The next time you take a puff of cannabis and you get that familiar peppery, warm, spicy aroma reminiscent of cinnamon and cloves, don’t worry, nobody spiked your stash with holiday spice (at least if you are buying for a reputable source). Instead, this aromatic funk is brought to by caryophyllene. Caryophyllene is one of the many terpenes found in ganja, a group of compounds that in addition to giving marijuana strains their unique aromatic and flavor profiles, contribute to the entourage effect, thus making your high mo’ better (this is a technical medical term created by Dr. Snoop Dogg, marijunaologist).
And, according to True Terpenes, “Beta-Caryophyllene is a particularly notable terpene, having been the first terpene shown to act on the CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system.” Because CB2 receptors are present throughout the peripheral nervous system, they are associated with body organs, muscle tissues, the immune system, and bones and are linked with “. . .the body’s pain managing response, particularly, the anti-inflammatory response.” So, when you puff on a marijuana or CBD strain rich in caryophyllene, you trigger the CB2 receptors to dampen inflammation and reduce pain by decreasing nerve signaling.
Research is just now beginning to unravel the potential medical applications of caryophyllene. For example, a recent study reveals that caryophyllene may help reduce issues of alcohol addiction. Specifically, researchers found that in rats, “Overall, the CB2 receptor system appears to be involved in alcohol dependence and sensitivity and may represent a potential pharmacological target for the treatment of alcoholism.” And although much more robust research is needed, Klaudyna Fidyt and her colleagues at the Department of Immunology, Medical University of Warsaw, state that caryophyllene “. . .possess(es) significant anticancer activities, affecting growth and proliferation of numerous cancer cells.”
Others have found similar results. Joshua Hartsel, Ph.D. in Medicinal Psychedelic Chemistry, states, “In cancer studies, β-caryophyllene demonstrated synergy with the chemotherapy drug Paclitaxel on human tumor cell lines, and alone it stimulates apoptosis and suppresses tumor growth.”
Fortunately, there are multiple strains of cannabis that are rich in caryophyllene, including Bubba Kush, Gelato, and Granddaddy Purple. Although novice cannabis consumers often zero in on the overall THC concentration in selecting a strain, a more nuanced view, one that takes into account the role of terpenes, such as caryophyllene, is warranted. Natasha Winkle, a journalist in the cannabis scene for several years, puts it this way: “Selecting cannabis strains based solely on the highest THC content is much like stomaching the worst drink at the bar just because it has the highest alcohol percentage. As consumers dabble with record-high levels of THC, many are finding that really isn’t what they prefer.”
So, the next time you are at a dispensary, dispense a little of your own knowledge and ask the budtender to hook you up with some strains that contain a copious amount of caryophyllene. (It sounds even cooler with the alliteration).
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