What is Caryophyllene? What Does This Cannabis Terpene Do?
Caryophyllene is one of many different terpenes found within various plants, insects and essential oils.
Terpenes are aromatic oils and compounds that give fruits, plants, and some varieties of insects their unique aroma and smell.
In nature, these compounds have several purposes, including attracting or repelling predators or pollinators, aiding in reproduction, and providing protection against the elements.
Within cannabis, pinene is one of the most abundant terpenes out of more than 150 different varieties, providing cannabis strains with their unique aroma, flavour and supposed effects. Terpenes are a critical component of consuming cannabis, but not many know what they are, where they come from, or their reported effects.
This article is part of a series on cannabis terpenes and is designed to highlight one of cannabis’ spiciest terpenes, caryophyllene.
What is Caryophyllene?
Caryophyllene is a naturally occurring sesquiterpene, a class of terpenes recognized for their strong odours, anti-inflammatory effects and bactericidal properties. Compared to monoterpenes, a family of terpenes that many cannabis terpenes belong to, sesquiterpenes are less volatile and more aromatic. In cannabis, crystal-like structures known as glandular trichomes are responsible for terpene production.
Caryophyllene, also known as beta-caryophyllene or β-caryophyllene, is a terpene with a woody and peppery aroma. Natural sources of caryophyllene include basil, cinnamon, cracked pepper, cloves, rosemary and cannabis sativa. Its spicy aroma and flavour profile reminiscent of black pepper makes it a popular food additive and aroma enhancer for cosmetics.
The terpene beta-caryophyllene is also a recognized dietary cannabinoid. Dietary cannabinoids act on the cannabinoid receptors found within the human body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to produce effects that mimic cannabinoids such as THC and CBD.
In addition to providing different cannabis strains with their unique aroma and flavour profile, studies suggest that terpenes can exhibit some pharmacological effects.
When combined with other cannabis terpenes and THC and CBD, a reaction known as the entourage effect may promote relaxation, stress relief, and other psychoactive effects. The entourage effect has some scientific basis backing for it, but research regarding its effects is inconclusive.
What are the Reported Effects of Caryophyllene?
Caryophyllene is unique among the terpenes found within cannabis. Compared to the other cannabis terpenes, β-caryophyllene is both a terpene and a cannabimimetic compound.
Cannabimietic compounds can bind to a cannabinoid receptor to produce a wide range of effects. By binding to the CB1 and CB2 receptors found within the endocannabinoid system, this terpene can produce many positive effects, at least in animal models.
The potential benefits of caryophyllene are immense, but human trials have yet to be conducted.
In a 2018 study conducted by the British Journal of Pharmacology, researchers used small doses of caryophyllene to reduce the swelling of lymph nodes in rats. Their findings suggest that this terpene has anti-inflammatory effects and could aid in treating arthritis.
Another study conducted in 2013 by the European Journal of Pain suggests that caryophyllene has pain-relieving properties.
After mice were exposed to capsaicin, a major constituent of spicy foods such as chilli peppers, researchers injected low doses of caryophyllene into their bodies, which produced analgesic effects. These findings support the theory that this terpene could assist with pain management.
Finally, in a trial conducted on human cells, researchers discovered that caryophyllene effectively reduced tumour growth and boosted the efficacy of some cancer treatments. A 2016 study published in the journal of Cancer Medicine points to additional exciting prospects for this terpene’s cancer-fighting properties.
Certainly, caryophyllene’s peppery notes play a major role in advancing the understanding of how a major terpene can affect the immune system and deliver medicinal benefits. However, with the lack of human clinical trials, it’s too early to say whether or not this cannabis terpene can effectively treat inflammation, chronic pain or any other ailments.
The Super and Spicy Terpene
Caryophyllene, also known as β-caryophyllene, is a spicy, peppery terpene present in many different foods, everyday products and of course, cannabis. If you’re smelling cracked pepper, chances are your olfactory senses are picking up on caryophyllene’s spicy aroma.
Unique among other cannabinoid terpenes for its cannabimimetic nature, caryophyllene has the potential to deliver a variety of medical benefits due to its ability to bind to the human body’s CB2 receptors. Animal trials have seen this terpene offer pain-killing, inflammation and anti-cancer properties, as well as the ability to alleviate Alzheimer’s disease in mice.
However, as cannabis and its constituent compounds can affect everyone differently, more research is needed before the medical community can say anything conclusive about this terpene’s medicinal properties.
Please note that this content on caryophyllene and terpenes is intended to act as entertainment and a general educative aid and is not intended to act as or substitute healthcare advice from a professional healthcare service or qualified healthcare provider. If you have any questions or concerns, please consult your physician or a qualified healthcare provider.