As our understanding of the cannabis plant grows (no pun intended) it allows us to look beyond the “big questions”—indica vs. sativa? high-THC vs. high-CBD?—and focus on some less visible but truly powerful components of the plant.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the cannabis plant is its rich array of terpenes, which give each strain not only its characteristic aroma and flavor, but its medical attributes as well. Today, we’re going to focus on caryophyllene, a terpene also found in black pepper, cloves, and many common herbs.
While we appreciate its spicy, peppery and all-around flavorful nature, we’re going to concentrate on its effect on the body. First, we want to be sure you’re up to speed on just what a terpene is.
What Are Terpenes?
If you’ve spent any time diving into the story of cannabis—and what an incredible story it is!—you’ve probably encountered the term “terpene.” As we hinted earlier, terpenes are the all-natural compounds—somewhat akin to essential oils—that give many plants—cannabis included—their characteristic aromas and flavors.
The cannabis plant is particularly rich in these compounds. Research has shown that cannabis contains up to 200 different terpenes, although only about ten of them occur in significant amounts. That said, the incredible variety found in just the family of cannabis plants should be a clue as to how distinctive these terpenes (and combinations of terpenes) really are.
What is Caryophyllene and What Does It Do?
Caryophyllene is one of the primary ten terpenes in cannabis, and it has the distinction of being the first known “dietary cannabinoid,” a common component of foods such as the ones we named earlier.
In addition to lending its appealingly spicy flavor to certain strains, caryophyllene exhibits some fascinating interactions with our system of cannabinoid receptors, which determine how the body actually makes use of the cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis.
Because it tends to bind with more peripheral CB2 receptors, caryophyllene exhibits powerful analgesic—or pain-fighting—characteristics. What’s more, it has been shown to relieve anxiety and depression, a quality it shares with the cannabinoid CBD.
But that’s not all. Research has shown that, at least in laboratory animals, caryophyllene can reduce the craving for alcohol. And although we are likely still many years away from finding the “magic bullet” against cancer, it appears that this terpene may have a role to play in fighting the disease. While it doesn’t directly affect cancer cells, caryophyllene potentiates—or strengthens—certain medications that do.
How to Find Caryophyllene in Cannabis
Knowing what you do about terpenes, you can now make some educated guesses about which specific strains might be higher in certain terpenes based on their characteristic flavors and aromas.
Some popular strains known to contain heightened levels of caryophyllene include:
Of course, you can probably find this particular terpene closer to home. Next time you sprinkle some black pepper on your meal, you can pause to give thanks for the powerful natural medicine of terpenes like spicy, peppery, and beneficial caryophyllene.
To learn more about strains with caryophyllene, visit one of our popular Have a Heart dispensaries. Our Budtenders will be happy to help you find the right product to help you achieve the effect you need.