Caryophyllene or (−)-β-caryophyllene, is a widespread plant natural product. It is a naturally occurring bicyclic sesquiterpene that is seen as a major composition of many essential oils. This compound is found especially in the oil extracted from the stems and flowers of cloves, the essential oil of rosemary, hemp, cannabis and hops.

It is a FDA approved food additive, and is the first dietary cannabinoid; β -caryophyllene contributes to the unique fragrance linked with plant oils. It’s also highly present in African black pepper.  A study in 2008 first identified caryophyllene as a cannabinoid. This study also brought to light the medicinal benefits of the compound.

Biological activities of β-Caryophyllene:

Cannabinoids are a terpenophenolic compound making its sub-set of terpenes. Since cannabinoids and terpenes are related, terpenes trigger the body’s endo-cannabinoid receptors.

Anti-inflammatory – Decreases inflammation and swelling gradually.

Antibacterial – Curtails the growth of bacteria.

Neuro-protective – Restrains harm to the brain and the nervous system.

Anti-proliferative – Hinders the growth of cancerous cells.

Antidepressant – Mitigates various indicators of depression.

Antioxidant – Thwarts oxidative damage to the molecules in the body.

Analgesic – Alleviates pain.

Anxiolytic – Aids alleviate anxiety.

Relative studies on β-Caryophyllene:

As an analgesic:

A study in 2014 was conducted to identify the activity of β-Caryophyllene as an analgesic. It was found that the widespread plant volatile beta-caryophyllene (BCP) was identified as a natural selective agonist of the peripherally expressed cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2), and is found in high concentrations in many spices and food plants.

This study focused on the orally administered BCP which reduced inflammatory (late phase) pain responses in the formalin test in a CB2 receptor-dependent manner, while it had no effect on acute (early phase) responses.

In conclusion of the study, oral BCP was more effective than the subcutaneously injected synthetic CB2 agonist JWH-133; meaning that the natural plant product BCP may be highly effective in the treatment of long lasting, debilitating pain states. The results have important implications for the role of dietary factors in the progression and inflection of chronic pain conditions.

As an anti-carcinogenic:

β-Caryophyllene also seems to have a play in the role as an anti-carcinogenic constituent in essential oils. A study that focused on beta-caryophyllene that analyzed the anticancer properties of alpha-humulene, Isocaryophyllene and paclitaxel was carried out in the year 2007.

The study’s focus was on the potentiating effect of beta-caryophyllene on the anticancer activity of alpha-humulene, Isocaryophyllene and paclitaxel against MCF-7, DLD-1 and L-929 human tumor cell lines was evaluated. During the study, the intracellular buildup of paclitaxel-oregon green was determined in combination with concentrations of beta-caryophyllene ranging from 2.5 to 40 microg mL(-1).

This effect was due to beta-Caryophyllene, which significantly increased the intracellular build up to 64%. Another aspect understood during the process is that, beta-caryophyllene induced intracellular buildup of calcein but not verapamil, which is an inhibitor of P-glycoprotein.

These two constituents are multidrug resistance related protein transporters, indicating that beta-caryophyllene encourages drug accumulation by a different mechanism of action. These results indicate beta-caryophyllene allows the passage of paclitaxel through the membrane and thus potentiates its anticancer activity.

As an anti-depressant:

A study was carried out on mice to check the activity of β-Caryophyllene as a remedy to depression. It was performed to understand how β-Caryophyllene, a CB2 receptor agonist produces multiple changes in behavioral patterns in accordance to depression and anxiety seen in mice.

The aim of the research experiment carried out was to determine capabilities and actions of the CB2 receptor potent-selective agonist β-caryophyllene (BCP) in animals subjected to models of anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects.

These preclinical results suggest that CB2 receptors may provide alternative therapeutic targets for the treatment of anxiety and depression. Recent evidence suggests that the cannabinoid receptor subtype 2 (CB2) is in co-ordinance with anxiety and depression disorders, and the study also proved the same.

Reference Links:

  1. Caryophyllene by Wiki
  2. β-Caryophyllene by the leaf online
  3. Beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid by University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, published in PNAS.
  4. Potentiating effect of beta-caryophyllene on anticancer activity of alpha-humulene, Isocaryophyllene and paclitaxel, published in the Journal of Pharmacology and PubMed