Beta-caryophyllene: The terpene you need to know

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Beta-caryophyllene. Sounds complicated, but is it? Put simply, Beta-caryophyllene is the bioactive compound naturally present in dietary spices including cloves, thyme, black pepper, oregano, cinnamon. 

A flavoursome terpene, it’s also one of the active ingredients that give the magic touch to our Thor liposomal CBD relief gel

Discover more about the properties and uses of one of the most abundant cannabis terpenes, beta-caryophyllene below.

What is beta-caryophyllene?

Beta-caryophyllene (β-Caryophyllene) is a plant terpene (chemical substance) found in many of the essential oils in spices and food plants. It is a natural sesquiterpene (a type of terpene usually found in plants) with three isoprene units. 

An isoprene unit is a combination of carbon and hydrogen molecules that act as building blocks for lipids, terpenoids, steroids, and natural products.Reference from a recent study reports on the various classes of compounds produced by the cannabis plants. They are:

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  • Terpenes
  • Cannabinoids
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Sugars and related compounds
  • Nitrogenous compounds
  • Non-cannabinoid phenols
  • Fatty acids
  • Flavonoids

These compounds possess bioactive properties beneficial to human health. Moreover, there are hundreds of non-cannabinoid secondary metabolites (besides cannabinoids) that include 120 terpenoids (61 monoterpenes, 52 sesquiterpenoids, and 5 triterpenoids). All these together display therapeutic potential in treating cancer, inflammation, oxidative stress and other conditions.

Is beta-caryophyllene safe to use?

A 2016 study confirms that β-Caryophyllene is an FDA-approved food additive that qualifies with the GRAS ( Generally Recognised as Safe) status.

Similarly, the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) also considers it safe for use as a flavor enhancer in human and animal food, and cosmetics. Additionally, studies suggest that even high doses of β-Caryophyllene have no adverse effects.

Products containing beta-caryophyllene

Spices and herbs such as basil, oregano, black pepper, cinnamon, cannabis, lavender, cloves, rosemary, along with dark green leafy plants, all contain this terpene.

It is also present in consumer products like creams, gels, shampoos, cooking spices, animal food products and as an ingredient in instant food mixes.

Most essential oils also contain beta-caryophyllene. For example, clove oil is a caryophyllene-rich essential oil.

How much β-Caryophyllene is in CBD oil?

Beta-caryophyllene is a terpene that gives plants and flowers a distinct flavor and scent and is responsible for the spicy and peppery aroma of CBD oil. 

Different varieties of cannabis have different combinations of terpenes which give a unique aroma to each strain. Therefore, depending on the cannabis strain, the levels of beta-caryophyllene may vary in your CBD oil.To find out more about the levels of each terpene in your CBD oil, check out the technical information part of the COA. This will list the terpene profile, including beta-caryophyllene.

C15H24.

Beta-Caryophyllene molecular structure

Beta-caryophyllene vs CBD

As already discussed, beta-caryophyllene is a terpene, and CBD is a cannabinoid. 

Studies suggest that β-Caryophyllene was one of the first cannabis-derived compounds with a chemical structure different from cannabinoids, but still interacting with the endocannabinoid system. 

Moreover, since it selectively binds to the CB2 receptors, beta-caryophyllene has the therapeutic potential to target peripheral tissues in the body. Therefore, it is referred to as an atypical cannabinoid. On the contrary, CBD has little binding affinity for either CB1 or CB2 receptors.According to a study done with broad spectrum CBD in an experiment using rodents, the CB1 receptor is present throughout the central nervous system. Therefore its activation is often associated with psychoactive effects. Contrastingly, the CB2 receptor is localized to the peripheral and non-neural tissues and its activation has an immunomodulatory effect.

Beta-caryophyllene interacts synergically with the phytocannabinoids and contributes to the entourage effect of cannabis, particularly with respect to its anti-analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties.  

A recent animal model study points out that CBD is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis sativa that delivers therapeutic effects independent of cannabinoid receptors. 

More importantly, CBD and beta-caryophyllene work through different sites of action but share common anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, analgesic effects.

What are the biological properties or uses of beta-caryophyllene?

  • Beta-caryophyllene is found in plants alongside its oxidation product, beta-caryophyllene oxide. It has a spicy aroma associated with smelling cracked pepper and evaporates quickly at normal temperatures. 
  • Cannabinoids and terpenes blend in the human body to modify one another effects and, in essence, create an entourage effect. 
  • The pharmacological properties of beta-caryophyllene include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties.
  • In mouse model experiments, BCP administration decreased tumor factors.
  • β-caryophyllene reduces acute chronic pain associated with inflammation, as it is a selective agonist of CB2 receptors. 
  • It offers great promise as a therapeutic compound, in systemic or dermatological applications including dermatitis. Therefore, its analgesic properties are often used in creams, gels, and ointments for pain relief. It is effective at lower doses.
  • According to a 2007 study, published in the Journal of Pharmacology, β-caryophyllene may be one of the active compounds related to the immunomodulatory activity of copaiba oil. It also indicates that when BCP combines with alpha-humulene, it increases the anti-cancer activity in human tumor cell lines. Additionally, its potent anti-inflammatory effects reduce inflammation connected with multiple sclerosis and immune system dysfunctions.

The wrap-up

  • Beta-caryophyllene is a major ingredient in Cannabis and exhibits cannabimimetic effects. This lipophilic sesquiterpene potentially modulates inflammatory processes through the endocannabinoid system. Hence, its impact on human health opens up a broad scope for future studies.
  • Moreover, selective cross-breeding of high terpenoid chemotypes could lead to inventing novel approaches to treat several disorders as an alternative to pain medications.

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Published by Vicky Stocker

A Munich native and translator and interpreter for English and French, Vicky’s journey at Nordic Oil started off in the US. Since then, she discovered the multiple benefits from CBD on the body but also in particular on the skin, which has become one of her passion topics of research and writing since then.

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