Triterpenes are a subclass of terpenes and have a basic skeleton of C30.
In general, triterpenoids have molecular weights ranging from 400 to 600 kDa and their chemical structure is complex and highly oxidized.
Examples of terpenes are menthol (monoterpene) and β-carotene (tetraterpene).
Many are alkenes, although some contain other functional groups, and many are cyclic.
These compounds are widely distributed throughout the plant world and are found in prokaryotes as well as eukaryotes.
Terpenes have also been found to have anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, and hypolipidemic activity.
Many plant species synthesize triterpenes as part of their normal program of growth and development.
Some plants contain large quantities of triterpenes in their latex and resins, and these are believed to contribute to disease resistance.
Although hundreds of triterpenes have been isolated from various plants and terpenes as a class has been shown to have many potentially beneficial effects, there is an only limited application of triterpenes as successful therapeutic agents to date.
The extraction of triterpenes is usually done by means of methanol, ethanol, acetone, chloroform, ether, or a mixture of these solvents.
The extracts can be further purified by various separation methods, including normal and reverse-phase HPLC.