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What is caryophyllene and what does this cannabis terpene do?

February 5, 2019
Terpenes provide a wide variety of aromatic properties ranging from floral and earthy notes to musky and citrusy ones. When it come to the spicier side of the spectrum, caryophyllene holds the trophy for the most flair.

The terpene caryophyllene is present in many herbs and spices, including black pepper, basil, and oregano, and cannabis strains with high levels of it deliver a spicy, funky warmth to the nose, similar to cinnamon and cloves.



What makes caryophyllene an intriguing terpene is its relationship with our endocannabinoid system, particularly, its ability to bind to CB2 receptors. Because of this, it comes with a host of potential medical benefits.


What are cannabis terpenes and what do they do?

Caryophyllene’s unique profile

Also called beta-caryophyllene or BCP, this terpene can be found in aromatic oils like rosemary and clove oil, and in nature it’s most commonly found in hops, cloves, black pepper, oregano, cinnamon, and basil. It’s responsible for the slight bite of pungency associated with smelling cracked pepper.

Caryophyllene is a bigger molecule than terpenes like myrcene and limonene. Caryophyllene’s molecular structure also contains a cyclobutane ring, something rare in nature and not found in any other known cannabis terpene.

The human body’s endocannabinoid system contains a vast network of receptors located throughout the body. Two major types exist: CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the brain and central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are found mainly in our peripheral organs.

When a cannabinoid such as THC is ingested, it primarily binds to CB1 receptors located in the brain and central nervous system, producing a euphoric effect.


Why does cannabis get you ‘high’ and make you feel good?

The unique molecular structure of caryophyllene allows it to easily bind to CB2 receptors primarily located within our peripheral endocannabinoid system. This means that is doesn’t cause any of the euphoric feelings of cannabis while providing many of the benefits associated with activating those receptors, like reducing inflammation.

It’s unlike any other terpene because it is the only one that has the ability to directly activate a cannabinoid receptor, especially CB2 receptors.


The Future of Cannabis May Lie in Terpene Isolation

High-caryophyllene cannabis strains

Cannabis strains with high levels of caryophyllene tend to be spicy and musky, and some are also known to have a funky profile. Many carry prominent notes of diesel and fuel that are known to cause the same nose-tingling bite associated with taking a whiff of pepper.

Some strains with a higher-than-average amount of caryophyllene include:

Caryophyllene is found in high levels in many strains of the Cookies family—Platinum GSC, GSC, Cookies and Cream, and Candyland (Platinum Cookies x Grandaddy Purple).

This stress-relieving terpene is also present in many hybrids known to cause relaxation and reduce anxiety. Given its unique aromatic notes, it’s fairly easy to detect in a strain.


Which Cannabis Terpenes Reduce Anxiety & Where Can You Find Them?

Many cannabis topicals and salves utilize strains with high levels of caryophyllene, showcasing its natural aromatic profile while also providing therapeutic benefits.

The potential benefits of caryophyllene

Studies on caryophyllene indicate a wide variety of therapeutic potential. A 2014 study shows pain-relieving properties of the terpene in mice, and another rodent study shows caryophyllene’s potential to reduce alcohol intake, making this terpene a possible treatment for addiction.


Try these caryophyllene cannabis strains for pain & inflammation relief

Caryophyllene has also been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and to be a possible therapy for treating inflammatory bowel disease. Research has even found that caryophyllene may be able to treat anxiety and depression.

Current studies are hoping to unveil even more of the therapeutic potential behind caryophyllene, including research indicating that it may help with lifespan longevity by reducing gene stress.

Patrick Bennett's Bio Image

Patrick Bennett

Patrick lives with his wife and daughter in Denver, where he spends his time writing, photographing, and creating content for the cannabis community.

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  • 360dunk

    It actually works for me….weed with a sizable presence of caryophyllene reduces arthritic pain, especially noticeable in colder months.

  • Jeff Avery

    i absolutely love this company,,,,they have taught me so much about ,not only cannabis, but also about health and life…..they’ve given me the knowledge to heal my body,and expand,and heal my mind…although not yet legal in this state,(soon)they’ve given me hope for the future….the leafly strain guides are the best i have seen…many news outlets have strain guides,but none as simple and accurate as leafly’s…..thank you leafly,,,for caring about me,and millions like are of GOD , healing his children,,,,,,,,,thanks again

  • Cordwainer Smith

    I’m a believer in the power of Terpenes as well as CBD vs THC. The last two strains I tried that I was very impressed with, specifically, I noticed have exceptionally high quantities of caryophyllene (13-16 mg /g) and they both blew me away. Quick hitters. Creative energy, motivation, etc. They also both had a terpene I haven’t seen before, which is “bisabolol” .. so it may be that terpene as well. One thing I’m finally convinced of is that it isn’t all about THC, although it is important for interacting with other cannabinoids and terpenes. I’ve had stains, however, with very high THC but almost nothing of anything else and it does nothing for me except cause a lot of nervous anxiety. One thing I’ve learned is that not everyone is seeking the same thing in cannabis. I have suffered from a life-long struggle with depression and anxiety. When I self-medicate with cannabis, that is primarily what I am trying to alleviate. It works fantastically compared to synthetic pharmaceuticals I have been prescribed. BTW, the strains I mentioned earlier that I was very impressed with and had a high caryophyllene and bisabolol content were “Blueberry Cookies” (lineage Blueberry Kush and Thin-Mint GSC) and Time Wreck (lineage Vortex and Trinity).

  • Maia

    What do the colours on the graph of strains with high caryophyllene content mean? (green, purple, orange)