Terpene of the Month: b-Caryophyllene
Each month we highlight one of the 200+ volatile aromatic compounds called terpenes that create the unique flavors and aromas of different cannabis strains. Terpenes enhance the health benefits of cannabis while reducing the intoxicating effects that can cause anxiety. Additionally, each terpene has unique therapeutic benefits.
What is b-Caryophyllene?
This month we’re introducing b-caryophyllene, one of the more common cannabis terpenes. B-caryophyllene has a distinctive spicy, peppery flavor and aroma, and tends to be abundant in spices that have a noticeably peppery flavor including peppercorns, cloves, and cinnamon. It’s also common in peppery herbs such as oregano, basil, hops and rosemary.
Benefits of b-Caryophyllene
B-caryophyllene is widely used in topicals and salves because of its well-known anti-inflammatory properties. A recent study found that it is highly effective in preventing oxidative stress and cell death, and stated that “given the excellent safety profile of b-caryophyllene in humans it has tremendous therapeutic potential in a multitude of diseases associated with inflammation and oxidative stress.” Research indicates that another form of the compound, trans-caryophyllene, may reduce inflammation in the brain caused by hypoxia, and a 2011 study found that it is an effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease.
Perhaps most importantly to our patients, studies have shown that b-caryophyllene is a powerful local analgesic (pain reliever) and behaves in a dose-dependent manner (the more you take, the more powerful the relief). Because of these two properties, scientists regard it as “highly effective in the treatment of long lasting, debilitating pain states” and recommend it as a dietary aid for chronic pain.
B-caryophyllene has also been studied for its effect on cancer; research shows that it increases the effectiveness of Paclitaxel (a chemotherapy drug) and it has strong anti-cancer properties in its own right because it stimulates apoptosis (cell death) and suppresses the growth of tumors. B-caryophyllene is extremely unique in that it is one of the only “dietary cannabinoids”, binding with the CB2 receptor of the endocannabinoid system. Research shows that b-caryophyllene relieves anxiety, has anti-depressant qualities, and can even reduce alcohol cravings.
Finding the Right Strain
To identify strains rich in b-caryophyllene, use your nose or select strains that are listed as having a spicy, peppery aroma similar to black pepper. Terpene levels vary from harvest to harvest, but some strains consistently produce higher levels. B-caryophyllene has been present to some degree in all of the strains we’ve submitted for testing so far; the strains with the highest levels are Snow Drop, NYC Diesel, and Exodus Cheese.