Terpenes are a diverse and large class of organic compounds that are produced by a variety of plants, particularly conifers, and by some insects. They are often associated with distinctive odors and are considered the primary constituents of essential oils derived from plants and flowers. Structurally, terpenes are built from isoprene units, which is a five-carbon molecule that follows the empirical formula C5H8. These isoprene units can be combined in various ways to create monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, and larger terpenoids. The functions of terpenes in plants are varied and include deterring herbivores, attracting pollinators, and protecting the plant from environmental stresses. In the context of human use, terpenes have found applications in traditional and alternative medicines, as they are believed to exhibit a range of biological activities such as anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-cancer properties. Furthermore, they are used in the manufacture of cosmetics, perfumes, and as flavoring agents in food due to their aromatic qualities. Scientific research into terpenes continues to reveal their potential in therapeutic applications and their ecological significance.
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