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  • Jere Folgert

Garlic and Terpenes

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

What Are Terpenes? Terpenes are organic compounds, produced by plants, that provide specific aromas to that plant. In other words, Terpenes are the organic compounds in plants that give them an aromatic smell. Many of us have described a smell or taste as "piney" or "citrus"? What you are describing is terpenes. Terpenes not only give off a smell they also attract bees and other pollinators and have the potential to discourage wildlife foragers. Garlic for example, when broken or chewed releases a flurry of overwhelming smells and tastes. Do you have strong feelings about garlic? It is all in the terpenes. Garlic’s smell (and taste) is actually a combination of terpenes.

Terpenes are found in virtually all plants that have a scent. Yes, the scent can be nasty or pleasant. From garlic and roses to spruce trees, mint, and zinnias, the aroma of virtually every plant is due to the presence of naturally-occurring terpenes within its plant structure, which includes the leaves, outside bark, flowers, bulbs or fruit. In the garlic world, Allium sativum also produces terpenes with fungistatic properties. The major terpenes synthesized by the garlic plants were nerolidol and terpinolene. Apparently, garlic strains are usually heavy on myrcene — an earthy, spicy terpene that may explain some of its powerful, heavy-hitting effects. Virtually all plants apparently evolved in such a way that their aromas either attract pollinators, repel predators, or both. Terpenes are often identified by gas chromatography. Terpenes are compounds found in plants that give them their distinctive smells.

Humans have created "fake" smells using petroleum. Yes, smells and flavors have been derived from crude oil. Isoprenes are considered volatile liquid hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum. If you were to drink a glass of orange juice 50 years ago, likely that the juice was real, fresh-squeezed and organic. Today, if you were to scrutinize the labels of some "orange juices", you may find that the juices aren’t authentic, and manufacturers legally add flavors created in labs to replicate the same citrus taste. Terpenoids and isoprene, the building block molecules of terpenoids, escape plants and comprise a consequential component of atmospheric chemistry.

An example of a local company that uses garlic terpenes is Healthy Minded.

What Are the Terpenes in Garlic Cloves?

The terpene eugenol is typically found in garlic cloves. Eugenol is a light-colored maple syrup-colored liquid with a pungent taste and smell. Eugenol’s name is derived from Eugenia caryophellata, the former scientific name for cloves. Eugenol makes up over 80% of clove leaf oil and is commonly isolated from cloves themselves. This terpene is best known for its spicy, wood smell that’s a favorite among many when cooking. Eugenol terpene is a common ingredient in health and beauty products, cosmetics, perfumes, and food preservatives.

Other Terpenes Found in Plants

Myrcene: It's present hops, thyme, lemongrass, and mango. There's lots of therapeutic value of myrcene being researched. This terpene is an antioxidant, which helps reduce inflammation; it's also been shown to help with insomnia and pain as well.

Caryophyllene: This terpene exists in cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper and often has a spicy, peppery, woody odor. Apparently, research shows that this terpene is used for treating pain, anxiety and depression, and even stomach ulcers.

Limonene: Limonene provides a citrus-like aroma also referred to as lemony. It is found in citrus fruit rinds, but you can also find it in peppermint, juniper, and rosemary. Therapeutically, limonene apparently can help with stress relief by reducing anxiety and depression, while some research has shown it can help with pain, and inflammation.

Terpinolene: Terpinolene has a floral, herbal aroma and can be found in apples, green tea, cumin and other fruit. Terpinolene is an antioxidant and may have antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-cancer properties as well. It's may have an uplifting effect on mood and clear thought.

Pinene: Found in a number of herbs, like parsley, dill, and basin, Pinene is a widespread and abundant terpene in the world, also found in some pine trees. Pinene. It's shown promise in treating asthma, pain and inflammation, depression, and anxiety.

Linalool: Found primarily in lavender, linalool is associated with providing a calming effect -- and anyone with a lavender sachet or who enjoys lavender oils will tell you how effective it is on soothing the spirit.

Ocimene: This is a sweet-smelling terpene with herbal flairs found in mint, pepper, and some fruit including mangoes.

Ocimene may act as an antiseptic, an antiviral, an anti-fungal, and a decongestant.

Researchers are investigating terpene biosynthesis in different tissues (root, bulb, leaf sheath and blade) of in vitro-grown garlic plants either infected or not (control) with Sclerotium cepivorum, the causative agent of Allium White Rot disease. The terpenes identified in infected plants were nerolidol, phytol, squalene, α-pinene, terpinolene, limonene whose levels significantly increased when exposed to the fungus.

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