Terpenes are organic, natural compounds that flavor our food, affect the way we see the world, and smell terrific
There are times when the smell, or even the thought of a favorite meal can set your stomach rumbling. Do you know why?
Humans identify food predominantly by smell. Certain feelings arise when someone anticipates their favorite meal. Those not-so distant recollections of spicy notes, zesty touches, and tangy tastes is deeply ingrained in your memory. The nose remembers those terpenes as belonging within a certain food, dish, whatever. Hence, distinguishing margarita from other types of pizza is easy - the notable basil aroma guides our perceptions as easily as our eyes can. Another foodie example is peppermint tea relative to chamomile tea: the aroma wafting from the cup gives off a palpable impression before you’ve taken a single sip.
If you’re picky eater and can’t identify with food analogies, there are many others. It would be shocking, for instance, if you’ve never enjoyed the special smell pine trees, especially in the spring. That’s pinene, a very common terpene. In this case, it’s produced in pine needles, giving those pine trees that wonderful scent. Our taste receptors are very used to these organic terpenes because we’ve been smelling and eating them our whole lives.
The world is one big terpenes incubator
There are over 20,000 terpenes out there in there world, influencing perceptions with both flavor and aroma. They’re naturally occuring, organic, and are usually released into the air as easily identifiable smells. So, the majority of people could tell the difference between pineapples and strawberries just by walking by, rather than actually seeing the fruits, flowers, herbs, etc. Mother Nature created terpenes for two main reasons: to detract and to attract. Their smell and flavor stops herbivores from eating the plants while attracting beneficial pollinators like bees to fertilize the plants. At the end of the day, though, smelling and tasting great are just a bonus, not the main reason why terpenes are awesome.
Which terpenes effects are interesting to us?
Terpenes are non-psychoactive, which means that they won’t stimulate your brain activities. But, physical properties like anti-inflammatories and analgesics capabilities can greatly benefit health. Some people have even gone as far as to say that terpenes can prevent tumors. But, before worshiping them as the universal cure for all diseases, here is how terpenes may affect your body, in a nutshell.
Different terpenes have been well-established as calming, uplifting, anti-inflammatory, etc. But this is just scraping the surface of their potential. There are so many different terpenes out there; from those that fight internal infections, to the ones that help with seizures, all the way to our our old friend pinene - counterbalancing short-term memory loss. Besides reasons like these, people exposed to stress at work, ‘burnout’, or a general attitude of dissatisfaction may be interested terpenes because of their effects regarding natural pain, strelaxation, an immune system boost, as a sleeping aid, or even for a mood or perception aid.
How to flavor your life with terpenes?
Anyone can use terpenes to add an extra kick to food or drinks. Rewind back to the favorite meal analogy. If there’s an amazing aroma and flavor coming out of a certain dish, it’s more than natural to assume that it’s fresh and delicious. We all adore certain meals, arguably based on their flavor - influenced by terpene content. However, if a recipe calls for lemon juice, that lemony freshness is difficult to preserve in a cooked meal. However, including a citric terpene to the meal will highlight the dormant citrus, enhancing the taste and achieving that desired lemony outcome.
Can you feel it?
Besides becoming a cooking genius, terpene inclusion in the kitchen is fairly pragmatic. In addition to supercharging a dish with a flavorful punch, those terpene’s health effects come into play. If we’re still talking citrus, include a little of the terpene Limonene. In addition to sprucing up the food, it also elevates the mood. In short, citrus makes people happy. It immediately brings to mind the idea of cleanliness and a sweet, succulent taste. For these reasons, Limonene is a great choice for picking someone up if they feel down or depressed.
There you have it: terpenes can be included in meals to add an exotic, original flair. On top of great tastes, terpene inclusion can be used to affect perceptions, moods, and one’s outlook on life. With a little extra, even a favorite dish can be taken to the next level.