What is Caryophyllene?

Caryophyllene is present in many herbs and spices; including black pepper, basil, and oregano, and cannabis. Strains with high levels of caryophyllene deliver a spicy warmth to the nose, similar to cinnamon and cloves. When it come to the spicier side of the spectrum, caryophyllene holds the trophy for the spiciest.

What is Beta-caryophyllene (BCP)?

Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) is a sesquiterpene found in many plants such as Thai basils, cloves, cinnamon leaves and black pepper, and in minor quantities in lavender. It’s aroma has been described as peppery, woody and/or spicy. Caryophyllene is the only terpene known to interact with the endocannabinoid system (CB2). Studies show β–caryophyllene holds promise in cancer treatment plans. Research shows shows that β–caryophyllene selectively binds to the CB2 receptor and that it is a functional CB2 agonist. Further, β–caryophyllene was identified as a functional non-psychoactive CB2 receptor ligand in foodstuff and as a macrocyclic anti-inflammatory cannabinoid in cannabis.

Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) is a terpene found in many plants such as basil, cloves, rosemary, frankincense, cinnamon, and oregano. As a result, it has earned the FDA’s “generally recognized as safe” designation.  It’s one of the more abundant terpenes found in most strains of the cannabis plant.  The aroma of BCP has been described as woody and peppery. Like other terpenes, BCP is not intoxicating. And interestingly, it’s the only terpene known to interact with the endocannabinoid system at the CB2 receptor.

BCP may help with anxiety and depression

Research indicates activation of CB2 receptors by BCP may play a role in the treatment of anxiety and depression.  A 2014 animal study suggested BCP may produces multiple behavioral changes relevant to anxiety and depression in mice. Therefore, the researchers concluded BCP may improve the symptoms of these mood disorders.

BCP may reduce brain inflammation in Alzheimer’s Disease

Another study published in 2014 examined the anti-inflammatory effect of BCP in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.  The study concluded that activation of CB2 receptors by BCP may have a beneficial effect in reducing Alzheimer’s inflammatory response. Because of this, the researchers recommended BCP should be examined further for possible future drug development for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease may be improved by BCP

A 2011 study evaluated the effects of BCP on chemically-induced colitis (large bowel inflammation) in mice.  Researchers found BCP exhibited both preventative and therapeutic effects. The study concluded with additional investigation, BCP may be a potential future treatment for inflammatory bowel disease in humans.

CannaGlobe Key Cannabis Terpenes Beta-Caryophyllene

BCP may improve nerve pain

Finally, a 2014 study investigated the pain-relieving effects of BCP in animal models of inflammatory and nerve pain.  The study concluded that BCP may be effective in the treatment of prolonged, debilitating pain without any evidence of tolerance.

Research to date suggests BCP has a wide array of potential health benefits.  Continued investigation will help to clarify results of these initial studies and may also reveal possible new therapeutic benefits.


Bahi A et al; β-Caryophyllene, a CB2 receptor agonist produces multiple behavioral changes relevant to anxiety and depression in mice; Physiology and Behavior; 2014 Aug; 135: 119 – 124.

Cheng Y et al; β-Caryophyllene Ameliorates the Alzheimer-Like Phenotype in APP/PS1 Mice through CB2 Receptor Activation and the PPARγ Pathway; Pharmacology; 2014 Aug; 94(1-2): 1 – 12.

Bento A et al; β-Caryophyllene Inhibits Dextran Sulfate Sodium-Induced Colitis in Mice through CB2 Receptor Activation and PPARγ Pathway; American Journal of Pathology; 2011 Mar; 178(3): 1153 – 1166.

Klauke A et al; The cannabinoid CB₂ receptor-selective phytocannabinoid beta-caryophyllene exerts analgesic effects in mouse models of inflammatory and neuropathic pain; European Neuropsychopharmacology; 2014 Apr; 24(4): 608 – 620.



Author Bio:

Dr. Wright Penniman M.D. is a board certified family physician with 15 years of clinical experience and 4 years of experience as a medical director with a major health insurance company.

Article written by Dr. Wright Penniman M.D.

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