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What are Triterpenes?

Triterpenes are a class of compounds derived from squalene – a three terpene unit molecule consisting of 30 carbon and 48 hydrogen atoms. One of the most important triterpenes in nature is cholesterol – a precursor of all the steroids in our body. Therefore, scientists are constantly searching for similar compounds in nature that could have very interesting biological activity.

Due to their similarity to steroids (our cell signalling molecules), triterpenoids – derivatives of triterpenes, benefit in a high variety of biological activities:

Subclasses of triterpenes

As triterpenes and their derivatives can be found in a wide variety of sources in nature, they, therefore, come with a variety of structural skeletons. Scientists currently have identified over 200 skeletons, and every skeleton can be derived in many ways – with the addition of hydroxyl groups, unsaturation, oxidation and more. Also, squalene can cyclize in many ways forming 1-5 condensed ring cyclic structures.

However, there are classes of compounds that are more common than others. Lupane, Oleane and Ursene are some of the most relevant and well-studied classes of triterpenes. Their derivatives betulin, betulinic acid, oleanolic acid and ursolic acid have shown high biological activity with some of the compounds being studied in clinics.

Anti-cancer activity

Triterpenes have been highly studied for their anti-cancer activity. There are several well know cellular pathways that triterpenes can induce to treat and prevent cancer formation:

  • induction of cancer cell apoptosis
  • inhibition of cell proliferation
  • inducing oxidative stress in cancer cells
  • sensitizing cancer cells to more potent anticancer drugs
  • reducing side-effects from chemotherapy
  • and many more.

Scientists have proven that triterpenoids are effective against various types of cancer: breast, colon, lung, neuronal, leukaemia, and more. Currently, studies of natural terpenes and their synthetic derivatives are still revealing new results.

Antiviral activity

Triterpenes have shown a high ability to prevent viral infections and inhibit their multiplication. Several pathways are known for such a purpose – inhibiting viruses from entering host cells and preventing the maturation of viral cells are just a couple of the ways that this can happen.

For the treatment of your skin

Positive effects on our skin have been known since folk medicine was commonplace. Many medicinal plants and their extracts have been used to treat skin diseases and breakouts. Due to the positive effects of reducing inflammation, promoting healing and reducing oxidative stress, triterpenes are now used in cosmetics to improve skin conditions and promote healing. 

Dietary effects

Supplements with triterpenes have shown many beneficial effects on our health. Triterpenes have been proven to be an effective way to sensitize our body’s insulin response —  which is especially good news for patients with type 2 diabetes. Also, positive dietary effects have been observed for people who have high fat or high carbohydrate diets. Triterpenes were able to maintain blood levels of fats and carbohydrates at healthy levels.

Triterpenes are a class of compounds that have been known since ancient times for their biological activity and are still a highly studied topic in science. If you wish to jump into this research topic, visit our store for high-quality triterpenes ready to order.