There are two main groups of essential oil constituents that define the chemistry of essential oil. They are hydrocarbons and oxygenated compounds. These are further subdivided into the sub-groups of Monoterpenes and Sesquiterpenes (click here for the Wikipedia article on Sesquiterpenes).
There are more than 10,000 kinds of sesquiterpenes. Sesquiterpenes are the principal constituents of Cedarwood (98%), Vetiver (97%), Spikenard (93%), Sandalwood (Aloes) (90%), Black Pepper (74%), Patchouli (71%), Myrrh (62%), and Ginger (59%). They are also found in Galbanum, Onycha, and Frankincense (8%).
Sesquiterpene molecules deliver oxygen molecules to cells, like hemoglobin does in the blood. Sesquiterpenes can also erase or deprogram miswritten codes in the DNA. Sesquiterpenes are thought to be especially effective in fighting cancer because the root problem with a cancer cell is that it contains misinformation, and sesquiterpenes can erase that garbled information.
At the same time the oxygen carried by sesquiterpene molecules creates an environment where cancer cells can’t reproduce. Hence, sesquiterpenes deliver cancer cells a double punch-one that disables their coded misbehavior and a second that stops their growth.
Sesquiterpene lactones may play a highly significant role in human health, both as part of a balanced diet and as pharmaceutical agents, due to their potential for the treatment of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Cedarwood, Sandalwood, and Myrrh contain high amounts of sesquiterpenes.
Scientific Research on the Benefits of Sesquiterpene Lactones
Here is what the scientific research reveals about the benefits of this compound…
- It has been shown to have anti-cancer (cytotoxic) properties in various studies (example, another example, yet another example, and a final example)
- It’s shown so much promise that they’ve entered clinical trials in the not-so-distant past (which is not common for these types of complex compounds)
- It’s been shown to be a potential treatment for cardiovascular disease1
- It’s been shown to have antimalarial properties and antibacterial properties that are responsible for a range of other effects such as prevention of neurodegeneration, anti-migraine activity, and analgesic and sedative activities
- Some forms of Sesquiterpene have been shown to protect the stomach lining from ulcer development (another supporting this finding)
- It’s been shown to have antioxidant properties2,3
1 Rodriguez E., Towers G.N.H., Mitchell J.C. Biological activities of sesquiterpene lactones. Phytochemistry. 1976;15:1573–1580.
2 Fehsenfeld F., Calvert J., Fall R., Goldan P., Guenther A.B., Hewitt C.N., Lamb B., Liu S., Trainer M., Westberg H., et al. Emissions of volatile organic compounds from vegetation and the implications for atmospheric chemistry. Global Biogeochem. Cycles. 1992;6:389–430.
3 Ruberto G., Baratta M.T. Antioxidant activity of selected essential oil components in two lipid model systems. Food Chem. 2000;69:167–174.