They give everything we smell and taste, well, their smell and taste.
Simply put, terpenes are the chemical compounds in plants, fruits and vegetables that give them their unique smells and tastes.
There are over 200 known terpenes, but there's a handful that are most common and easy to spot in your own plants when you know what to look for...or smell for!
Why is it important to understand terpenes? Because every plant will have a different terpene profile, and if you're a breeder, you want to find the terpenes that you like and try and breed them into your plants.
Knowing what smells and tastes you enjoy or want to grow for helps a lot in distinguishing which terpenes would be ideal.
Limonene can be found in just about every citrus fruit there is. Lime and lemon scents and flavors come from this terpene.
It is also known to contain anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, antioxidant, anti-anxiety, and anti-depressant properties.
Broken into two sub-terpene groups (Alpha and Beta-Pinene), Pinene is the most prevalent terpene in nature. And if you haven't already guesses, Pinene can be found in pine trees most often.
Pinene is also known to have anti-inflammatory and antibiotic characteristics.
This terpene is most commonly found in lavender, so you can assume what its smell resembles. Linalool is known to be a calming, stress reducer.
It also has anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, antioxidant, and anti-insomnia properties.
Myrcene is a unique compound in that it is found in fruits like mangos, but it is also found in thyme, basil and lemongrass. This terpene is also one of the most common.
Myrcene has shown to aid in pain and stress relief.
If you're a fan of beer, especially hoppy beer like an IPA, you'll be pretty familiar with this terpene. Alpha-Humulene is most commonly found in hops, one of the main ingredients in beer.
It has a distinctive hoppy, woody and earthy aroma, and is also found in sage, ginseng and ginger. Like many of the terpenes on this list, Alpha-Humulene has proven anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
While not as well known, Ocimene is just as unique and expressive in its terpene profile. Ocimene is found in tropical fruits like mango and kumquat and a sought-after aroma in hops for beers like juicy IPAs because of its sweet, tropical aroma.
And a unique trait that Ocimene has over other terpenes is its anti-fungal and antiviral properties which have made it an effective treatment for the SARS virus.
All about the terpenes
This is just be a handful of terpenes that you can find compared to the hundreds that exist. And that's part of the excitement!
With so many naturally occurring terpenes in the world a grower can spend years exploring different plant phenotypes, crosses and hybridizations. But if you're a grower that knows what you're looking for, you can save a lot of time.
As always, you can send us a message with your questions about terpenes and we'll do our best to help!