Your Basket

Shipping & taxes calculated at checkout

Checkout - Total:

2 min read / 8 December 2021 / Caitlin Devlin

The role of terpenes in plants and essential oils

You may not know it, but terpenes are essential part of your favourite fragrances.

You may have heard the word ‘terpenes’ used in reference to essential oils before. But what exactly are terpenes, and what kind of role do they play?

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are a major constituent of essential oils. These organic compounds are known to give scent, flavour and medicinal benefits to various plants, and in recent years have begun to be investigated for their medicinal properties.

Many of the benefits of essential oils come from the benefits of the terpenes in the plant material, as does much of the scent.

You may have heard of some common terpenes such as limonene, pinene, and linalool.

What are terpenes good for?

Terpenes have several important roles in nature. As stated, they give the plant its fragrance and flavour, but they also play a part in the plant’s protection.

Terpenes can deter animals from grazing and prevent damage to the plant, and they can also act as a part of a plant’s immune system and guard against germs and infection.

Terpenes don’t just repel threats though; they can attract pollinators to the plant and help it to spawn elsewhere.

These days, isolated terpenes are commonly used by perfumers and food manufacturers to add scent and fragrance to products.

Bush daisies in the sun

Are there different kinds of terpenes?

The most common kinds of terpenes to find in essential oils are monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes.

Monoterpenes are considered by many in the aromatherapy community to be more stimulating and have been studied for their antiviral abilities.

Sesquiterpenes are considered more relaxing and have been found to play a role in regulating the body’s response to environmental stress.

What is the difference between terpenes and terpenoids?

Many people use the words ‘terpenes’ and ‘terpenoids’ interchangeably, but they are actually two separate things entirely.

Terpenes are the natural form of these compounds that exist in the plant. When the plant dries, these compounds oxidise and become terpenoids.

What is terpeneless oil?

Terpeneless oil is oil which has had its terpenes removed via fractional distillation.

Other oxygenated compounds also contribute to the scent and benefits of oils, and some oil producers believe that terpenes don’t keep well over long periods of time, reducing the potency of the oil.

For this reason some people prefer to produce or use terpeneless oil.

In summary:

  • Terpenes are organic compounds that give scent, flavour and benefits to plants.
  • They protect the plant in a number of ways.
  • Terpenoids are formed when a plant dries and the terpenes oxidise.
  • You can also buy oil that has had its terpenes removed via fractional distillation.

Shop our essential oils here.

You might also like to read

How to Choose the Right Waxes for Your Candles and Wax Melts

4 min read / 11 April 2024 / yasmin sharp

How to Choose the Right Waxes for Your Candles and Wax Melts

Learn how to select the ideal wax for your candle and wax melt projects, considering factors like type, eco-friendliness, and fragrance retention.

Is Paraffin Wax Vegan?

3 min read / 2 April 2024 / yasmin sharp

Is Paraffin Wax Vegan?

Discover whether paraffin wax and its candle derivatives align with vegan principles, alongside exploring alternative vegan-friendly candles.

How To Carry Out A Burn Test

4 min read / 29 March 2024 / yasmin sharp

How To Carry Out A Burn Test

Learn how to conduct a burn test on your homemade candles to ensure quality, safety, and optimal performance.

What Are Candle Wicks Made of?

3 min read / 22 March 2024 / yasmin sharp

What Are Candle Wicks Made of?

Discover the materials and science behind candle wicks, from wooden to speciality types, and their crucial role in candle burning.

Parents playing with their child.

5 min read / 20 March 2024 / yasmin sharp

Are Essential Oils Safe to Use Around Children?

Explore the safety of using essential oils around children, covering everything from dilution guidelines to the benefits and risks involved.

Pregnant woman holding her belly with both hands.

6 min read / 20 March 2024 / yasmin sharp

How to safely use essential oils whilst pregnant

Discover the safe way to use essential oils during pregnancy, alleviating common symptoms while ensuring your well-being.

How to Choose the Right Wick Size for Candle-Making

3 min read / 19 March 2024 / yasmin sharp

How to Choose the Right Wick Size for Candle-Making

Learn the essentials of selecting the right wick size for candle-making, focusing on diameter, wax type, and additives.

Do Essential Oils Have Phthalates?

4 min read / 12 March 2024 / yasmin sharp

Do Essential Oils Have Phthalates?

Explore the truth about phthalates in essential oils and how to choose safe, quality products.

Outstretched hand in a wooded area

7 min read / 4 March 2024 / yasmin sharp

How to Use Essential Oils to Boost the Immune System

Discover natural ways to enhance your immune system using essential oils with proven health benefits.

Medical Disclaimer

The content in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of medical advice. Please consult your personal physician for any advice or treatment regarding specific health questions. Neither the article editor, writer, nor the organisation of Nikura takes any responsibility for possible health consequences following the information given in any article. All readers should consult their physician before taking any advice given within these articles.

We use strictly necessary cookies to personalise your site experience. You can learn more here.