Beta-Caryophyllene, the Woody, Peppery Chemical in Some Cannabis Strains, Is More Complex Than Other Terpenes

It’s therapeutic efficacy is particularly striking—many topicals already utilize caryophyllene due to its proven pain-relieving effects.

If knowledge is power, then understanding why you’re chemically attracted to your favorite strains is a nerdy path to self-discovery that every stoner should walk down.

Take, for instance, beta-caryophyllene, β-caryophyllene or simply caryophyllene: the woody, peppery terpene (also found in cinnamon and cloves) that gives many cannabis strains their trademark spicy, earthy funk. The way this terpene interacts with the human endocannabinoid system (the regulatory system that controls a great deal of our basic bodily functions) is remarkable for more than just psychotropic reasons, and whether you’re a varsity pothead or a ganja newbie, you likely want to know what makes this chemical stand out.

What Is Caryophyllene?

Caryophyllene is unique among terpenes because the molecules are markedly larger than those of common terps like limonene (lemony smack) or myrcene (hoppy fruit), both of which are likely familiar to contemporary cannaisseurs.

In addition to that, caryophyllene’s molecular structure contains a cyclobutane ring, a naturally occurring rare feature, which has the ability to bind to the CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the human endocannabinoid system as if they were cannabinoids, not terpenes. This makes the therapeutic efficacy particularly striking—many topicals already utilize this terpene due to its proven pain-relieving effects.

Caryophyllene’s unique structure spotlights how terpenes can influence cannabinoid behavior. The entourage effect—or the cumulative effect of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids on our bodies—is arguably critical to the cannabis experience, because terpenes can regulate the amount of THC that crosses your blood-brain barrier. And since studies have found that caryophyllene is an effective treatment for chronic, neuropathic pain as well as alcohol addiction, the distinct way that this terpene interacts with the brain is something all cannabis users should consider exploring.

To get started, here is a lineup of some of the most popular caryophyllene-rich cultivars, both therapeutic and recreational, to consider adding to your dispo shopping cart.

Cereal Milk

This balanced hybrid reportedly delivers a calm euphoria perfect for daytime smokers in need of both crystalline focus and a boost of mellow energy. Therapeutic users celebrate this strain’s efficacy in treating chronic pain, fatigue and stress, though the potency can sometimes lead to compound anxiety, so nervous tokers might want to avoid this particular cultivar. Expect a creamy, fruity aroma that is, in fact, reminiscent of Froot Loops cereal milk, and a velvety, woody, exhale with lingering notes of black pepper.

Bubble Gum

Bubble Gum is a genetically balanced (50% indica, 50% sativa) hybrid that somehow boasts a high that is both calming and creatively electrifying. Users report effects that are tingly and cashmere in the body, and inspirational in the head, resulting in highs that are uniquely perfect for daydreaming, vision boarding, cloud watching, or performing some very relaxed, spa-centric self-care. Therapeutic users say this strain is an effective treatment for arthritis, gastrointestinal disorder, chronic pain and loss of appetite. Expect a fruity, bubble-gum-skunk fragrance and a creamy, tropical-funk exhale.


Wappa’s highs are reportedly deeper and more cushiony than the rest of the strains on this list. We have to assume those effects are at least partly due to genetics, because Wappa’s breeders have kept this cultivar’s parent strains top secret. Though this strain delivers a more relaxing high, users have described the effects as both euphoric and sedative, making it a popular therapeutic choice for users looking to medicate anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and stress. Expect a fruity, gassy nose and a woody, sweet exhale.

Phantom OG

For smokers who prefer a swooning, high-tolerance experience, Phantom OG is definitely worth a puff or two. This potent cultivar is genetically balanced, with reported effects that include high-octane giggle fits, a blissful, galaxy-brain head space, physical and mental relaxation, eventual power munchies and, lastly, couchlock sedation. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a perfect night to me. Expect a funky, woody aroma with faint notes of lemon and pine, and a thick piney exhale.

Northern Wreck

Bred from a cross of Northern Lights and Trainwreck, this cultivar has the capacity to live up to its audacious name. With THC percentages averaging 30%, this strain is not for the faint of lung. Northern Wreck is a deeply sedative indica hybrid that delivers both soothing relaxation and a glassy, dreamy euphoria. The whole affair is reportedly the perfect panacea for insomnia, but also effectively manages attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder and inflammation. Expect a pungent, wet wood perfume and a bright, gassy, herbal exhale.

Willamette Week's journalism is funded, in part, by our readers. Your help supports local, independent journalism that informs, educates, and engages our community. Become a WW supporter.