Terpenes: β-caryophyllene




Picking a strain can be a daunting experience, but when you’re armed with the right information, you can confidently make choices that are right for you. This is one of the most frustrating parts of cannabis medicine – finding reputable information to equip patients to serve themselves. Due to its federal illegality, cannabis is the only medicine that is prescribed by a doctor, but not dispensed by a medical professional. This means that, unlike your regular pharmacy, there is often no fully educated individual in a dispensary. The patient ends up having to take personal advice from their budtender. No offense, budtenders, we love you and you often give great advice! The problem is, there is no uniform education. With that being said, cannabis consumers must educate themselves to make solid, informed decision. Picking a strain is no longer as easy as Sativa/Indica – there are more hybrids now than ever, and it can be difficult to tell which way the hybrid leans. This is where terpenes come in to play. Any educated cannabis consumer should know a little bit about terpenes and how to choose what’s right for you. Let’s dive into terpenes and how they fit in to your usage.

There are more than fifty cannabis terpenes, but we specifically focus on eight of the most common: myrcene, terpinolene, ocimene, limonene, alpha-pinene, humulene, linalool, and beta-caryophyllene. Cannabinoids and terpenes work together to produce the desired effects when using cannabis. Separating the most common terpenes and discussing each of their individual strengths can help the consumer use cannabis properly, as well as avoid any undesirable effects.

Beta-caryophyllene (β-caryophyllene), or BCP, is currently the most common terpene found in cannabis in the United States, and therefore the most widely studied. It is also commonly found in a multitude of spices, including black pepper, basil, and rosemary. It is considered “GRAS”, or “Generally Recognized As Safe” as a food additive, by the FDA.

To understand cannabinoids and terpenes, we must understand a little about endocannabinoid receptors. We also have to get a bit scienc-y. For a quick overview of our Endocannabinoid System, check out the main Education page on my website.

Cannabis’ action occurs on cannabinoid receptors found in our body, such as CB1 and CB2 receptors. Understanding their difference can help you figure out what a specific terpene will do in the body. CB1 receptors are mostly found in our central nervous system, with their heaviest concentration in the brain, while CB2 receptors are found in our peripheral nervous system, which is all over our bodies. CB2 receptors are also found on white blood cells, and in the spleen. CB2 receptors are activated for many reasons, but most commonly when the body perceives inflammation or injury. However, CB2 receptors’ improper triggering plays a major role in many autoimmune diseases. BCP is so effective mostly because it is a selective agonist, or activator, of the CB2 receptor, and therefore takes a major role in inflammation regulation.

BCP is also well-studied for its analgesic, or pain relieving, qualities. Analgesia and anti-inflammatory effects working together make this a powerful terpene for those dealing with chronic pain. It has also shown to be effective against notoriously hard-to-treat neuropathic and neurodegenerative pain, which has very limited pharmacological treatment options.

As cannabis research continues to move forward with less restriction, we gain more insight into this mysterious plant and its contents. BCP may be well-studied regarding inflammation and pain, but newer studies have explored many potential protective effects, as well as its role in addiction treatment.

Neuroprotection is sought not only for specific disease but also for the aging process. Myelin, or the layer that protects our brain and spinal cord, is commonly damaged due to inflammation. Multiple Sclerosis is the most common demyelinating condition, and these patients see myelin damage through the form of lesions, or “plaques” in the brain and spinal cord. Parkinson’s Disease is another common neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by death of specific cells in the brain that control voluntary movement and have a role in behavior. Because myelin is found all around our brain and spinal cord, demyelenation can wreak havoc in many different areas, such as loss of cognition, motor function, vision, the ability to speak, and control of bowel and bladder. Neuroprotection in these cases is paramount to preserving brain function.

Recent studies have revealed that beta-caryophyllene could play an important role in addiction treatment. CB2 receptors have been studied with their role in drug addiction, and are thought to be the primary source of drug reward and addiction. A 2021 study revealed that the use of BCP with mice addicted to cocaine interrupted the addiction process and lessened the drive to obtain the drug (Galaj, et al., 2021). Another 2021 study showed rats addicted to methamphetamine who were treated with BCP had less drive to obtain the drug, and it also decreased the effect of the drug when taken (He, et al., 2021). Many more studies are needed in this area to find out more on BCP’s role in addiction.

So what does all this mean to the consumer?

If you’re researching strains, check out the terpene content. If it’s not listed on the label, some internet research could give you a little more insight as to what is in a particular strain. THC and CBD percentage alone will not give you enough information on the strain, and the same goes for categorizing it as a sativa, indica, or hybrid. Each strain’s terpene profile gives more information on its potential effects, and can guide the consumer in this confusing cannabis world.

I suggest taking notes when trying a new strain, and reference them when making decisions about what to buy next. You may actually notice a pattern of certain terpenes that agree with you (or ones that don’t). BCP is generally a safe place to start because it is not usually linked with increased anxiety, a worry for many cannabis users. β-caryophyllene is well-loved and well-tolerated in general, and can be a great starting place when learning about your own Endocannabinoid System and what it needs.


References:

Bie, B., Wu, J., Foss, J.F., & Naguib, M. (2018) An overview of the cannabinoid type 2 receptor system and its therapeutic potential. Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 31(4):407-414. doi: 10.1097/ACO.0000000000000616. PMID: 29794855; PMCID: PMC6035094.

Galaj, E., Bi, GH., Moore, A. et al. (2021). Beta-caryophyllene inhibits cocaine addiction-related behavior by activation of PPARα and PPARγ: repurposing a FDA-approved food additive for cocaine use disorder. Neuropsychopharmacol. 46:860–870. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-020-00885-4

He, X.H., Galaj, E., Bi, G.H., He, Y., Hempel, B., Wang, Y.L., Gardner, E.L., Xi, Z.X. (2021). β-caryophyllene, an FDA-Approved Food Additive, Inhibits Methamphetamine-Taking and Methamphetamine-Seeking Behaviors Possibly via CB2 and Non-CB2 Receptor Mechanisms. Front Pharmacol. 2021 Sep 9;12:722476. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2021.722476. PMID: 34566647; PMCID: PMC8458938.

Shan, J., Chen, L., & Lu, K. (2016). Protective effects of trans-caryophyllene on maintaining osteoblast function. IUBMB Life, 69(1), 22-29. doi:10.1002/iub.1584




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