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Terpene Profile: Farnesene

Farnesene is an umbrella term for six different sesquiterpenes which are all chemically similar. There are two types of farnesene: alpha (a) and beta (b), both of which are naturally-occurring in a variety of different plants.

A-farnesene and b-farnesene are isomers, only differing by the location of one double bond. Two a-farnesene stereoisomers occur naturally in nature, while one b-farnesene stereoisomer occurs naturally.

A-farnesene is found in the skin of apples, and when an apple begins to rot, the browning of the skin is caused by the oxidation of a-farnesene.

On the other hand, b-farnesene is found in a variety of plants, such as potatoes, and can act as a pheromone that repels insects. 1 It is also released by aphids (small insects) when they are dying to warn other aphids of danger. 2

Farnesene is an analog of farnesol and is found in a variety of natural sources, including hops, ginger, turmeric, ylang-ylang, and German chamomile. 3 It is known to have anti-inflammatory, calming, antispasmodic, antibacterial, antifungal, and sedative properties.

Farnesene Sesquiterpenes

Sesquiterpenes are terpenes with 15 carbon atoms that are built from three isoprene units. They are less volatile than monoterpenes and often have stronger aromas. Sesquiterpenes are known for their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and over time, they oxidize into sesquiterpenols. 4

These particular terpenes are heavier than monoterpenes and tend to appear at the end of the distillation process. They are often found in roots, resins, and woods and tend to be colorless and insoluble in water. 5

Some essential oils high in sesquiterpenes include cedarwood, vetiver, spikenard, sandalwood, black pepper, myrrh, ginger, and patchouli.

Uses for Farnesene

Prevents Tooth Decay

A 2013 study published in the Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences studied the ability of extracts found in Eucalyptus globulus , the Tasmanian blue gum tree to fight tooth decay.

The study found that the presence of a-farnesene contributed anticariogenic properties, which can be used to fight the carcinogenic bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus that cause tooth decay. 6

Promotes Healthy Digestion

Farnesene is known to have carminative properties, meaning that it is particularly helpful for relieving spasms in the bowel that cause cramps, flatulence, and other digestive discomforts. 7

Additionally, farnesene has been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria. In doing so, it assists the body in returning to homeostasis by eliminating harmful bacteria, in addition to regulating levels of healthy bacteria.

For example, Candida albicans naturally occurs in the body and is essential for optimum health. However, too much of this bacteria can interfere with other helpful bacteria colonies and cause yeast infections. Farnesene is helpful in this situation because it has been shown to rebalance bacterial levels in the digestive tract. 8

Repels Insects

As mentioned previously, farnesene naturally occurs in plants to ward off insects. Because of this, it is an effective natural insect repellant. 9

Alleviates Stress and Anxiety

Sesquiterpenes, in general, are known to be calming and can help soothe the mind and balance the emotions. Additionally, its sedative properties can help promote a good night's sleep, especially for individuals who struggle to fall or stay asleep.

Conclusion Farnesene

In addition to its health benefits when it's found naturally in essential oils, a-farnesene is also used as a flavoring agent, with a floral, woody, vegetable flavor.

B-farnesene is often added to lubricants, greases, personal care products, and plastic and rubber products. 10

Because farnesene occurs naturally in hops, small traces of it can be found in beer that has been dry hopped with a variety of hops that contains farnesene. It has a woody, citrus, floral, herbal aroma and gives some beers a delightful scent. 11

Try adding in some farnesene-rich essential oils like ylang-ylang or ginger into your daily routine and experience the health benefits this terpene provides.

These essential oils can be used topically after dilution with a carrier oil or aromatically in a room diffuser or personal aromatherapy diffusers.

    • Classification: Sesquiterpene

    • The chemical formula for farnesene: C15H24

    • Molar mass: 204.357 g/mol

    • Melting point: < 25 °C

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