The cannabinoid structure is a complex organic system with a wealth of unique properties, many of which haven’t even been tapped into yet. With over 113 known varieties, each cannabinoid offers its own design, and many have the capacity to be used in medicinal and therapeutic treatments. Revered by countless civilizations across time and space for their healing properties, an interest in the use of cannabinoids specifically in the medical field has been rapidly growing in recent years. One of the latest cannabinoids to be studied is beta-caryophyllene, a common terpene found in organic plant life.
Beta-caryophyllene (simply referred to as BCP or sometimes β-caryophyllene) is abundantly found in a variety of plants, but its unique structure allows it to function unlike other compounds commonly found in nature. Studies have proven beta-caryophyllene to be an incredibly potent and effective tool in the treatment of a broad spectrum of issues like chronic pain and inflammation, anxiety, seizures, and certain cancers.
Beta-caryophyllene falls into the category of terpenes: naturally occurring aromatic oils responsible for a plant’s distinct fragrance. Terpenes act in pursuit of preservation and proliferation, helping the plant by both attracting pollinators and repelling predators and competitors, and beta-caryophyllene is the most abundantly occurring terpene in nature. It has a distinctly woody, spice-forward fragrance that is clearly present in common kitchen ingredients like basil, rosemary, mint, and black pepper, as well as over 1,000 other plants.
BCP is commonly found in edible plants and spices, and studies conducted by both the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) have approved it as generally safe for human consumption. It is regularly used as a primary ingredient in food flavoring and cosmetics, but additional research reveals that beta-caryophyllene can also be used as a safe and effective ingredient in medicinal products. Information about the benefits of beta-caryophyllene use continues to emerge each day, but there has already been significant headway in research that suggests the plant compound has the potential to play a pivotal role in a broad spectrum of issues.
Studies have been conducted to prove its efficacy in the treatment of various cancers, pain relief and management, wound healing, and more. While its presence in medicinal products grows, current therapeutic use of beta-caryophyllene comes via essential oils of plants where beta-caryophyllene occurs, as well as beta-caryophyllene supplements.
While beta-caryophyllene is generally identified as a terpene, it can be more specifically categorized as a bicyclic sesquiterpene. In addition to the standard molecular structure of the bicyclic sesquiterpene, beta-caryophyllene also contains a rare cyclobutane ring. This ring gives beta-caryophyllene a structure unto itself, and is believed to be what helps make the plant compound so unique and significant in its function.
Of the numbered roles beta-caryophyllene plays, one of the most notable is that of a cannabinoid. Along with its peers tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), beta-caryophyllene is considered a plant-based cannabinoid (phytocannabinoid). However, because of its presence in edible plants and spices, beta-caryophyllene is also uniquely referred to as a dietary cannabinoid. Cannabinoids like beta-caryophyllene, THC, and CBD have a significant impact when introduced to the body, as they directly interact with the endocannabinoid system.
A complex system that is responsible for maintaining balance in the body, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays an important role in the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. Composed of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes that synthesize and degrade endocannabinoids, changes to the endocannabinoid system have the capacity to affect the body’s overall homeostasis. So, when introduced into the body, cannabinoids like beta-caryophyllene respond to this complex system by binding to cannabinoid receptors, primarily type 1 and type 2. In binding, cannabinoids activate the cannabinoid receptors and affect the endocannabinoid system, thus impacting the central and peripheral nervous system. The activation of certain cannabinoid receptors has the potential to aid in the treatment of countless ailments including chronic pain, inflammation, neurodegenerative disease, anxiety, and more.
While both types of cannabinoid receptors can be affected as cannabinoids are introduced to the body, the two are not created equal. Type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1) are the most abundant cannabinoid receptor in the body and, thus, most likely to be activated by cannabinoids. While they are present throughout the body, CB1 receptors are mostly localized to the brain and central nervous system. Type 2 cannabinoid receptors (CB2), on the other hand, are far less common and are more readily found in the body’s vascular system. CB2 receptors are less often the target of cannabinoids than CB1 receptors, and their activation can have vastly different results.
Cannabinoids like THC and CBD have the capacity to engage both CB1 and CB2 receptors and, thus, have proven effective in treating a broad spectrum of issues in the body. However, as CB1 receptors are largely present in the brain and central nervous system, both cannabinoids (but primarily THC) have also proven to be limited in their use as a result of unwanted psychoactive effects. Beta-caryophyllene, though similar to its peers in its general function as a cannabinoid, is markedly different.
Unlike THC and CBD, which activate both CB1 and CB2 receptors, beta-caryophyllene is a selective CB2 agonist. Because beta-caryophyllene is able to directly bind to CB2 receptors exclusively, it produces a more potent therapeutic result than other cannabinoids and, thus, can be used as treatment for a much more broad spectrum of issues. In activating these CB2 responders, beta-caryophyllene is believed to be a strong anti-inflammatory and possess antifungal, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties, and can be applied for use in the treatment of chronic pain conditions, various infections, and even neurological disorders. Additionally, since beta-caryophyllene bypasses the major receptors in the central nervous system (CB1), it does not have the same psychoactive side effects that cannabinoids like THC can elicit. As such, beta-caryophyllene is believed to be a safer and more viable option for use in medicine.
While the research surrounding beta-caryophyllene is still relatively young, the studies already conducted have revealed a wealth of significant information about potential uses for the abundant plant compound. In addition to being a natural ingredient in food flavoring and cosmetics, beta-caryophyllene also proves to be an effective means to treat a long list of medical issues like inflammation, chronic and acute pain, and various anxiety and sleep disorders. The numbered studies that have been conducted to measure beta-caryophyllene’s efficacy in medicine suggest that the compound’s benefits as a medicinal product are not only great in number, but they are also potentially great in their level of impact. Though limited in human testing, research suggests that beta-caryophyllene is effective in acute care, and its use in medicine might also prove it to be a viable asset in the preventative and long-term treatment of various cancers and diseases.
One of the most notable benefits of beta-caryophyllene is its use in the treatment of inflammation. Since inflammation in the body is largely regulated by the endocannabinoid system, it comes as little surprise that beta-caryophyllene has anti-inflammatory properties. With CB2 receptors in the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system, beta-caryophyllene has the capacity to treat inflammation throughout the body, including important hubs like the brain and gastrointestinal system. And, since beta-caryophyllene doesn’t interact with CB1 receptors, it’s able to treat inflammation in the body without eliciting any secondary psychoactive effects. Studies suggest that beta-caryophyllene’s use as an anti-inflammatory can be effective as acute care and, potentially, play a larger role in the preventative and recovery treatment of various cancers.
Significant research shows that beta-caryophyllene can be effective in the treatment of acute neuropathic inflammation and long-term neurological distress. Many neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular diseases (such as Alzheimer’s disease and Stroke) are impacted in large part by brain inflammation, and the introduction of beta-caryophyllene has been proven to help reduce this type of inflammation. In the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, beta-caryophyllene helps reduce both inflammation and the accumulation of plaques that build between nerve cells in the brain. This treatment is both effective in acute care, as well as in the long-term protective treatment against cognitive degeneration. Beta-caryophyllene also seems effective in treatment of Stroke, as its use tends to reduce swelling in the brain, as well as in the chemicals responsible for inflammation and oxidative stress. The results of existing studies thus suggests beta-caryophyllene has the potential to be a potent treatment of both diseases devoid of adverse effect.
Research also shows that beta-caryophyllene can be useful in the treatment of issues presenting in the gastrointestinal system, such as colitis. Colitis is a common inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal system that causes inflammation of the intestines. This inflammation leads to severe pain, cramping, and diarrhea. Moreover, long-term battles with colitis have the potential to cause colorectal cancer down the line. Studies conducted on beta-caryophyllene and gastrointestinal inflammation reveal the compound helps to reduce inflammation in the colon. These results suggest beta-caryophyllene could be used for pain management and potential cancer prevention.
In addition to being a potent anti-inflammatory, beta-caryophyllene also has substantial analgesic properties and can be used to treat acute and chronic pain. Studies suggest beta-caryophyllene has the potential to play a significant role in both pain relief and chronic pain management because of its unique ability to activate both the cannabinoid system and the opioid system. While beta-caryophyllene is a potent CB2 agonist that affects the endocannabinoid system, its presence in the body also triggers a response in peripheral opioid receptors in the central nervous system. Beta-caryophyllene has the capacity to dually activate cannabinoid and opioid receptors in the body, and as such is considered a potent choice for chronic, neuropathic pain with a potentially greater effect on the body than other natural or synthetic drugs. Since beta-caryophyllene is also believed to have longer lasting and more substantial effects on the body than traditional opioids, studies also speculate that use of beta-caryophyllene may decrease or eliminate the need for drugs like morphine for pain relief and long-term pain management. It is also suggested that beta-caryophyllene does not carry the same long-term side effects as its peers and, thus, could be a strong candidate for the treatment of chronic conditions or cancers.
Beta-caryophyllene’s analgesic properties have also been studied in the treatment of wound pain and healing. With CB2 receptors present in neuronal cells, immune tissue, hair follicles, sebaceous glands, and layers of the skin and its muscles, it’s clear that an introduction of beta-caryophyllene will elicit a response. When applied topically to the skin by way of creams or salves, beta-caryophyllene acts as a strong local anesthetic to aid in treating acute pain. Research also shows beta-caryophyllene to be greatly effective in the healing process of external wounds. In the studies conducted, beta-caryophyllene helps facilitate re-epithelialization and cell migration, thus accelerating wound healing. In addition to helping speed the healing process, use of beta-caryophyllene in wound healing could potentially yield better results than other remedies. Results show beta-caryophyllene changes gene expression in the skin, meaning it could promote more complete skin regeneration.
While the research is far less developed, it can be suggested that beta-caryophyllene might also play a role in the treatment of certain sleep and anxiety disorders. Some studies have speculated the use of beta-caryophyllene could promote better sleep, as well as reduced stress and anxiety. Since beta-caryophyllene is a cannabinoid, it is believed to have certain sedative qualities like those attributed to THC and CBD. Additionally, its ability to impact neural pathways suggests beta-caryophyllene could prove useful in the treatment of general to specific neurological syndromes and disorders.
Beta-caryophyllene is, quite possibly, a miracle compound. While research is still very young and has yet to be developed in human studies, the existing literature proves its efficacy in the treatment of a broad range of issues affecting various systems in the body. Proven useful in the treatment of inflammation, pain, and anxiety, studies continue to emerge to suggest its use as an antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, and as treatment for osteoporosis and multiple sclerosis. There is little to no evidence to suggest any unwanted side effects, too, which adds to beta-caryophyllene’s desirability as a means to treat acute and chronic conditions. What’s more significant, though, is beta-caryophyllene’s ability to create something of a domino effect in the body; by positively affecting acute and chronic pain as well as helping induce healing and recovery, beta-caryophyllene positions itself as a long-term companion to whole body wellness.
With so much of its greater potential still untapped, beta-caryophyllene can be incorporated into a daily wellness routine by way of beta-caryophyllene supplements or essential oils. Of these options, the most easily accessible are supplements and essential oils. With several options to choose from, beta-caryophyllene can be found as its own supplement or essential oil, as well as part of a plant compound blend. As a supplement, beta-caryophyllene can be ingested in pill or powder form or can be used topically in products like lotions or salves.