What does Caryophyllene do?

Caryophyllene, known typically as β-Caryophyllene, is a common terpene throughout the plant world. It is commonly found in basil, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, cannabis, lavender, oregano, and rosemary. Either as a pure substance or a component of a plants essential oil its biological effects include anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antioxidant, and anagesic.

β-Caryophyllene is known as a phytocannabinoid, a compound which activates the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. What is interesting is that it only effects CB2 and not CB1 – this implies that it is non-psychoactive and suggests its potential use in medicine. Activation of the CB2 receptor could be a therapeutic strategy for the treatment of inflammation, pain, atherosclerosis, and osteoporosis. Anticancer properties of caryophyllene are less recognized than those of traditional cannabinoids, although there is a body of evidence which suggests these natural compounds can be complementary for the treatment of many cancers. β-Caryophyllene had a positive effect on reducing cervical adenocarcinoma cells, leukemia cancer cells, lung cancer cells, gastric cancer cells, and stomach cancer cells. Aside from these direct anticancer properties, caryophyllene also has the ability to enhance the efficacy of classical anticancer drugs such as paclitaxel or doxorubicin.

Theres a fascinating study (Koyama et al, 2019) which looks at if β-Caryophyllene could speed up wound healing by decreasing inflammation. What they found was tissue treated with caryophyllene had increased cell proliferation and cell migration – ultimately faster healing.

Takemoto et al (2021) looked at inhaled volatile β-Caryophyllene in mice. What they found is that after inhaling caryophyllene it was found in the lung, olfactory bulb, brain, serum, heart, liver, kidney, epididymal fat, and brown adipose tissue (fatty tissues). After 24 h after exposure caryophyllene was still found in the brain, liver and adipose tissue. A metabolomic analysis of the liver revealed that this terpene exerts an antioxidant effect, even if just through inhalation. Another study (Machado et al, 2020) showed β-Caryophyllene was not toxic at even the highest concentration tested. Moreover, it exerted antioxidant and neuroprotective effects, which can be targeted to treat neurological diseases and disorders such as anxiety.

Terpene nasal inhaler caryophyllene

In summary, inhalation of β-Caryophyllene could yield many benefits. Due to its ability to bind to CB2 receptors it has potent anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial and antioxidant properties, this in turn helps relieve anxiety and pain, reduce cholesterol, prevent osteoporosis and treat seizures. It may also help against certain neurodegenerative diseases and cancers. We call the main effect “euphoric” due to its ability to bind to the cannabinoid receptor (CB2) to relieve anxiety and pain, which for all intents and purposes – frees us from those negative emotions to see the world in a more positive light.

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Fidyt et al (2016). β-Caryophyllene and β-caryophyllene oxide – natural compounds of anticancer and analgesic properties. Cancer Medicine 5(10): 3007-3017.
Gertsch et al (2008). Beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105(26): 9099-9104.
Koyama et al (2019). Beta-caryophyllene enhances wound healing through multiple routes. Plos One: 0216104 .
Machado et al (2020). Anxiety Therapeutic Interventions of β-Caryophyllene: A Laboratory-Based Study. Natural Product Communications 15(10): https://doi.org/10.1177/1934578X20962229 .
Takemoto et al (2021). Distribution of inhaled volatile β-Caryophyllene and dynamic changes of liver metabolites in mice. Scientific Reports 11, article number: 1728.


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