EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TERPENE CARYOPHYLLENE:
THE ULTIMATE CARYOPHYLLENE GUIDE.
What is Caryophyllene and the Benefits, Effects, Research, Science & More?
We take you through the benefits, options, and important criteria you should consider when looking at products containing caryophyllene.
Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Vance Green, PharmD.
Updated on August 24, 2021
Introduction into the Terpene Caryophyllene
Caryophyllene is a common terpene, a natural scented compound found in hemp and cannabis, as well as spicy-smelling plants like cracked pepper, rosemary, and cloves.
Join us today as we continue our journey to learn more about terpenes.
Found throughout nature, each strain of hemp or cannabis contains a unique blend of terpenes. Scientists believe terpenes contribute not just to the scent of these plants but their benefits as well. Remarkably, caryophyllene activates some of the same receptors in our body as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), making this an incredibly potent terpene.
While research into this compound is the product of modern science, it’s interesting to consider that humans may be instinctively attracted to the smell of plants like peppercorns because of how they benefit our health (in addition to how they tantalize your taste buds).
Caryophyllene is “the first proven phytocannabinoid beyond the cannabis genus.” In other words, it’s the first terpene proven to act like CBD or THC.
What is B-Caryophyllene, and what makes it unique?
There are actually several classes of terpene, though the distinction is beyond the scope of this article. To be extremely scientific, caryophyllene, short for β-caryophyllene, is a natural bicyclic sesquiterpene. It’s a common component of the essential oils of many plants.
Cannabis and hemp, along with peppercorns, cloves, hops, cinnamon, and rosemary, are some of the most common plants with high levels of caryophyllene. That means it’s also a flavor component in some beers. These are typically those with added hops since the boiling process destroys many terpenes in the plant.
One interesting note, from the Oxford Companion to Beer: brewers sometimes added peppercorn to beer. The caryophyllene could trick drinkers into believing the alcohol was more potent than it really is.
Dr. Ethan Russo, one of the foremost experts on terpenes and cannabis, notes that caryophyllene is unique among terpenes since it activates CB2 receptors in our nervous system. (Source) It affects our endocannabinoid systems in a similar way to CBD and THC, which most people think of as the most “active” compounds on our bodies and minds.
Caryophyllene is “the first proven phytocannabinoid beyond the cannabis genus,” according to Russo.
Caryophyllene benefits – what are the possible benefits of the terpene caryophyllene?
Scientists believe caryophyllene could help in numerous ways, perhaps partly because of its ability to activate our endocannabinoid system.
Here are some possible benefits based on current research:
- Anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) – Thanks to its ability to activate the CB2 receptors found throughout our nervous systems, experts like Russo note that it is both anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving while also enhancing the anti-inflammatory powers of the cannabis plant.
- Anti-microbial – Plants containing caryophyllene have traditionally been utilized for their ability to fight off microbial infections such as malaria. Some preliminary scientific research supports this use.
- May help ease addictions – In a study using mice, caryophyllene reduced their ethanol consumption, suggesting an anti-addictive property. (Source)
- Could improve digestive health – Research cited by Russo suggests caryophyllene can help protect the gastric lining from harmful substances, making it potentially beneficial in the treatment of ulcers.
- May help with autoimmune disease – Project CBD reports that researchers investigated whether caryophyllene could help with a rare autoimmune disorder, scleroderma, due to the terpene’s ability to activate the endocannabinoid system. (Source)
Researchers seem especially interested in caryophyllene because of this list of benefits and its unique method of action that closely mimics cannabis itself.
“A preparation that had THC, CBD, and caryophyllene may be an ideal way of dealing with chronic pain and particularly people who are addicted to opioids,” Russo noted in an interview with ProjectCBD.
Scientists think terpenes play a key role in the “entourage effect.” In brief, the entourage effect is the idea that all the compounds in hemp or cannabis are more effective working together rather than isolated into their individual parts.
That’s why so many consumers report better effects from full-spectrum hemp supplements versus those made with just CBD isolate. While the additional cannabinoids like THC, CBG and CBN play a role, so do the terpenes.
For example, researchers think caryophyllene, a common terpene in hemp flower, may contribute to its relaxing and pain-relieving effects.
“A preparation that has THC, CBD, and caryophyllene may be an ideal way of dealing with chronic pain.” – Dr. Ethan Russo, terpene and cannabis expert.
What strains of cannabis and hemp are high in caryophyllene?
Along with myrcene, caryophyllene is one of the most common terpenes found in cannabis and smokable hemp. If you’ve ever had a cannabis or hemp strain with a spicy flavor, it might have been high in caryophyllene.
Caryophyllene can contribute to the “harsh” taste of some strong-tasting hemp strains. As you’ve read above, the potential benefits could be more than worth it.
As we’ve previously noted, the only way to know for sure if your cannabis or hemp contains caryophyllene is to check the third-party lab results, also known as a certificate of analysis or COA. We can still generalize a bit about which strains are highest in this terpene.
When it comes to hemp flower, you’ll find a lot of caryophyllene in T1, a.k.a. Trump.
T1 has a “loud” and hoppy flavor due, in part, to the presence of caryophyllene. Watch the video below to see a reviewer sample Absolute Nature CBD T1 Hemp Pre-Rolls:
T! Trump Pre-Rolls Review Video
Another newer strain of smokable hemp flower is The White CBG, a strain with high levels of both caryophyllene and the cannabinoid CBG (Cannabigerol).
According to Leafly, some high-THC cannabis strains containing high levels of caryophyllene include ChemDawg, Bubba Kush, and Sour Diesel. Some consumers say these strains are especially good for helping them cope with pain.
While caryophyllene is a fascinating compound with unique effects, experts believe it works best when combined with CBD or THC and a diverse array of other cannabinoids in a full-spectrum product.
Some of the common terpenes in hemp and cannabis include myrcene, limonene, pinene and linalool.
Get to know our favorite ‘terps’
Thanks to the years of prohibition and the stigma that grew up around hemp and cannabis, we’re only just beginning to learn about how compounds like terpenes work and could help us.
Writer: Kit O’Connell is a writer and journalist from Austin, Texas. His work has also appeared in Yes! Magazine, the Texas Observer, and elsewhere. He served as Editor in Chief of the Ministry of Hemp from 2017 until 2021.