Terpene Talk: Caryophyllene

Next up on our deep dive into the world of terpenes, we have an unusual entry. In this post, we’ll explore caryophyllene, also known as “beta-caryophyllene.”

What is Caryophyllene?

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Caryophyllene is actually a pretty unique molecule. So far, it’s the only molecule we know that’s both a terpene and a cannabinoid. In addition, it may possess some useful health-related benefits. We’ll go into more detail about both of these traits below.

Understanding Terpenes and Cannabinoids

We said that caryophyllene was both a terpene and a cannabinoid. But what does that actually mean?

Terpenes are a category of organic compounds. They’re best known for their aromatic properties, meaning they convey powerful scents and tastes. That’s why they’re a common ingredient in many perfumes, foods, cleaning supplies, and more.

Terpenes are a common fixture in the natural world. Plants and animals develop them naturally to either entice prey, ward off predators, and more. To date, scientists have discovered more than 100 terpenes in cannabis plants.

Cannabinoids, in contrast, don’t occur as commonly in nature as terpenes do. Instead, they develop mainly in cannabis plants. These organic molecules are chemically similar to a category of neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids.

Your body develops these neurotransmitters naturally to control things like immune system response, sleep schedule, and more. Cannabinoids can impersonate endocannabinoids in the body, “hacking” it to trigger certain results.

Caryophyllene: Traits and Properties

As a terpene, caryophyllene is a natural conveyor of fragrance and taste. This terpene actually possesses a fairly common scent. It’s pepper. That’s right, caryophyllene is responsible for pepper’s spicy, floral flavor. The molecule also exists in high concentrations in cloves and cinnamon.

As we mentioned, caryophyllene acts both as a terpene and cannabinoid. As a cannabinoid, it has similar effects to CBD. That’s because studies show it activates the same receptors in the nervous system (CB2) that CBD does.

But that’s not caryophyllene’s only trait. Some studies in mice have shown that this molecule may have analgesic (pain-killing) properties. Specifically, it seems effective in battling neuropathic pain (chronic pain from nerve damage).

The same study suggested that caryophyllene may help patients overcome feelings of depression. What’s more, data from other studies confirm the molecule’s antidepressant properties. The study also supports the theory that caryophyllene can reduce or eliminate daily stressors. Who knew pepper had that kind of power?

Caryophyllene in Medical Cannabis

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Thanks to a phenomenon called the entourage effect, the molecule may have one last powerful property.

The entourage effect postulates that when multiple terpenes and cannabinoids coexist in a substance, they can increase each other’s potency. For example, caryophyllene and CBD can “team up” to enhance one another’s analgesic effects. Understanding how terpenes and cannabinoids interact can help patients get the most out of their medical cannabis.

Want to introduce caryophyllene into your medical cannabis regimen? You don’t need to suck on a cinnamon stick. Instead, stock up on caryophyllene-heavy strains like Purple Punch. Not sure where to start? If you’re a medical patient in Maryland, you’re in luck. The knowledgeable and friendly budtenders at your favorite Columbia dispensary can point you in the right direction.