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Are Terpenes in Hemp a Natural Antibiotic?

October 14, 2021 10 min read

Bacteria are the most abundant form of life on the planet and are essential to the well-being of every living thing. Bacteria help us digest food and plants grow, and they clean the soil and water and help cycle nitrogen and phosphorus, which are essential for life.

The majority of bacteria help us and the environment. However, some bacteria or the wrong bacteria in the wrong places can make us sick, create chronic rashes, or otherwise contribute to ill health.

The Limits of Traditional Antibiotics

Traditional or synthetic antibiotics are life-saving in an emergency. However, there are two problems:

  1. They are indiscriminate and kill beneficial bacteria while they take care of the problem ones.
  2. The overuse of antibiotics has created drug-resistant harmful bacteria.

For example, a healthy digestive system is filled with all sorts of helpful bacteria that help break down our food and extract nutrients. When we take a round of antibiotics, some beneficial bacteria are destroyed, creating an opportunity for harmful strains to expand their residence. This transfer has long-term health implications as researchers find that an imbalance of gut bacteria can contribute to a long list of health problems.

Also, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are harder to treat and contribute to prolonged hospital stays and higher mortality worldwide.

Why Are Natural Antibiotics Better?

Some naturally antibiotic plants and food (like garlic, tea tree oil, and oregano oil) are almost as effective as synthetic antibiotics. Not only are they nearly as effective, but natural antibiotics also have two significant advantages:

  1. They do not create antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
  2. They do not kill the healthy bacteria in our bodies.

Natural antibiotics solve the two primary issues caused by the overuse of their synthetic counterparts, and they also help build up the immune system, which makes us stronger.

Medical professionals first made antibiotics with natural ingredients. It’s only since 1950 that people have been using synthetic antibiotics created in a laboratory.

Many Hemp Terpenes Have Natural Antibiotic, Antiviral, and Antiseptic Properties

The 26 hemp terpenes listed below are in different tinctures of Jampha’s Synegy Enhanced Terpene Infusions CBD oils, and topicals. For additional researched benefits of each terpene or to locate a product containing a specific terpene, check out our blog on The Health Benefits of Hemp Terpenes.

Since Jampha’s CBD products are made with organic hemp, so they are legal nationwide, we’ll focus on the hemp plant in this article. However, most of the terpenes in hemp are also in cannabis.

1. Alpha Bisabolol

A-bisabolol is a terpene commonly found in chamomile as well as hemp. As you may know, Chamomile tea is a long-standing remedy to support relaxation and sleep, reduce menstrual cramps, and lower inflammation. Modern studies are providing proof of these and other effects.

Isolated, a-bisabolol has powerful antibiotic properties. Specifically, studies find it makes other antibiotics much more effective against ‘super bugs’ or bacteria that would otherwise be very hard to treat.

It also increases the effectiveness of the natural antimicrobial tea tree oil. Antimicrobials work against both bacteria and mold.

2. Alpha Phellandrene

A-phellandrene was first derived from eucalyptus and is also common in hemp. A-phellandrene is not only effective against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoans (tiny parasites), but it also boosts and strengthens immune function.

3. Alpha and Beta-Pinene

As the name implies, a-pinene and b-pinene are found in pine leaves as well as in hemp.

Several studies have focused on their antibiotic and antimicrobial properties because they are effective against strains of bacteria that cannot be killed by synthetic antibiotics alone.

In one study, a-pinene and b-pinene killed the bacteria responsible for strep throat along with others within 24 hours.

Another study found the two terpenes killed a fast-spreading bacteria called Proteus mirabilis within 24 hours.

Additional studies show a-pinene and b-pinene are effective against several other bacteria as well as fungi.

A-pinene and b-pinene are even effective against viruses. In a study looking at the herpes simplex virus, b-pinene and another terpene reduced the virus’ ability to infect new organisms by 100%. The two terpenes together were also highly effective against the infectious bronchitis virus.

Their combined power against a spectrum of bacteria, viruses, and fungi makes a-pinene and b-pinene powerful antiseptics for topical treatment as well.

4. Beta-Caryophyllene

Beta-Caryophyllene is found in cloves and rosemary, as well as hemp. Recent studies found that b-caryophyllene caused alcohol-loving mice to drink less voluntarily!

B-caryophyllene kills bacteria and fungus, making it antibacterial and antimicrobial. Studies so far find it fights plaque-causing bacteria in dogs and is selectively effective against s. aureus, which is the most dangerous staph bacteria. Staph bacteria are troublesome because they can spread quickly and are resistant to some antibiotics.

Beyond that, researchers are interested in b-caryophyllene because, in addition to fighting bacteria, it kills viruses, boosts immune function, and reduces inflammation in addition to fighting bacteria. That makes it a powerful ally for health.

While b-caryophyllene cannot prevent the spread of the herpes simplex virus, it effectively inactivates it within a host. It also fights several variations of the influenza virus.

5. Cadinene

Cadinene is pretty common in essential-oil producing plants as well as in hemp. Most of the research has been on various essential oils that include cadinene, from basilto orange flowers called calendula. Not much research has been done on the cadinene isolate.

However, several essential oils with cadinene terpene have antibacterial effects.

The calendula essential oil with 25% cadinene works comparably to a synthetic antibiotic.

Wormwood essential oil with 16% cadinene stopped both bacteria and fungi in their tracks.

A flowering plant from Peru called Xenophyllum poposum with 24% of two types of cadinene also wiped out several strains of bacteria and fungi in the laboratory, including Candida.

A plant from southern Europe called mountain germander with 17% cadinene effectively killed 13 bacterial and three fungal species.

At the very least, cadinene is part of several plants with powerful antibiotic and antifungal properties.

6. Camphene

Pungent and herbal-scented camphene is sourced from rosemary as well as from hemp. Historically, it was used as a lamp fuel before kerosene was widely available.

As an antibiotic, camphene is not only selective about the bacteria it targets it also enhances the effectiveness of synthetic antibiotics. This helps fight bacteria that are resistant to traditional treatments.

Multiple studies have demonstrated the power of this terpene as an antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer, antioxidant, antiparasitic, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory agent.

7. Camphor

Camphor has the interesting ability to help other substances penetrate through the skin. So, if you have a healing lotion with camphor, the other molecules can better get through the skin barrier and deliver their benefits.

Camphor does more than kill bacteria and fungus; it repels insects, destroys viruses, and even fights cancer cells.

8. Citral

Lemongrass, lemon, orange, and hemp are abundant sources of citral. Citral is effective against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria as well as fungi. Gram-positive and negative refer to how the bacteria show up on a standard test. Gram-negative bacteria cause things like pneumonia and wound infections, while gram-positive bacteria cause strep and staph infections.

Substances like citral that work against gram-negative bacteria can support wound healing as well as fight infections.

Citral also combats the fungus Candida by stripping the biofilm that thrives in moist areas of the body. Candida is a common and harmful fungus often found in different areas of the body, including the digestive tract. It doesn’t cause any trouble in some people, but for others, it can create a spectrum of symptoms, from toenail fungus to bloating and diarrhea.

9. Citronellol

Citronellol is found in the oils of roses and geraniums, as well as hemp. Bugs hate citronellol, which is why it’s common in some bug-repellant formulas.

Citronellol is effective against fungus and can be applied topically. However, researchers found that it had to be used daily until the fungus was completely gone.

10. Delta 3 Carene

Pine trees, cedar trees, rosemary, and hemp are all sources of delta 3 carene. Like many terpenes, it’s used as a fragrance by the cosmetics industry, but it also naturally repels insects.

Delta 3 carene slows the growth of bacteria and also inhibits fungal growth.

11. Eucalyptol

Eucalyptol is often used in topical creams because it is a natural penetration enhancer, and it helps other molecules get through the skin barrier to deliver their benefits.

In a 2010 study, eucalyptol worked against seven of nine bacteria and fungi. It’s an ingredient in Listerine antiseptic mouth wash because it’s effective against bacteria and has a minty scent.

Since 2010 several additional studies have been completed. A 2021 research review asks the scientific community if eucalyptol can replace antibiotics because of its effectiveness against various common bacterial threats without many of the side effects of synthetic antibiotics.

12. Eugenol

Found in clove as well as hemp, eugenol inactivated salmonella within 60 minutes of exposure.

Researchers say it shows exceptional antimicrobial activity as it is effective against gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria as well as several types of fungus.

13. Gamma Terpinene

G-terpinene is found in many plants, including celery, grapes, cumin, ginger, and hemp. With a strong lemon odor, it is frequently added to everything from soaps to tobacco.

G-terpinene is not as powerful an antibiotic as many other hemp terpenes, but it does fight fungus.

14. Geraniol

Geraniol can be extracted from several plants, including geranium, thyme, rose, and hemp. Various studies have demonstrated geraniol fights both bacteria and fungi.

A research review showed geraniol to work against 78 different microorganisms.

It’s also a natural insect repellant.

15. Humulene

Humulene is the grassy, earthy, piney, herbal terpene of hops and is one of the many genuinely remarkable terpenes found in hemp.

Pond scum and dental plaque are two examples of organisms that form biofilms, and humulene is showing promise against bacteria and also in inhibiting the formation of biofilms. Humulene also kills viruses and helps wounds heal faster.

16. Limonene

Researchers are interested in limonene for food preservation and its antibiotic properties because it is highly effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria. It’s the terpene powering orange oil cleaning products.

Even more remarkably, while limonene has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antioxidant properties and kills all sorts of harmful bacteria, it is selective as well. For some good bacteria, limonene actually stimulates growth.

17. Linalool

Linalool is commonly extracted from lavender, basil, and hemp. In the traditional Ayurvedic medicine from India, it is used to reduce anxiety and improve sleep.

In one study, linalool inhibited 17 different types of bacteria. It is a well-established antimicrobial and insecticide that researchers think may be an excellent natural alternative for the poultry industry to use.

Linalool is so effective against a spectrum of bacteria and fungi, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa (responsible for pneumonia), that scientists think it makes an excellent natural food preservative.

In studies looking at the virus-fighting abilities of specific essential oils, oils high in linalool have particularly potent antiviral effects.

18. Myrcene

Myrcene is an abundant terpene found in hops, tea tree oil, basil, lemongrass, mango, and hemp. It is also found in a medicinal shrub used in Brazil to treat diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, and hypertension. Myrcene has a peppery, spicy scent and flavor.

Myrcene is readily absorbed through the skin and helps other molecules penetrate, which is why it’s included in Jampha’s Relieve Topical, Icy-Blue Gel Topical, and Focus Heat Topical.

Researchers have found myrcene to be the primary agent in tea tree oil’s potent antibacterial properties.

19. Nerolidol

Nerolidol can be extracted from ginger, lavender, honeysuckle, and hemp. It is floral and fruity with woodsy back notes.

A 2016 review of studies demonstrates nerolidol’s wide variety of health applications. It was effective against more than 25 different bacteria strains.

Nerolidol also is effective against bacterial biofilms. The biofilms can be hard to treat because the bacteria form complex structures and are more resistant than on their own. Nerolidol was able to inhibit the formation of biofilms by as much as 80%.

The same reviews cover various studies where nerolidol effectively killed or inhibited fungi, including Candida. The antifungal benefits were found in both humans and plants.

Nerolidol also enhances skin penetration and kills parasites, including the one responsible for malaria. It is also effective against some viruses.

20. Ocimene

Mint, parsley, tarragon, and hemp are all sources of the terpene ocimene. Interestingly, its scent is pivotal to the social regulation of honeybee colonies.

Ocimene is effective against fungi and also repels bugs.

21. Para-Cymene

P-cymene is found in the essential oils of more than 100 plants used for food and medicinal purposes, including cilantro, thyme, oregano, and cumin.

P-cymene has not been studied extensively as an isolate. However, it is a significant component in several essential oils with powerful bacteria and fungal-fighting properties.

It has been shown to disrupt the biofilm of some bacteria on its own but does not seem to be the primary driver of antimicrobial activity in the essential oils. Instead, p-cymene enhances the effectiveness of other terpenes that kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

22. Phytol

Phytol is found in matcha and sencha green tea as well as in hemp. It is used in the manufacture of synthetic vitamins E and K1.

Phytol is a valuable antibiotic, and it is a useful antibacterial disinfectant because it works against E. coli as well as other bacteria.

Phytol is widely used as a food additive because of its antimicrobial properties.

23. Pulegone

Found in mint as well as hemp, pulegone has a fresh and minty scent.

Pulegone is a potent antibiotic and antifungal, effective against both Candida and Salmonella. In one study, it worked against 19 out of 19 microorganisms, including both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria strains

Pulegone also stops the multiplication of viruses, including the herpes simplex virus type 1.

24. Terpineol

Terpineol is derived from pine oil as well as hemp. Pine oil is often used in cleaners both for its piney scent and properties as a disinfectant.

Terpineol has excellent antibacterial activities, including against drug-resistant strains.

25. Terpinolene

In addition to hemp, terpinolene is found in lilacs, nutmeg, rosemary, and apples. It is known for its multifaceted woody, floral, piney smell.

Terpinolene is found in several essential oils that kill viruses, bacteria, and fungi.

26. Valencene

Found in citrus fruits as well as hemp, valencene smells and tastes like a fresh orange.

Because of its abundance and great scent, valencene is commonly used in perfume and cleaning products. It is effective as an antiseptic.

Hemp Terpenes are Natural Preservatives with Remarkable Health Benefits

Terpenes are specialized plant molecules designed to support the health and growth of the plant, so it is not surprising that so many active plant compounds have powerful antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Nature is designed to thrive, and these protections are a necessity for plant survival.

Some customers have wondered why we don’t add preservatives to our Jampha CBD products. Some artificial preservatives are harmful to your health, and with the natural bacteria, fungus, and virus-killing properties of terpenes, chemical preservatives are unnecessary.

The natural terpenes we add to our unique tinctures are packed with power! In addition to keeping our oils and topicals fresh, these plant molecules deliver health benefits and support to crucial systems in your body.


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