Terpenes (general)

Beta-Caryophyllene is a Dietary Cannabinoid

Written by Derek Johnson

Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) is a sesquiterpene found naturally in a wide variety of plants including cannabis. Because of its ubiquity and properties, it has been studied extensively and has been used in the world-wide food industry.

Although often classified as a terpene, many researchers argue that BCP should be classified as a cannabinoid because it readily binds to cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptors. [1] It acts as a functional CB2 agonist (meaning it activates CB2 receptors), therefore, BCP is considered a dietary cannabinoid. In fact, it was the first cannabinoid classified as dietary.

Being a dietary cannabinoid means BCP is present in a large selection of foods consumed regularly by humans and occurs naturally in a many plants beyond cannabis including but not limited to black pepper, cloves, hops, rosemary, copaiba, cinnamon, and oregano. [1,2] Additionally, BCP is an additive used in many foods and is FDA approved.

Like other cannabinoids, BCP also possesses therapeutic qualities. As a CB2 agonist, it can play a major role in reducing inflammation because when CB2 receptors are activated, cytokine expression (a major cause of inflammation following injury) is inhibited. [1,3]

This same CB2 activation may also aid in the treatment of many other conditions humans suffer, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In Alzheimer’s, the BCP-activated CB2 receptors can help reduce amyloid beta-plaques and inflammation in the brain caused by out-of-whack immune responses. [4]

In Parkinson’s disease, BCP-activated CB2 receptors help reduce the loss of dopamine as well as oxidative stress in the brain. [4]

The list of ailments that may benefit from ingestion of BCP also includes colitis, atherosclerosis, and osteoporosis. [1] Further research is necessary to determine the full extent of BCP’s medicinal benefits. For now, it stands as the unanimous dietary cannabinoid.

Image Source: Gordon Johnson from Pixabay


  1. Gertsch, Jurg, et al. Beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2008;105(26): 9099-9104. [Impact Factor: 9.412; Times Cited: 492 (Semantic Scholar)]
  2. Hartsel JA, Eades J, Hickory B, Makriyannis A. Chapter 53 – Cannabis sativa and Hemp. In: Gupta RCBT-N, ed. Boston: Academic Press; 2016:735-754. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-802147-7.00053-X. [Impact Factor: n/a; Times Cited: 45 (Semantic Scholar)]
  3. Gertsch J. Anti-inflammatory cannabinoids in diet: Towards a better understanding of CB(2) receptor action? Commun Integr Biol. 2008;1(1):26-28. doi:10.4161/cib.1.1.6568. [Impact Factor: n/a; Times Cited: 25 (PubMed)]
  4. Francomano F, et al. β-Caryophyllene: A sesquiterpene with countless biological properties. Appl Sci. 2019;9(24). doi:10.3390/app9245420. [Impact Factor: 2.474; Times Cited: 15 (Semantic Scholar)]

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Derek Johnson

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