What is Terpineol?

Lime blossoms full with Terpineol

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If you’ve ever inhaled the aroma of certain plants and essential oils and wondered what gives them this intoxicating rose/lily/pine/eucalyptus smell and occasionally flavour, then you have terpineol to thank.

The monoterpene alcohol terpineol is a multifaceted aromatic and flavour compound found naturally in a number of sources and, as such, a natural and logical choice for mimicking their rich and intricate odour profiles.

But the most important property of terpenes, which are also responsible for the numerous aromas of other plants and flowers, including cannabis, is antioxidant action. There are up to 200 different terpenes, 20 of them secondary, and 10 primary terpenes.

Terpineol is one of the primary terpenes of more than 150 plants and natural oils, mainly lime blossoms, eucalyptus sap, pine trees, lilacs and others. But the most widespread is the alpha-terpineol form, and it has a multitude of properties, such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumor, and antimicrobial.

Key Takeaways

  • Terpineol is a monoterpene alcohol with a complex aroma that blends floral and lilac scents, sometimes featuring hints of pine or mint. It appears in various plants including pine and tea tree.
  • Terpineol is extensively used in personal care products such as soaps, lotions, and perfumes, mainly for its soothing and relaxing properties.
  • Generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA for use in flavoring food and cosmetics, terpineol should still be used cautiously due to potential side effects such as skin irritation and photosensitivity, especially when used in high concentrations.

What is Terpineol?

Terpineol is a monoterpene alcohol with an aroma and taste that is difficult to pin down, a combination of floral and lilac, sometimes with pine or mint aspects and anise-like, slightly lime-tinged aspects to the taste. It is present in pine, tea tree and many other plants.

Properties of Terpineol

  • Chemical formula: C10H18O
  • Molar mass:154.253g/mol
  • Boiling point:214-217°C
  • Soluble in: alcohol,ether, oils; slightly soluble in water

Terpineol exists as three isomers: alpha-terpineol, beta-terpineol, and gamma-terpineol. The alpha-isomer is the most commonly occurring form and is often referred to simply as "terpineol".

Types of Terpineol

Terpineol exists in four distinct isomeric forms, each contributing unique characteristics to the overall aroma and flavor profile.


Most common isomer: Also known as alpha-terpineol, alpha-terpinol or terpineol alpha, it is the most common isomer encountered in nature. It has a lilac-like odour, and is one of the important components of oil of pine (pine oil), oil of bitter orange (petitgrain oil), oil of rue, oil of cinnamon-leaf, and oil of thyme, as well as others.

Antimicrobial activity: Alpha-terpineol exhibits antimicrobial activity against various bacteria and yeasts and moulds (fungi). This terpene can thus be used as a natural antimicrobial agent in both cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Beta Terpineol

Less common: Beta-terpineol, an isomer of the more common alpha terpineol, is less frequently found in nature than the alpha isomer, and has a less floral and a more woody character.

Insecticidal activity: Beta-terpineol had a strong insecticidal effect on BPX in Planococcus lilacinus. However, there is currently a lack of studies available to determine effective concentration and if it can be commercialised.


Isomeric variation: While gamma-terpineol has at least one double bond in a different place in its molecular structure than alpha-terpineol, which gives them different sensory properties.

Aroma profile: Gamma-terpineol gives a slightly different aroma to the alpha isomer and is more herbaceous and less sweet.


Synthetic compound: 4-Terpineol (or terpinen-4-ol; EV 4257), is not found in nature but can be synthetically produced. It has a characteristic musty, earthy odour.

Therapeutic potential: 4-Terpineol has demonstrated antifungal, anti-inflammatory and even analgesic properties in scientific studies. Tea tree oil, which partly consists of this volatile, is a well-documented skin soother.

What Is Terpineol Used For

Thanks to its pleasant aroma profile, terpineol is mainly used in products for personal care like soaps, lotions, perfumes. Its main characteristic is its ability to relax the consumer.

a-Terpineol Benefits

This terpene has numerous therapeutic properties. Studies have shown that the principal ones are anti-inflammatory, which can help treat painful diseases; antioxidant effects, which can help fight certain types of cancer, breast cancer, and chronic myeloid leukemia; antimicrobial activity against oral bacteria, which has been recommended to incorporate into toothpaste or garlic solutions.

Arterial Pressure

Oral administration of terpineol is proven to reduce mean arterial pressure by restoring the enzymatic antioxidants. In mesenteric artery rings, terpineol induced vascular endothelium-independent vasodilatation, showing alternations in biochemical parameters, indicating an antioxidant effect.


Another study analyzed the therapeutic effect of α-Terpineol as a relaxing drug and tranquilizer. The data showed that α-Terpineol increased the sleep time of the mice, indicating a sedative property due to the suggested action on central mechanisms affecting the inhibition of the metabolism of pentobarbital or the regulation of sleep in mice.

Is a-Terpineol Organic?

a-Terpineol belongs to a class of organic compounds known as methane monoterpenoids.

What Does Terpineol Smell Like

Terpineol has a lilac-like scent, making it a favorite for perfumes, cosmetics, and candles, enhancing a piney aroma perfect to light up on holidays.

Is Terpineol Safe?

Terpineol is a white, oily crystalline compound that occurs naturally in plants and essential oils. It’s been gaining popularity as a natural supplement and in beauty products, but be sure to weigh the potential good against the possible bad, and the possible bad more than the possible good, before adding it to your daily routine or beauty arsenal.

Potential Side Effects and Precautions

Studies show that terpineol is generally safe, but you should know the possible side effects and cautions:

Irritation to the skin: On some people, terpineol may cause mild irritation, redness or itching, especially when applied in high concentrations or on sensitive skin. If you experience discomfort or other adverse reactions to products containing terpineol, stop using the products and see a dermatologist if symptoms continue.

Allergic reactions: Rare cases of allergic reactions to terpineol have been reported. If you experience rash, hives, swelling, or have a difficult time breathing, stop using the product immediately and seek medical attention if necessary.

Photosensitivity: Oils that have terpineol such as bergamot oil can cause increased photosensitivity of the skin, which means the skin will be very sensitive to light. Make sure that you are protected from the sunshine when you use terpineol in products, and use a physical sunblock to protect from harmful rays and reduce the danger of photosensitivity reactions.

Ingestion: Terpineol is generally recognised as safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a flavouring in foods, beverages and cosmetics. However, ingestion of large quantities of terpineol or of essential oils that are high in terpineol can have adverse physiological effects including stomach upset, nausea, or other reactions. Keep all essential oils out of reach from children and pets and follow the recommended usage instructions.

Just as with any product containing terpineol – go according to the manufacturer’s inclusions and uses; and if you have concerns or underlying health conditions, don’t forget to consult with your healthcare provider before adding it to your arsenal.

Terpineol Strains List

Multiple strains often test high in terpineol. Here you will find some of them: The Purple Gas Hemp Strain is a pain and migraine reliever known for alleviating fatigue and insomnia, helping users who suffer from anxiety, stress, and depression. The resin extracts can be used to elaborate soaps, ointments, or oral supplements. It is a great strain to treat seizures and other neurological conditions. -Peach Mint Kush Strain is perfect for dealing with chronic pains as it makes the user experience mental relaxation.

Perfect for day and nighttime use since it will not affect your energy levels at all. -Haze Berry Strain promotes creativity and mental stimulation, which benefits people who struggle with attention deficit disorders. It can also diminish headaches and nausea. a-Terpineol has a unique and pleasant scent, and many consider it one of the principal agents in fragrant products.

Moreover, this terpene possesses a wide range of biological actions which attract interest in the medicinal field given the potential antioxidant capacity effect against different human cancer cell lines (breast, lung, prostate, ovarian, and leukemia). In addition, the insecticidal activity of α-Terpineol attracted the interest of many scientists.

Therefore, α-Terpineol may be a potential agent for developing natural insecticides or fumigants and repellents to control insects. a-Terpineol is an up-and-coming candidate and has exhibited a potential satisfaction in certain activities due to its usage in pharmaceutical and agricultural industries.

What is Terpineol: Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Terpineol Used For In Cosmetics?

In the cosmetics industry, terpineol is prized for its odor; it is a perfume component, particularly of floral notes. It is an ingredient in lotions and creams for its calming effects, and is added to some soaps and skincare to help other ingredients penetrate.

Is Terpineol Natural?

Yes, terpineol can be extracted naturally from sources like pine oil or synthesized in a laboratory. The natural form is usually preferred for its aromatic quality in various applications, including cosmetics and aromatherapy.

What Is Terpineol For Skin?

For skin care, terpineol is used for its moisturizing and soothing properties. It helps in rejuvenating the skin by hydrating it and reducing the appearance of fine lines. Additionally, its antibacterial properties make it beneficial in treatments aimed at acne-prone skin.

References for this article:

  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/terpineol
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Alpha-Terpineol
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/4-Terpineol
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7120914/

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