Updated: Jan 19
An October 2022 study entitled "Effects of Super-class Cannabis Terpenes Beta-caryophyllene and Alpha-pinene on Zebrafish Behavioral Biomarkers" that was published in the journal Scientific Reports suggested the existence of a special subclass of terpenes that it dubbed super class terpenes.
"There are more than fifty cannabis terpenes most commonly found in North American cannabis strains, eight of which predominate to form a 'Terpene Super Class,'" explained the study.
The eight super class terpenes identified by this pinnacle study include alpha-pinene, beta-caryophyllene (BCP), humulene, limonene, linalool, myrcene, ocimene, and terpinolene. Higher Learning LV investigates each of these important terpenes in our Super Class Terpenes series.
Read our exclusive summary of this peer-reviewed research study here.
"More than fifty cannabis terpenes are commonly found in North American cannabis strains, eight of which predominate to form a 'Terpene Super Class.'"
Beta-caryophyllene (β-caryophyllene), often called BCP and sometimes simply caryophyllene, is one of the most common terpenes in cannabis/hemp/marijuana. While myrcene is typically touted as being the most abundant terpene produced by cannabis, some testing laboratories have identified BCP as the most common terpene within their test samples.
It is produced by many botanical species beyond cannabis, including basil, black caraway, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cananga odorata, copaiba, hops, lavender, malabathrum, oregano, rosemary, and West African pepper.
Black pepper is a top source of BCP
BCP was discovered in 1964 by Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam, the same scientist who discovered and isolated cannabigerol (CBG) and who first synthesized delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol in the same year.
In a 2008 study summarized below, German scientists observed that this terpene exhibited cannabinoid-like characteristics and interacts with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) via the CB2 receptors located primarily in the glands, organs, and tissues of the immune system. It is via this mechanism that BCP is able to reduce inflammation—very much like a cannabinoid such as CBD, CBG, or THC. In fact, BCP is the only terpene known to bind with the CB2 receptors of the ECS.
"BCP was discovered in 1964 by Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam, the scientist who discovered and isolated CBG and THC in the same year."
This unique terpene delivers an aroma and flavor that is spicy and peppery, with notes of earthiness. Beta-caryophyllene can be found in the cannabis cultivars (strains) Death Star, Sour Bubble, and Sour Diesel.
Beta-caryophyllene's potential medicinal benefits include efficacy against pain, anxiety, and depression. It has also been found to show potential positive efficacy for neurological disorders associated with dementia, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's.
Multiple research studies have revealed that BCP is one of three terpenes—along with humulene and myrcene—that are commonly found together in particular cultivars and chemotypes of cannabis and hemp.
BCP Fast Facts
Aroma: Spice and pepper
Flavor: Spice and pepper, earthy
Boiling point: 214° F (101° C) (PubChem)
Molecular: Bicyclic sesquiterpene
Source cultivars: Death Star, Sour Bubble, and Sour Diesel
Medicinal efficacy: Anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain killing)
Producing plants: Basil, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, hops, rosemary
Uniqueness: Only terpene to bind with ECS CB2 receptors
Peer-reviewed scientific studies have revealed a range of potential positive medicinal outcomes delivered by BCP, including dominant anxiety and depression reduction and a better ability to encourage skin wound healing than conventional drugs.
A 2022 study entitled "Beta-caryophyllene as an Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory, and Re-epithelialization Activities in a Rat Skin Wound Excision Model" that was published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity explored the "wound healing potential and pharmacological mechanisms" of BCP with rodent study subjects.
The study's authors reported that BCP is a "volatile compound that is poorly soluble in water and has high pharmaceutical potential due to its analgesic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory activities."
BCP molecular structure
The researchers reported that BCP produced better results in terms of healing skin than a range of conventional drugs. The study identified some of the underlying biochemical mechanisms involved in these results, including "increasing collagen synthesis in the central area of wounds during the first period of cutaneous healing."
The study noted that the 1 percent BCP topical it used to treat the mice "enhanced skin wound healing through antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, wound contraction, re-epithelialization, and remodeling mechanisms."
"This study provides good evidence that 1% β-caryophyllene has great potential for use in treating full-thickness skin wounds."
It concluded that its results "demonstrated the potential of β-caryophyllene in skin wound therapy compared with three reference drugs, with better results in wound healing compared to reference drugs." The study also noted the acceptable safety profile of the tested BCP formulation, reporting "no systemic toxicity."
"This study provides good evidence that one percent β-caryophyllene has great potential for use in treating full-thickness skin wounds, demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of this drug as a future alternative treatment for wound healing," summarized the research.
A 2008 study entitled "Beta-caryophyllene is a Dietary Cannabinoid" that was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America explored how BCP "selectively binds to the CB2 receptor" and its role as a "functional CB2 agonist."
10 to 200 mg of BCP could "potentially modulate inflammatory and other pathophysiological processes via the endocannabinoid system."
The research reported that BCP is "the first Cannabis-derived functional CB receptor ligand with a fundamentally different structure from the classical cannabinoids." It noted that BCP—despite the fact that it is a terpene, not a cannabinoid—demonstrates significant cannabimimetic effects. The study noted that BCP may contribute to the "overall effect of Cannabis preparations."
The study's authors reported that 10 to 200 mg of BCP could "potentially modulate inflammatory and other pathophysiological processes via the endocannabinoid system" and that, for this reason, additional research is warranted.
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