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Terpene Profile: Sabinene

Sabinene is a monoterpene available in the essential oils of Norway spruce, holm oak, nutmeg, Bay Laurel and the Clausena anisate tree of Sub-Saharan Africa. As a monoterpene, it is important to those who use essential oils, but it is equally significant to industrial firms specializing in food flavorings or fragrance production. This is because sabinene is the compound that brings that spicy kick to black peppercorns, as well as being a potent agent within carrot seed oil and tea tree oil. It is also quite fragrant with a medium-strength aromatic profile.

Those using these essential oils can benefit from understanding the role that sabinene plays in their effectiveness or benefits. Any essential oil is simply a concentrated oil featuring specific volatile and aromatic compounds found naturally in source plants. Monoterpenes are the most common and abundant compounds in essential oils, and sabinene is a monoterpene.

As one expert has said about monoterpenes, “most occur as complex mixtures, often of isomers difficult to separate. These essential oils have numerous actions, such as allelochemical functions between plants and between plants and predators. A role in wound healing was also observed.” 1

Though camphor is a nearly pure monoterpene, you will not find monoterpenes in great density in other natural sources. However, they can be found in higher concentrations in woodlands and forests. This is the underlying reason for the health and wellness trend known as forest bathing, in which an individual will spend time walking, meditating and doing breathing exercises in the woodlands. It is believed that the monoterpenes= deliver health benefits, in a sort of aromatherapeutic manner.

Sabinene Basic Information about Sabinene

Is there anything of specific interest relating to sabinene as a monoterpene? Its chemical name is 4-methylidene-1-propan-2-ylbicyclo[3.1.0]hexane, and the compound is noted for its strong organoleptic properties that include a unique scent. “Woody, spicy, citrus and terpy with green, oily and camphoreous nuances,” 2 describe its flavor type, yet other sources also describe it as having a scent profile that is tropical, oily, pine-like, herbaceous and dry with a “black currant accord”.

Sabinene is a colorless to pale yellow clear liquid and it is soluble in both water and alcohol. It is extracted via hydrodistillation as well as CO2 extraction. 3 It is quite widely used, and it is estimated that the average US consumer has an intake of around 14 micrograms per day in everything from flavorings to cosmetics and toiletries.

It is derived from many different plant species including those already mentioned, as well as a tremendous list of natural oils. From allspice to bay laurel oil and bergamot to Cananga fruit oil, it can be a huge part of many essential oils’ makeup. It is roughly 10% of any carrot seed oil and up to 69% of cassis bud oil.

It also considered a viable therapeutic and medicinal ingredient as well as offering very strong flavor and aromatic properties. It is most commonly used or blended with berry, citrus, mango, marjoram, nutmeg, pepper, raspberry, spice, tropical and vanilla scents or oils. It should not, however, be combined with juniper oils as this runs the risk of toxicity.

Sabinene for Human Health Sabinene

In its natural state, sabinene has a “strong radical scavenging” 4 nature, and this is why it is a component in many essential oils credited as antioxidants.

It is also noted as offering therapeutic benefits to humans, including its function as an:

  • Anti-inflammatory 5 - Studies noted its presence in the Oenanthe crocata L essential oil and counted it responsible for the oils anti-inflammatory capabilities.

  • Anti-Cancer compound 6 - Multiple studies looked at its effectiveness in combatting tumors in leukemia and found it effective.

  • Antioxidant 7 - This is the study that determined that sabinene had radical scavenging activities making it a potent antioxidant compound.

  • Antifungal – More than a dozen studies point to it as having fungicidal abilities.

It is also commonly used for skin inflammation and dermatophytosis. It has even proven itself to be a powerful antibacterial agent when used to combat gram-positive bacteria. When used in tea tree oil, sabinene is responsible for both the antiseptic and antibacterial behaviors of the oil.

Sabinene Sabinene as a Monoterpene in Essential Oils

However, and is so often the case with essential oils, it is the fact that they harbor so many terpenes and monoterpenes that allow them to provide their wide-ranging benefits. As already noted, laboratory studies have shown sabinene to be effective in many important ways, but it is also useful to look at it through the filter of monoterpenes and their benefits.

For example, one study noted that the sabinene content of tea tree oil is what makes that particularly popular oil such an effective anti-helicobacter, antiseptic and anti-bacterial ingredient. 8 Yet another shows that the sabinene content of a specific variety of Juniper allows it to be comparable to commercial antibiotics, meaning that it can contribute towards the antimicrobial properties of an essential oil. 9

As is so often the case with monoterpenes, the many studies tend to focus on the plant variants, and this proves that whether it is in trace amounts or as a huge component of a particular plant or oil, experts understand that there is something significant in the role of sabinene as a monoterpene.

Ranking as the most important component in any of the essential oils, monoterpenes have been repeatedly tested and proven effective. Though generations of holistic and traditional medicinal practitioners have sworn by these ingredients, it is only now that modern medicine and science are sitting up and taking notice. Capable of preventing and treating, or simply improving a long list of medical problems the key components of essential oils are now able to take center stage. 10

Sabinene is one of those significant compounds, and though it is popular for its fragrance and flavor profiles for industrial purposes, its medicinal properties are irrefutable too. When building your knowledge and use of essential oils, it is important to count on the benefits of sabinene for your therapeutic and aromatic practices.

Photo Credits: sirastock/, DaniVincek/, AmyLv/

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