We’re pretty keen on terpenes. Along with cannabinoids—like THC and CBD—terpenes are what we like to call the “active ingredients” in cannabis: The things that actually make stuff happen. And while cannabinoids are associated with the cannabis plant’s most dramatic medicinal effects, the terpenes are no slackers. In addition to contributing the distinctive flavors and aromas the distinguish different strains of cannabis, they contribute some pretty astonishing medical benefits themselves.
Today we’re going to dig into the story of caryophyllene, one of the most important of the over 200 terpenes found in cannabis. It’s spicy and peppery, and it brings powerful anti-inflammatory (and other) benefits to our bodies!
What Does Caryophyllene Do?
Caryophyllene, like all terpenes, is a fragrant hydrocarbon. In plain English, that’s an “essential oil,” which gives a hint as to how we experience it: As a pleasantly spicy or peppery aroma found not only in certain cannabis strains but many other plants, including rosemary, oregano, and cloves.
But unlike most other terpenes, caryophyllene does something extra: It interacts with the CB2 receptors in our bodies, much like a cannabinoid. This gives it a heightened potential to impart its medicinal benefits, of which there are quite a few.
For one, caryophyllene—like many terpenes—helps fight inflammation, as demonstrated in a 2014 study. Another study determined that in rodent models, caryophyllene helped diminish the inflammation associated with colitis, a potentially debilitating gut condition. Because inflammation is one of our primary responses to injury, the ability to reduce inflammation is closely linked with controlling pain. But caryophyllene may have roles to play in other even more unexpected areas.
Some rodent-model studies suggest that caryophyllene could help us relieve anxiety and depression. And it even may have a role to play in reducing alcohol dependence. A study published in 2014 found that the terpene reduced test subjects’ intake of alcohol.
Then again, those test subjects weren’t humans, but rodents. Still, the study offers hope for a reliable treatment for alcohol dependence, which afflicts roughly 15 million Americans at any given time.
Then there’s “The Big C”: Cancer. We want to be crystal-clear in saying that cannabis is not a cure for cancer (although it’s an incredible tool in helping manage many of its symptoms). That said, studies in Canada and South Korea both demonstrated caryophyllene’s ability to help in the destruction of isolated cancer cells. It will probably be a long time—likely many years—until we can proceed to human testing, but we’re excited by the hope of an effective weapon against one of the toughest diseases.
What Cannabis Strains Have Caryophyllene?
Because caryophyllene is relatively abundant in cannabis, it’s not too difficult to find. Here’s a starter list of a few of our favorite strains that typically come packed with this powerful terpene:
OG Kush is a potent, high-THC strain, and for many, the piney, spicy and earthy aromas are the epitome of “dank.” It’s known for a strong euphoria and general uplift, but be cautious: It can exhibit powerful “couch-lock”!
Sour Diesel is known for its “classic” uplifting and buzzy characteristics, thanks in part to a generous helping of myrcene. The peppery, pungent aroma is a good hint as to its high caryophyllene content. It’s powerful stress- and pain-fighting qualities make it a favorite among the medical cannabis community.
Purple Punch is a potent, sleepy strain. Some call it a great “dessert” for its heavy sedative qualities and its citrus-tinged flavors and aromas. It’s popular for fighting stress, bodily aches, and sleeplessness.