There are two terpenes that aid with respiratory issues such as bronchitis and they are pinene and limonene. Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs. There are two forms of bronchitis, acute bronchitis, and chronic bronchitis for which streptococcus is one of the leading causes.

Acute bronchitis is often caused by a viral respiratory infection and improves by itself.

People who have bronchitis often end up with a nagging cough and thickened mucus, which can be discolored. 

Bronchitis Symptoms

Symptoms of both acute and chronic bronchitis include breathing problems, such as:

Symptoms of acute bronchitis also may include: 

Bronchitis image courtesy of the CDC
Bronchitis image courtesy of the CDC

Treatments usually include soothing remedies to help with coughing, which may last weeks. Antibiotics are not usually recommended.

Terpenes have therapeutic properties ranging all the way from anti-bacterial to anti-inflammatory and more. There are also many terpenes with virus-fighting properties, including pinene and limonene.

These terpenes have both been found to have expectorant properties, meaning that they help calm your coughs by reducing mucus and allowing it to drain from the lungs. 

Bronchodilators are compounds that relax the muscles in your airways which clear and helps improve airflow to the lung. This can be a significant benefit for when we are sick. Terpenes that act as bronchodilators include pinene, linalool, and menthol — a terpene found in mint that acts as the key ingredient of Vicks vapor rub.

Essential oils (which are composed of terpenes) have a long history of use in combating infection and many are marketed for their antiseptic properties. Essential oils are considered nature’s antiseptics and their ability to kill microorganisms has been well documented. Hippocrates, the founder of medicine, used aromatic plants as early as 500BC

basil plants
Basil plants


Recent research shows that at non-cytotoxic levels, pinene modulates the body’s inflammatory response, making it a useful medication for patients who suffer from bronchitis and osteoarthritis

Pinene is anti‐inflammatory and also a bronchodilator in humans at low exposure levels. It was the most potent component of a tea‐tree eucalyptus EO in the suppression of P. acnes and Staphylococcus in another study

Factor like a history of smoking, living in a polluted place, crowding, and a history of asthma, are all risk factors for acute bronchitis. In some people, acute bronchitis can be triggered by particular allergens like pollens, perfume, and vapors.

When an infection is bacterial, the isolated pathogens are usually the same as those responsible for community-acquired pneumonia, for example, Streptococcus pneumonia and Staphylococcus aureus.

Studies completed in 2011 and 2012 demonstrated that pinene can be used to treat various bacterial infections including infectious bronchitis viruses. This terpene can help improve cognitive ability by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase activity in the brain, which works to improve memory retention.

Basil grown at home in a kitchen
Basil grown at home

Pinene Details

Aroma: pine

Found in:

Good for:

Therapeutic properties:

Found in these strains:

Rosemary plants
Rosemary plants


Limonene is a chemical found in the peels of citrus fruits and in other plants. It is also known as an essential oil. Limonene is used for obesity, cancer, and bronchitis, and more scientific evidence to support these uses are needed.

One study was done to view antibacterial activity and mechanism of action of Monarda punctata essential oil and its main components against common bacterial pathogens in the respiratory tract. Antibacterial activity of the essential oil and its major constituents (thymol, p-cymene, limonene) was evaluated against Streptococcus pyogenes, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Escherichia coli.

The flowers of Monarda punctata were collected from a local region, China, during June-July 2013. The team extracted the essential oil from the dried flowers which were carried out by hydrodistillation for 4 hours using the Clevenger apparatus as recommended in the European pharmacopeia.

The Clevenger apparatus is the use of a flask of variable size which contains water that is then boiled along with the plant material. The steam rises in the assembly to a condenser, and the condensate falls into a small burette. Oil floats on the water, which for its part is gradually returned to the heated flask. After approximately 2 hours of extraction, the oil volume is then collected in the burette for measurement. 

Limonene can be found in eucalyptus plants
Limonene can be found in eucalyptus plants

The study revealed that the essential oil and its constituents exhibited a broad spectrum and variable degree of antibacterial activity against different strains of Streptococcus. The study concluded that within 12 hours the essential oil of Monarda punctata killed almost all the Streptococcus pyogenes bacterial strains.

Another study showed that antibacterial activity and antioxidant effect of the compounds α-terpineol, linalool, eucalyptol and α-pinene obtained from essential oils were effective against pathogenic and spoilage forming bacteria. The researchers concluded that more research needs to be done on a mixture of terpenes to determine their concentrations for the best health expectations and food safety utilization.

The anti-cancer effects of limonene have also been extensively studied. Research has indicated this terpene may be specifically helpful for:

Limonene is commonly found in citrus fruits
Limonene is commonly found in citrus fruits

Limonene Details

Aroma: sweet, tangy, and bitter

Found in:

Good for:

Therapeutic properties:

Found in these strains:

Limonene can also be found in juniper which can aid in fighting streptococcus.
Limonene can also be found in juniper

Mild caution with Limonene and its interaction with our Liver

WebMD placed limonene with a mild caution for interaction with our cytochrome P450 enzyme system. Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Limonene might increase how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking limonene along with some medications that are changed by the liver can lead to a variety of effects and side effects. Before taking limonene talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Always remember, extreme exposure to terpenes can lead to respiratory issues as well. Caution should always be held at the highest of regard.

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