Terpenes make up one of the largest groups of active compounds found in cannabis. They are of major interest to researchers, medical marijuana patients, and recreational users alike.
Terpenes are responsible for the different aromas, flavors, and effects of various strains. They also possess a wealth of potential health benefits.
In this article, we focus on beta-caryophyllene, one of the most abundant cannabis terpenes. Here’s all you need to know about beta-caryophyllene, its uses, and where to find it.
What is Beta-Caryophyllene?
Beta-caryophyllene is a terpene which cannabis and a range of other plants produce. It has a woody aroma which people have described as falling somewhere between cloves and turpentine. Beta-caryophyllene also has a sweet, dry taste and can be used as a food additive and an ingredient in cosmetics.
Beta-caryophyllene is a highly prized terpene as it can bind with cannabinoid receptors in the body. Although it has a different structure to THC and CBD, it can interact with the endocannabinoid system. For this reason, beta-caryophyllene is sometimes known as the ‘dietary cannabinoid.’
Due to this unusual property, beta-caryophyllene possesses a variety of different health benefits. Let’s take a look at these benefits and how beta-caryophyllene could improve your wellbeing.
The Benefits of Beta-Caryophyllene
Terpenes are a vital element of cannabis therapy. They are responsible for the distinct effects of different strains which patients experience regardless of their THC and CBD contents. Beta-caryophyllene has a wide and varied range of uses, primarily due to its affinity for cannabinoid receptors.
Here are some of the most well-studied benefits of beta-caryophyllene:
There is a high concentration of CB2 receptors in the immune system, and they play a role in modulating the inflammatory response.
Beta-caryophyllene selectively binds with CB2 receptors. Interestingly, it does this at a site known as CP55940, which is the same region where THC binds.
When beta-caryophyllene interacts with CB2 receptors, it inhibits the release of chemicals called cytokines. Cytokines are a group of chemical messengers which play a crucial role in inflammation.
As well as having anti-inflammatory properties, beta-caryophyllene can also reduce swelling and edema. However, there is something curious about the way that this interaction works.
Research by Jürg Gertsch et al., published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, found that beta-caryophyllene is more effective at lower doses. It is unclear exactly why.
Beta-caryophyllene also appears to have some pain-relieving properties. This is probably in part due to its anti-inflammatory effects. However, it seems that there is more to the analgesic effects of beta-caryophyllene.
Research by Klaudyna Fidyt et al. for Cancer Medicine suggests that beta-caryophyllene can bind to opioid receptors as well as cannabinoid receptors.
By doing this, it is thought to stimulate the release of beta-endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and ‘feel-good’ chemicals.
The above study by Fidyt et al. also investigated the anti-cancer properties of beta-caryophyllene. The terpene appears to have antiproliferative effects, meaning that it can prevent the spread of cancerous cells. It is also thought to induce a process called apoptosis, in which diseased cells automatically self-destruct.
As well as showing promise for treating a variety of different cancers, beta-caryophyllene may also be a useful adjunct to cancer treatment. It appears to enhance the effects of cancer drugs paclitaxel and doxorubicin. It may also reduce the risk of leukopenia (low white blood cell count), which can be caused by chemotherapy.
The cannabinoid CBD is well-known for its anti-anxiety effects, and it seems that beta-caryophyllene may work similarly. One study by A. Bahi et al. for Physiology and Behavior demonstrated this effectively.
The authors found that mice treated with beta-caryophyllene displayed behavior indicating reductions in anxiety and depression. The terpene also seemed to have a positive influence over compulsive behavior.
Another benefit that beta-caryophyllene has in common with CBD is its ability to reduce seizures. A study by J. Tchekalarova et al. for the journal Seizure found that beta-caryophyllene had several benefits.
It seems that this terpene could help to reduce seizure spread and treat status epilepticus (severe epileptic fits). Furthermore, it was found to reduce oxidative stress, neurotoxicity, and associated cognitive impairments.
Cholesterol Reducing Effects
Another surprising benefit of beta-caryophyllene is its ability to reduce cholesterol. This was explored in research by Amani A. Harb et al. for the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition.
The study found that this cannabis terpene was able to reduce harmful LDL cholesterol while increasing helpful HDL cholesterol. This finding could have implications for a variety of chronic diseases, including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and fatty liver.
The antimicrobial properties of beta-caryophyllene extracted from cannabis are less well-researched. However, one study by B. Sabulal et al. suggests that it may show some promise.
An extract of the plant Zingiber nimmonii, which is rich in this terpene, was found to inhibit the growth of several microbes.
These microbes included Aspergillus niger, a common culprit of respiratory infections, and Candida albicans, the fungus responsible for yeast infections.
Other Benefits of Beta-Caryophyllene
As well as being anti-inflammatory, beta-caryophyllene is thought to offer protection against oxidative stress. It increases the activity of a chemical called superoxide dismutase (SOD), an antioxidant the body produces naturally.
Since inflammation and oxidative stress are at the root of many chronic diseases, beta-caryophyllene could be an effective preventative medicine. Its combination of valuable properties means that the terpene could protect against a range of serious medical conditions.
Here are some of the conditions which beta-caryophyllene may help to prevent:
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Gastrointestinal diseases
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Immune disorders
More research is undoubtedly needed, as clinical studies are still sparse. Most research to date has been conducted in laboratories or on animals such as mice. This fact means that it is still unclear exactly how this terpene affects the human body.
However, it seems likely that as we learn more about beta-caryophyllene, scientists will confirm its usefulness. Furthermore, those in the know believe the terpene is safe and non-toxic. The risk of it causing harm is low.
The Best Cannabis Strains Containing Beta-caryophyllene
If you think you may benefit from increasing your intake of beta-caryophyllene, you may be wondering where to find it.
The good news is that this terpene is in the majority of cannabis strains. In some varieties, it makes up around a third of their essential oil. But although beta-caryophyllene is one of the most abundant cannabis terpenes, some strains do contain more than others.
Some examples of strains rich in beta-caryophyllene include:
If you are trying to relieve anxiety, you may find it beneficial to find a strain with landrace Kush genetics. These strains have a generous dose of beta-caryophyllene alongside two other prominent terpenes: trans-nerolidol and myrcene. Good examples of anxiety-reducing strains include:
Other Sources of Beta-Caryophyllene (Not Cannabis)
Beta-caryophyllene is known as a dietary cannabinoid, and a variety of culinary herbs and spices contain it.
Some good sources of this terpene include:
- Black pepper
Therefore, it is easy to get your daily dose of beta-caryophyllene through your diet. Simply add more of these herbs and spices to your dishes to make them even more nutritious.
The Benefits of the Terpene Beta-Caryophyllene: Final Thoughts
Beta-caryophyllene is one of the primary compounds in cannabis as well as many culinary herbs and spices. This terpene has a whole range of amazing effects on the body and could potentially benefit numerous medical conditions.
Thanks to its ability to bind with CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, beta-caryophyllene has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It could help to relieve pain and anxiety, treat seizures, and reduce cholesterol. It also shows great promise as a weapon in the fight against cancer.
With so many benefits, it seems we should all be trying to consume more beta-caryophyllene. Fortunately, this terpene is a significant component of many different cannabis strains as well as several dietary sources.
However, research has shown that beta-caryophyllene may be more effective in lower doses, at least for treating inflammation. So, whether you get your beta-caryophyllene from food, marijuana, or both, enjoy in moderation for the maximum benefit.