol is known for being analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal.
Limonene effectively reduces stress and anxiety and can help fight infections, increase energy, alleviate pain, and boost the immune system. Myrcene is known for being anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antibiotic, antispasmodic, and sedative.
Add a few fresh leaves of basil to a glass of iced tea or diffuse basil essential oil throughout your home.
Fresh thyme is a beautiful, fragrant herb. The essential oil steam distilled from thyme is composed of p-cymene, a-pinene, a-thujene, linalool, borneol, and carvacrol, among others.
Cymene is antimicrobial, antifungal, analgesic, and is known to help improve memory and motivation. Thujene can help alleviate pain, prevent infection, and reduce inflammation. Borneol can relieve swelling, soothe sore muscles, ease feelings of stress and anxiety, and boost memory recall. Carvacrol can help relieve symptoms of the cold and flu, reduce inflammation, ease the pain of sore muscles, and prevent infections.
Thyme can be brewed into a fragrant herbal tea or diffused throughout your home.
Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary essential oil offers a range of therapeutic benefits due to its composition of 1,8 cineole, a-pinene, borneol, bornyl acetate, camphene, camphor, and limonene. It is commonly used to improve mental clarity, alleviate symptoms of respiratory conditions, fight off infections, improve digestion, and relieve feelings of stress and anxiety.
1,8 cineole is also known as eucalyptol and is known for its abilities to reduce inflammation, boost mental clarity, assist in healing minor wounds, ease the pain of sore muscles, and reduce symptoms of a cough, cold, and flu. Bornyl acetate has a pine-like aroma and can help to reduce inflammation, promote relaxation, and fight off damage caused by free radicals.
Rosemary essential oil is especially beneficial when added to a warm bath or diffused throughout the home. You can also infuse fresh rosemary into olive oil and vinegar or add a few sprigs to a pitcher of iced tea or lemonade.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil is composed of a mix of a-pinene, camphor, limonene, linalool, linalyl acetate, caryophyllene, and other terpenes. Lavender is known as a very soothing herb that can help alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety and improve sleep quality. Simply smelling a bouquet of fresh lavender can instantly make you feel calmer.
Caryophyllene is known for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and can also be used to reduce feelings of anxiety. Linalyl acetate is an ester of linalool and is known for its ability to reduce inflammation and ease anxious emotions.
A fresh bouquet of lavender can instantly brighten a room and gives you the chance to smell its scent every time you pass by. Lavender essential oil is especially effective when diffused throughout the home, added to a warm bath, mixed into a massage blend, or lightly sprayed onto your bed linens before going to sleep.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil ’s instantly recognizable aroma is all due to the presence of menthol, which makes up approximately 40 percent of the oil. Menthol can help reduce fevers, protect against infection, ease the pain of sore muscles and joints, stimulate hair growth, treat acne, and alleviate the pain of headaches.
Peppermint essential oil also contains menthone, which has both antiseptic and analgesic properties, and can help boost cognitive function.
Fresh peppermint leaves can be brewed into a soothing herbal tea or added to salads. Peppermint essential oil can be diffused throughout the home, mixed into homemade vapor rubs, and added to massage blends.
Using Aromatherapy to Reduce the Symptoms of Terpene Deficiency Syndrome
The essential oils distilled from fresh herbs offer a wide range of terpenes and healing properties. A walk through a forest exposes you to many different terpenes produced from a wide variety of different plant species. When using herbal essential oils to eliminate the symptoms of terpene deficiency, blends of oils are often more helpful than a single oil. Essential oils have synergistic effects, meaning that combining oils can actually increase the efficacy and therapeutic benefits of the oils themselves.
Taking a walk through nature can expose you to thousands of different terpenes. If you are experiencing symptoms of terpene deficiency, more than one oil is going to be necessary to alleviate those symptoms.
Whether you’re taking a personal aromatherapy diffuser on-the-go or diffusing your own favorite blend of essential oils throughout the home, essential oils derived from herbs and spices can help alleviate the symptoms of terpene deficiency syndrome.
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