Terpenes and essential oils have a lot in common, but they're not the same thing. Are terpenes essential oils? Here's everything you need to know.
Are terpenes essential oils?
In short, no. Terpenes are not essential oils. Essential oils are the concentration of many natural compounds, including hydrocarbons (like terpenes), ketones, oxides, phenols, lipids, and alcohols. With that said, terpenes make up essential oils, but essential oils are different since they contain the full essence of the plant.
What's the difference between terpenes and essential oils?
Take lavender essential oil, for example. It's a concentration of the lavender plant made into liquid form, just like orange, juniper, tea tree, and other essential oils. You get essential oils from the distillations of plants and fruits. The chemical makeup of each individual essential oil makes its smell and the interactions of the body that go along with it.
Terpenes are where essential oils get their scents, though. The distillation and extraction process is a lot more complicated compared to the process used with essential oils. A terpene has to be isolated from all the impurities and substances in a plant, while an essential oil distills all of the major components. A major influx of public notice for terpenes occurred due to their medical properties: stress relief, anti-inflammation, and a reduction of anxiety. The most common and well-known terpenes are beta-caryophyllene, pinene, myrcene, limonene, and linalool; even though there are over 20,000 existing terpenes.
Terpenes Vs. Essential oils — Final Thoughts
In simpler terms, terpenes are just tiny components that make up an essential oil. In essential oils, terpenes are responsible for certain flavors, medicinal effects, and aromas, but many individual terpene isolates together along with different plant-based compounds make up an essential oil. Just like how romaine lettuce is a single ingredient in a loaded salad, the myrcene terpene is just one ingredient in juniper essential oils. Terpenes and essential oils are not the same thing.