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You may already know about the cannabinoids CBD and THC, but there are hundreds of other compounds that hemp produces. One such class of compounds gaining attention is terpenes. Researchers are looking into how terpenes affect humans when consumed and what possible uses they might have. beta-Caryophyllene (“bay-tah carey-oh-fi-leen”) is one of the major terpenes found in hemp and plays a big role in how hemp smells. You probably have some beta-caryophyllene in your kitchen and might not know it. Many spices in your kitchen, like black pepper and cinnamon, contain beta-caryophyllene.
In this post, we’ll discuss:
- What beta-caryophyllene is
- Where beta-caryophyllene can be found in nature
- And, what research says about beta-caryophyllene’s potential benefits
What Are Terpenes?
Before we hop right into beta-caryophyllene, it might be good to examine what terpenes are. Terpenes are highly aromatic hydrocarbon compounds composed of small isoprene units. Depending on how many isoprene units they contain, terpenes are classified as monoterpenes (two isoprenes), sesquiterpenes (three isoprenes), and diterpenes (four isoprenes). There are other classifications, but these three are sufficient for our discussion here. In terms of hemp, terpenes typically make up about 1-2% of the weight of a hemp flower.
Many plants and even some animals produce terpenes for various reasons. We believe that plants produce terpenes as a way of repelling pests and attracting beneficial insects. The aroma of many plants is dictated, at least partially, by terpenes.
Here are some that you may have encountered at the market:
- All citrus fruit and their rinds contain limonene
- Hops and mangoes contain myrcene
- Many soaps and cosmetics contain terpinolene
Read more: What Are Terpenes? Terpenes 101
What Is Beta-Caryophyllene?
Beta-caryophyllene has a larger molecular footprint than other terpenes like terpinolene or linalool due to the fact that it is composed of three isoprene units. This sesquiterpene is unique in that it is the only terpene known to directly activate CB2 receptors in our endocannabinoid system. Because of this unique feature, some scientists consider beta-caryophyllene to be both a cannabinoid and a terpene.
So why does hemp produce it? Researchers believe that hemp plants produce beta-caryophyllene to ward off herbivorous predators who might eat the hemp flowers, citing beta-caryophyllene’s bitter taste as a deterrent1. Additionally, beta-caryophyllene attracts green lacewing insects that feed on pests, adding another layer of protection4.
In addition to hemp, you may find beta-caryophyllene in many common spices like cinnamon, clove, and black pepper, as well as in herbs like rosemary, oregano, and basil. The woodsy, pungent, spicy aroma of freshly cracked black pepper is dominated by beta-caryophyllene.
Fun fact: Beta-caryophyllene directly activates the CB2 cannabinoid receptor in humans, making it both a terpene and cannabinoid.
Beta-caryophyllene usually appears in hemp cultivars in significant quantities, though it’s not typically the dominant terpene. Later, we’ll share a list of Sunset Lake CBD cultivars and their beta-caryophyllene content.
What Is Beta-Caryophyllene Used For?
Foods containing high amounts of beta-caryophyllene have been used historically to promote calm and comfort. Think of the holidays when we see hot mulled cider and lots of spiced cookies featuring cinnamon and clove. We start to feel cozy just thinking about it!
In addition to spicing things up in the kitchen, beta-caryophyllene shows lots of therapeutic potential and scientists are hard at work.
Here is a short list of some potential benefits that have been researched so far:
- Gastric cytoprotective3,4
- Eases gut muscle spasms2
- Easing anxiety & depression symptoms5
But we must remember that the research is ongoing and these results still need to be verified by high-quality placebo-controlled studies.
Sunset Lake CBD Cultivars Featuring beta-Caryophyllene
Each year we send samples of our hemp flowers to a certified laboratory for analysis of the terpene profile of each cultivar. Here is a breakdown of how much beta-caryophyllene is contained in the 2022 crop of Sunset Lake CBD hemp flowers, listed by cultivar. When you first glance at these percentages, the numbers may look small. But terpenes are really potent and a little bit goes a long way!
Cherry Abacus – 0.51% beta-caryophyllene
Sour Lifter – 0.51%
Lifter – 0.48%
Sour Suver Haze – 0.44%
Candy Kush – 0.41%
Super Sour Space Candy – 0.39%
Suver Haze – 0.37%
Hawaiian Haze – 0.19%
*Note: The percentage of terpenes is reported on a by-weight basis.
- Potter, D. J. (2016). Cannabis Horticulture. In Roger G. Pertwee (Ed.), Handbook of Cannabis (p. 72). Oxford University Press.
- McPartland, J. M. & Russo, E. B. (2016). Non-Phytocannabinoid Constituents of Cannabis and Herbal Synergy. In Roger G. Pertwee (Ed.), Handbook of Cannabis (p. 287). Oxford University Press.
- Ahmad, Samoon, and Kevin P. Hill. Medical Marijuana: A Clinical Handbook, Wolters Kluwer, Philadelphia, 2021, p. 277t
- Russo E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1344–1364. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
- Bahi, A., Al Mansouri, S., Al Memari, E., Al Ameri, M., Nurulain, S. M., & Ojha, S. (2014). β-Caryophyllene, a CB2 receptor agonist produces multiple behavioral changes relevant to anxiety and depression in mice. Physiology & behavior, 135, 119–124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.06.003