Beta-Caryophyllene - the terpene detected by dogs

Beta-Caryophyllene, also known as BCP, is a naturally occurring aromatic terpene found in many essential oils and plant extracts, and is known to occur in plants such as cloves, hops and rosemary, not just cannabis.

Beta-Caryophyllene is also responsible for the taste of black pepper and many of its medicinal benefits, though the possible medical applications of Caryophyllene and other such terpenes are only recently being investigated there is already significant evidence that they can bring long-term health benefits.

Beta-caryophyllene molecule
Beta-caryophyllene molecule

What is a Terpene?

Terpenes and terpenoids, oxidised organic molecules derived from terpenes, make up a large proportion of the aromatic chemicals found in various plants and are the primary constituents of their essential oils.

They can be found across the natural world, through common examples with significant concentrations of terpenes include aromatic herbs and spices such as ginger, cinnamon, eucalyptus and lavender, which are already known for their relaxing and soothing effects.

In cannabis oils alone over 200 different types of terpene have been found in varying concentrations, sometimes making up to 1% of a cannabis bud’s dry weight. Though many of these terpenes are fairly minor and unnoticeable there are still a staggering number of terpenes with truly diverse potential for medicinal usage.

Terpene/effect chart
Terpene/effect chart

Cannabis is often classified as Indica, Sativa, or a hybrid of the two, which generally correlates with a different effect for each, with sativa being more mental and energetic, with indica being better for sedation and pain relief.

Beyond these vague definitions of indica and sativa one indication of how a certain strain of cannabis may affect you is the terpene content, which can have great effects not only on the high but also the medical efficacy of the strain in question as not all strains suit all ills.

For example, in a lab-done cannabinoid test it was discovered that our Lemon OG Candy has an extremely diverse set of terpenes including Beta-Caryophyllene:

Cannabinoid and terpene test of Lemon OG Candy

The exact amount of each cannabinoid and terpene present in cannabis is one of the most demanded information nowadays. Users are increasingly interested in the composition of the strains they grow, that's why we present a series of tests on our varieties, which we begin here with one of our top sellers, Lemon OG Candy.

In addition to being the originators of cannabis’ many diverse scents and flavours studies have shown that terpenes have an incredible effect on the high experienced by the cannabis user. This is due to the so-called “entourage effect”, a consequence of terpenes being structurally similar to phytocannabinoids and as a result have a synergistic effect when taken in tandem with each other, magnifying the high and potential medical benefits greatly.

What is a Sesquiterpene?

A sesquiterpene is an organic chemical very similar to other terpenes, though structurally far more complex with three base isoprene units instead of the one found in monoterpenes such as limonene and linalool, found in citrus fruits and lavender respectively as well as the cannabis plant.

As such they are somewhat more complex than other terpenes in both chemical structure and aroma, and somewhat more rare besides with the only significant sesquiterpenes found in cannabis being Beta-Caryophyllene and Humulene.

The primary purpose of such aromatical chemicals is to alternatively act as a pungent deterrent to unwanted, possibly destructive insects while attracting pollinating insects. There is also evidence that they have their uses in cannabis reproduction, acting as pheromones for the plant.

Drugs, dogs and Beta-caryophyllene

Beta-Caryophyllene is a prominent terpene in many strains of cannabis which contributes to the aroma and flavor, and as such has become quite well known both within cannabis using circles and without.

Drug-sniffing dogs that can seemingly detect cannabis do so by being trained to react to the smell of Beta-Caryophyllene alone, due to its almost ubiquitous presence in cannabis strains. Specifically, they are trained to detect Caryophyllene oxide, a byproduct of the cannabis drying procedure.

A trained sniffer dog doing its work
A trained sniffer dog doing its work

Medical Promise of Beta-Caryophillene use

Unusually amongst terpenes Beta-Caryophyllene naturally binds with the CB2 receptor within the brain, one of the receptors on which TCH works, and as such it is sometimes referred to as an atypical terpene, being one of the first shown to bind to the body’s cannabinoid receptors in 2008, and there are extremely promising results in its uses when it comes to both physical and mental health.

In many pre-clinical studies it displays a wide range of protective and therapeutic effects that have the potential to heal both the body and mind. For example in lab studies on depression and anxiety it has been shown to ameliorate both even when the test subjects were placed under extreme stress, and is being investigated along with other CB2 agonists in research on anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication. Naturally this has wide-ranging implications not only on the uses of Beta-Caryophyllene itself, but medicinal marijuana in general.

In studies performed on human prostate and breast cancer cells it has been shown that Beta-Caryophyllene has a powerful effect on the signalling pathways within these rogue cells, inhibiting tumorous growth as well as significantly promoting cancer cell death, or apoptosis, via causing the mitochondria within the cell to over-produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) which can lead to the destruction of the cell itself. This has incredible implications for the treatment and prevention of cancer throughout the world, and provides yet more evidence that the medical uses of cannabis aren’t so far-fetched as they once appeared.

Normal and cancer cells
Normal and cancer cells

Beta-Carophyllene has also shown promise as an antimalarial agent, via discouraging mosquitoes to bite to begin with its powerful aromatic qualities as well as acting as an insecticide when the mosquitoes or their larvae come into contact with it.

It has also shown incredible promise in the treatment of MS - multiple sclerosis via suppressing inflammation of the nervous system, preliminary results have shown that Beta-Caryophyllene is effective not only in treating the acute effects of multiple-sclerosis, but also the pathological effects themselves. It would seem that it has a remarkable effect on the immune system, acting as a modulator and preventing the autoimmune response that results in the nervous system being attacked.

There is also evidence that the usage of Beta-Caryophyllene can reduce voluntary alcohol intake and sensitivity, possibly opening up avenues for the treatment of alcoholism in people.

With all of the above taken into account Beta-Caryophyllene seems further and further to be a miracle remedy, and further emphasises the importance of research into these misunderstood and overlooked chemicals. There is mounting evidence that many terpenes, not just Caryophyllene, can have incredible medical benefits and can help fight debilitating diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, in addition to the incredible relief it can bring those with anxiety and depression.

We have only scratched the surface of the possible benefits that terpenes such as Beta-Caryophyllene can bring, but with increased acceptance of cannabis usage and scientific focus the future for medicinal cannabis and the people it may benefit is looking bright.

Which cannabis strains contain Beta-caryophyllene?

When it come to actual cannabis strains Beta-Caryophyllene is fairly ubiquitous, though often found in relatively tiny amounts there are some strains which are known for containing high levels of this terpene. Examples include famous strains such as Sour Diesel, Chemdawg, OG Kush and Bubba Kush, to name but a few. You'll also find it in our White Yoda Auto.

White Yoda Auto bud

We hope this article helped you to better understand this amazing aromatic terpene, which could be of great help for many patients. Do not hesitate to leave here your doubts and comments, we'll be pleased to reply them!


Comments in “Beta-Caryophyllene - the terpene detected by dogs” (3)


z 2020-12-27
i believe the compound they sniff for is caryophyllene oxide, not beta-caryophyllene. if they searched for beta-caryophyllene, everyone with black pepper on their ham sandwich would get searched.

Philosopher seeds Staff

Tim 2021-04-13

Hi, yes, that's correct. In fact, caryophyllene oxide is produced by the oxidisation of Beta- caryophyllene. Best wishes!


Helen M Chisholm 2020-09-24
Hiya, that was a fact filled read but wonder if sniffer dogs will bark the airport down if I am a moderate user of Copaiba oil to topical use in my case- does anybody know or had a bad experience for using essential oils???


NoEgoGear 2020-05-12
Cool article, i like that you included how it fights cancer.

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