Beta-caryophyllene or β-caryophyllene (βCP), is a natural bicyclic sesquiterpene commonly found in:
- Basil (Thai, in particular)
- Black Caraway
- Black Pepper
- Cinnamon (true)
- Copaiba Oil
- Ylang Ylang
With a rich spicy odour and flavour it is present in all Cannabis strains. Strains that have tested high in βCP are Sour Diesel, Skywalker OG, Chemdawg, Rockstar, Bubba Kush and OG Kush. Caryophyllene oxide takes part in the defence system of plants, functioning as an insecticide and an anti-fungal. Drug sniffing dogs use caryophyllene oxide to identify Cannabis, it is also an approved food additive used for flavouring. Various studies have shown βCP’s therapeutic uses to include:
- Alcohol craving reduction
- Analgaesic – pain relief
- Anti-coagulant (properties)
- Anti-fungal – Caryophyllene and Cannabichromene (CBC) join in defence against fungi; caryophyllene oxide has shown clinical effectiveness against certain fungal infections
- Anti-inflammatory on two levels, one is blocking prostaglandins’ inflammatory pathway (also occurs with myrcene and pinene), the other is as a CB2 agonist
- Anti-nociceptive (blocking detection of painful or injurious stimulus by sensory neurons)
- Anti-oxidant – prevents oxidation damage to other molecules in the body
- Anti-proliferative – inhibits cancer cell growth
- Anxiolytic – relieves anxiety
- Gastric protection effects
- Neuroprotective – slows damage to the nervous system and brain
And, much like the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD), this terpene can be a good combatant for deemed ‘uncomfortable’ amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the system. The medical establishment stands poised to accept Cannabis and its active constituents as legitimate medicinal compounds. An article in the Journal of the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons advocated for increasing the scrutiny of cannabinoids as a potential alternative to narcotics and anti-inflammatory steroids in the modulation of pain. βCP, has shown potential in recent years as a modulator of pain and inflammation. There are two main cannabinoid receptors in the human body, so-called CB1 and CB2, βCP has been shown to selectively activate the CB2 receptor. While CB1 is especially localised in the central nervous system (CNS), CB2 can be found mainly in the peripheries, especially in white blood cells that mediate inflammation and cellular immunity.
It’s hypothesised that by βCP binding to and activating the CB2 receptor, it mediates and enhances the same activity as that caused by the cannabinoid class of compounds, providing some scientific rationale for the often bespoken entourage effect. To that effect, a European study was conducted to see how βCP modulates the pain-relieving capabilities of both strong opioids and molecular mimics of THC termed CB2-agonists. It successfully demonstrated (in mice) that βCP does indeed work through the CB2 receptor and that it even enhances the pain-relief provided by morphine. The authors postulated that this may illuminate the path towards making a combinatorial βCP and narcotic pharmaceutical mixture to administer for relief of cancer-induced pain. Besides the anti-nociception activity described above, βCP specifically alters several key pathways important for cancer development. Therefore, a pharmaceutical mixture that not only provides pain-relief, but also actively down-regulates the cancer from developing itself, obviously represents a win-win situation.
An astrocyte grown in tissue culture stained with
Glial Fibrillary Acid Protein (GFAP) and Vimentin.
Switching gears to a discussion of a different terpene and system, another study aimed at testing molecular targets of brain cells that have become actively inflamed. The brain contains two main types of cells: neurons, or excitatory cells and glial, or non-excitatory cells. The purpose of the glial cells is, generally speaking, to support the neurons. Astrocytes (see above) are a type of glial cell that carry out a lot of the metabolic activity required to 1) feed neurons, and 2) keep the local electrolyte environment of the neuron well-adjusted. When the CNS undergoes injury, a healing process called gliosis, meaning inflammation of the surrounding glial cells, takes place. The study, which was done in cells in a lab rather than a living being (in vitro), examined the effects of how Linalool affects the ability of astrocytes to become less inflamed and the results showed promise. There is a large and growing body of research that is exploring the use of terpenes for treating all kinds of pain, from neuropathic and muscular all the way to headaches and migraines. We think that terpene formulations providing tangible relief for pain are going to hit the market hard, and soon.