As research into medical cannabis continues to capture the attention of many in the scientific and medical communities (as well as many in the general public), we are also learning more about the health benefits brought on by the best combination of non-cannabis botanical compounds, foods, and lifestyle activities (e.g., acupuncture, exercise, and aromatherapy) that interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The fact that we can intentionally manipulate our ECS by choosing how we interact with it is as fascinating as it is promising. Indeed, understanding the profound anti-inflammatory effects offered by gently stimulating the ECS with diet, herbal medicine, and other lifestyle choices can bring tremendous relief to those struggling with chronic inflammation and immune dysfunction. And the more we understand the synergistic use of these compounds (in plants and through their essential oils, polyphenols, and dietary cannabinoids), the more we can personalize combinations to shore up our defenses and improve our health.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) was originally thought to be comprised of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), two lipid-signaling molecules known as the endocannabinoids anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). CB2 is the main target for regulating inflammation, modulating the immune system, and improving endocannabinoid tone. Beta-Caryophyllene (BCP) is a sesquiterpene that also has the ability to bind to the CB2 receptor. Because it binds to the anti-inflammatory CB2 cannabinoid receptors, BCP is also categorized as a cannabinoid. BCP found in cannabis as well as many other herbs and common foods, is considered both a terpene and a dietary cannabinoid due to its ability to act directly on CB2.
Low Dose Beta-Caryophyllene Therapy
The fact that BCP is found in large amounts in the essential oils of commonly used herbs and spices (including cloves, basil, rosemary, oregano, lavender, cinnamon and copaiba) suggests that low dose Beta-Caryophyllene stimulation of the CB2 receptor is available via diet and essential oils. In fact, it’s the BCP content in many herbs and essential oils that are responsible for the anti-inflammatory and neurohormonal modulating effects of these herbs and oils. (Bahi et al., 2014).
Since BCP does not bind to the CB1 receptor and therefore does not exert psychoactive effects, it has massive potential for treating pain, inflammation, autoimmune disease, and more. One human study showed that BCP selectively binds to the CB2 receptor and inhibits LPS-stimulated TNFα and IL-1b expression in peripheral blood (Gertsch et al., 2008). Another study found that β-Caryophyllene activation of both CB2 and PPARγ pathways; has the beneficial effect of reducing neuroinflammatory response in the treatment of Alzheimers disease (Cheng, 2014). Anxiolytic, and antidepressant, and anti-alcoholism effects have also been reported (Bahi et al., 2014).
BCP has been shown to exert significant anti-inflammatory effects in mice. BCP from copaiba balsam was shown to be neuroprotective (Santos, 2012). BCP is even an FDA-approved food additive and has been termed the “first dietary cannabinoid.” (Gertsch, 2010). Because BCP targets CB2 receptors without any psychoactivity, BCP offers an effective anti-inflammatory/analgesic without any alteration in perception or motor skils. Once people start realizing the multiple benefits of BCP, it will be a popular tool in the fight against any inflammatory, autoimmune, and/or metabolic disorder.
To learn more about essential oil blends that target the endocannabinoid system, check out my new guide Beyond Cannabis.