Terpenes are series of isomeric, unsaturated hydrocarbons of the general formula C10H16 found in the steam volatile essential (ethereal) oils of plant origin, particularly conifers, though also by some insects such as termites or swallowtail butterflies, which emit terpenes from their osmeteria. They are often strong-smelling. They may protect the plants that produce them by deterring herbivores and by attracting predators and parasites of herbivores. Many terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbons and thus may have had a protective function. The difference between terpenes and terpenoids is that terpenes are hydrocarbons, whereas terpenoids contain additional functional groups. The name "terpene" is derived from the word "turpentine". Terpenes and terpenoids are the primary constituents of the essential oils of many types of plants and flowers. Essential oils are used widely as natural flavor additives for food, as fragrances in perfumery, and in medicine and alternative medicines such as aromatherapy. Synthetic variations and derivatives of natural terpenes and terpenoids also greatly expand the variety of aromas used in perfumery and flavors used in food additives. Vitamin A is a terpene.
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Last date updated on September, 2014