Pepper. Parsley. Peppermint. The one terp to rule them all?
Sure, it smells and tastes peppery and citrusy. But research suggests alpha-phellandrene benefits your health in many ways, too, making it a useful weapon in your brand’s arsenal against ailments.
Do you know what those benefits are? Do you know how you can use this non-cannabis derived terpene to bolster your brand and scale it?
After this post, you’ll have the knowledge you need to harness the power of alpha-phellandrene in your products.
Let’s take a look!
Alpha-phellandrene belongs to a broad chemical family of compounds called terpenes.Terpenes are a family of chemical compounds found commonly in nature. Terpenes give plants their distinctive smells.
Alpha-phellandrene is the main component of the essential oil from Eucalyptus dives, a broad-leafed peppermint tree of the Myrtaceae family of plants. It’s a natural compound called a monoterpene, meaning it has one terpene building block within its structure.
Alpha-phellandrene and its isomer, beta-phellandrene, are both natural compounds we often refer to collectively as phellandrene.Double-bond isomer just means that alpha-phellandrene and beta-phellandrene are slightly different versions of the same chemical compound, with similar chemical composition and chemical properties.
Brands in the perfume and flavor industries use alpha-phellandrene to give products the smell or taste of black pepper or spice and citrus(1). In addition to its use as an aroma and flavorful food additive, alpha-phellandrene is interesting to researchers in the cannabis industry because it is a terpene.
Researchers who want to make better, more specially-purposed strains of cannabis are very interested in organic compounds like terpenes due to the entourage effect(2). The entourage effect refers to the possibility that terpenes like alpha-phellandrene, naturally present in cannabis, may act chemically in combination with cannabinoids like THC and CBD to enhance the potency and experience of cannabis, as well as the aroma and therapeutic benefits of different strains.
Other terpenes likebeta-caryophyllene,alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene (the 2 isomers of pinene) are also of interest for their possible contributions to the entourage effect. Creating designer strains with different terpene profiles could be one way to personalize the cannabis experience to fit the mental and physical needs and preferences of each consumer.
Alpha-phellandrene is a multifunctional organic compound approved for use by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA)(3). In addition to its ability to enhance the experience of cannabis and make perfumes smell good, it has many potential health benefits. These include potential immune stimulatory, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antinociceptive (pain-reducing) qualities.
In a scientific study published in the journal In Vivo, researchers at the Graduate Institute of Chinese Medicine treated mice with doses of alpha-phellandrene or olive oil and compared the effects of each treatment(4). The researchers found more immune cells in the blood of the alpha-phellandrene mice compared to the olive oil treated control mice, indicating that alpha-phellandrene may have immune stimulatory properties(4).
Many terpenes like alpha-phellandrene seem to work as anti-fungal compounds. One study showed alpha-phellandrene was able to inhibit the growth of Penicillium cyclopium, a fungus that is harmful to tomatoes in the agricultural industry(5).
Bodily inflammation causes harm in a variety of ways, from contributing to the risk of cancer reactivation after remission to sustained inflammatory bowel disease.
In one scientific investigation, scientists treated rats with alpha-phellandrene first and then another drug that causes inflammation. In the alpha-phellandrene treated rats, there was less movement of immune cells associated with inflammation through the body(6). From these preliminary data, we can infer alpha-phellandrene may have anti-inflammatory properties.
Cancer cells are versions of normal cells that have lost the ability to self-destruct when they malfunction. When a healthy human cell detects a malfunction in one of its parts, the cell is programmed to undergo cell death, called cell apoptosis. Cancer cells cannot successfully destruct, and so they keep growing, eventually causing damage to the entire system.
One scientific study incubated human liver tumor cells with alpha-phellandrene and then looked at the cellular building blocks and messengers that changed after treatment. The scientists noticed that some things that changed after alpha-phellandrene treatment were cell components associated with cell apoptosis(7).
Alpha-phellandrene may have anti-cancer properties if it is able to consistently induce or stimulate cell apoptosis. More research will unveil possible anti-tumor potential of alpha-phellandrene.
The human experience of pain during injury is the result of many complex chemical signals in the nervous system. Researchers purified alpha-phellandrene and then observed whether the compound was able to interact with known chemical signalers of the body's pain response. When they detected a chemical reaction, the scientists concluded alpha-phellandrene may act as a pain-reducing chemical within these systems(8).
Alpha-phellandrene had pain-reducing potential in these test tube-like experiments, and the researchers concluded it may also act upon the glutamatergic, opioid, nitrergic, cholinergic and adrenergic systems.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again:
Too much of anything (even water) can cause irritation or discomfort.
So, follow our instructions and use caution when consuming alpha-phellandrene or using it topically to avoid skin irritation and upset stomach caused by overuse(9).
Like the other terpenes we’ve discussed, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has approved alpha-phellandrene for use in flavoring agents and related substances in safe doses(3).
Terpenes like alpha-phellandrene have the potential to revolutionize the cannabis industry, with different terpene profiles contributing to specialized strains that fit the needs of different consumers.
In addition to its flavor profile and fine aroma, alpha-phellandrene seems to have therapeutic potential as a medical compound. Preliminary studies suggest it may stimulate the immune system and work against harmful fungi, some cancer cells, and pain signaling in the nervous system. Future research and clinical trials will shine more light on the potential benefits of alpha-phellandrene.
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