Terpenes, also known as terpenoids are the largest and most diverse group of naturally occurring compounds. Based on the number of isoprene units they have, they are classified as mono, di, tri, tetra, and sesquiterpenes. They are mostly found in plants and form the major constituent of essential oils from plants. Among the natural products that provide medical benefits for an organism, terpenes play a major and variety of roles. The common plant sources of terpenes are tea, thyme, cannabis, Spanish sage, and citrus fruits (e.g., lemon, orange, mandarin).
Terpenes have a wide range of medicinal uses among which antiplasmodial activity is notable as its mechanism of action is similar to the popular antimalarial drug in use—chloroquine. Monoterpenes specifically are widely studied for their antiviral property. With growing incidents of cancer and diabetes in modern world, terpenes also have the potential to serve as anticancer and antidiabetic reagents. Along with these properties, terpenes also allow for flexibility in route of administration and suppression of side effects.
Certain terpenes were widely used in natural folk medicine. One such terpene is curcumin which holds anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, antiseptic, antiplasmodial, astringent, digestive, diuretic, and many other properties. Curcumin has also become a recent trend in healthy foods and open doors for several medical researches.
Take a deep dive into therapeutic and medicinal uses of terpenes with US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health here.