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beta-caryophyllene terpene
Terpene Talk

What is caryophyllene + the effects of this terpene?

Gregg PadulaFebruary 13, 2020

Caryophyllene is possibly the most exciting of the primary terpenes in the cannabis plant – and often considered the most important. It's Unique from all other known terpenes, Caryophyllene is the only terpene known to directly interact with the human body's Endocannabinoid System (ECS). It can directly activate the CB2 receptor, which makes it very similar to CBD in its ability to eliminate pain, reduce inflammation, and reduce stress.

Endocannabinoid receptors

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a multifaceted regulatory system found in every human being and countless animals, from both sea and land. The ECS has countless functions - but its primary purpose is to maintain homeostasis - the balance between our various bodily systems. It regulates essential processes such as memory, blood pressure, digestion, motor function, and inflammation. The ECS is always working, whether or not cannabis is introduced to the endocannabinoid receptors which are spread throughout the major bodily systems. Basically, we are born hard-wired for cannabis. When cannabis is consumed, the receptors are stimulated, and work together to restore homeostasis. The two major receptors are CB1 and CB2.

CB2 receptors are located in the peripheral organs of the human body, and are closely associated with the immune system and inflammation response. Our bodies also have CB1 receptors, which are located primarily in our brains. Activating the CB2 receptors with cannabis can relax the body and reduce pain without the psychotropic effects resulting from stimulating the CB1 receptors, – adding another great quality to its wellness benefits and removing any concern regarding getting high.

Ever since the discovery of the ECS in the late 1980s, most research has gone into the effects of cannabinoids, or compounds that trigger receptors in that system, primarily THC and CBD. One major group of these compounds is called terpenes. Originally thought of as simply providing aroma to fruits, herbs, and flowers, studies have shown that terpenes play a much larger role in the effects of a particular cannabis strain. One of the most abundant terpenes in both nature and cannabis is caryophyllene – a potentially effective treatment for a wide array of conditions.

Caryophyllene effects and strains

Also found in black pepper, oregano, cloves, basil and rosemary, caryophyllene produces spicy and musky scents in cannabis, with notes of diesel fuel which can give it a real bite. This terpene is heavily expressed in strains low in myrcene, and even higher in strains bred by the Cookie Family such as Girl Scout Cookies, Cookies and Cream, and Gelato.

Many studies have focused on the anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties of caryophyllene. It's believed that it slows both tumor growth and proliferation - similar to CBD. The effects are still not well-proven, but a 2016 review did highlight some studies showing positive effects in mice, and one study with some effects in humans. But more so, it has been shown to work well in conjunction with traditional cancer therapies, as it increases the bioavailability of the chemotherapy drugs. That particular study also highlighted all the complementary effects of caryophyllene on side effects of cancer treatment, most significantly involving chronic and acute pain.

Caryophyllene also exhibits analgesic and immunomodulatory activity, which make it a promising treatment for arthritis – a very exciting prospect for many.

Caryophyllene has yet another strength which further separates it from the other terpenes…and it's a pretty big one: Caryophyllene is the most common terpene found in cannabis extracts because it typically survives extraction processes that more volatile terpenes will not.

Like any potentially therapeutic compound contained within the resinous glands of a plant that has been outlawed for a century, a lot more research needs to be done before these claims can be medically recognized. However, more and more evidence of the potentially monumental benefits of caryophyllene is mounting. My prediction is this: In a few years, a lot more people will be able to pronounce the word caryophyllene.

Gregg Padula
Gregg Padula
Gregg Padula is a cannabis columnist with industry roots reaching back to Humboldt County, CA in the early 2000’s – and later as one of the first cultivators in Massachusetts’ medical cannabis industry. This unique vantage point is explored in much of his work for Gatehouse Media and