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Caryophyllene’s Therapeutic Benefits (Backed up by Scientific Studies)
Caryophyllene, a.k.a. beta-caryophyllene or BCP, is one of the most widespread terpenes in cannabis, which is good news as it seems to have a wide range of therapeutic applications.
Beyond cannabis, you’ve definitely encountered caryophyllene and its distinctive peppery, herbal bite on the nose in various spices, plants, and herbs, including black pepper, cinnamon, clove, basil, oregano, and hops. Perhaps cracked black pepper’s signature kick is where caryophyllene’s presence is most palpable.
Besides its prominence in cannabis and other plant species, caryophyllene is famous for a truly unique property among terpenes – its ability to bind to the CB2 receptors, which is attributed to its molecular structure, and more specifically the cyclobutane ring which no other terpene possesses. CB2 receptors are found mostly in the peripheral endocannabinoid system and respectively organs and are particularly instrumental in inflammation control, which explains scientists’ interest in caryophyllene’s anti-inflammatory potential in particular.
Anti-Inflammatory and Analgesic
Inflammation powers many types of pain, ailments, and diseases that span both the mind and body, so anti-inflammatory effects can have sweeping health implications, especially when they are potentially as diverse as the ones of caryophyllene.
For example, in a study on mouse models of inflammatory and neuropathic pain, orally induced caryophyllene reduced spinal neuroinflammation and inflammatory (late phase) pain responses without the subjects building up a tolerance to its anti-hyperalgesic effects (hyperalgesia is increased sensitivity to pain). The terpene even displayed higher efficacy than an alternative synthetic CB2 agonist.
“The natural plant product BCP may be highly effective in the treatment of long-lasting, debilitating pain states.”
Furthermore, caryophyllene has been found to stimulate a cross-talk between CB2 and PPAR-γ receptors, which exert anti-arthritic effects, thus mitigating the severity of collagen antibody induced arthritis (CACA) in animal models and inhibiting dextran sulfate sodium-induced colitis (inflammatory bowel disease) in mice.
Caryophyllene’s anti-inflammatory effects even extend to the liver (of mice), improving cisplatin-induced kidney dysfunction in a dose-dependent manner, in addition to mitigating oxidative/nitrative stress and cell death.
“Given the excellent safety profile of BCP in humans it has tremendous therapeutic potential in a multitude of diseases associated with inflammation and oxidative stress,” the study’s authors conclude.
Speaking of oxidative stress, it tends to go hand in hand with inflammation, so it should come as no surprise that caryophyllene exerts antioxidant activity as well, which has been shown to further reinforce the terpene’s liver-protecting abilities by inhibiting hepatic stellate cell activation in a study on liver fibrosis.
And in terms of pain-relief in particular, not only has caryophyllene been found to induce pain relief in mice, exposed to capsaicin, an active component of chili peppers, but perhaps even more intriguingly, it boosted the analgesic effects of low doses of morphine in the same study.
Essential oils, obtained from Baccharis uncinella, have been reported to have pharmacological activity on the central nervous system, which is largely attributed to terpenes, and caryophyllene, its oxide, and a couple of others in particular, being those oils’ main constituents. The hyperlinked study above looked into the essential oils’ sedative effects, of which there’s anecdotal evidence, and found them to prolong sleep and bring down body temperature and locomotion, suggesting the sleep was not just longer, but deeper as well.
Caryophyllene has also displayed some promise in the battles against cancer and diabetes in rats. More specifically, it worked in concert with standard diabetes medicine to maintain a healthy balance of glucose levels.
It’s important to keep in mind that all these findings come from the rat and animal kingdom, so to speak, so studies on humans in vivo are needed before we can make bold, definitive claims. However, this solid body of research is as good and promising of a starting point as any.