Caryophyllene is the primary chemical constituent of Copaiba and Black Pepper essential oils, and is also present in minor quantities in other essential oils such as Clove and Rosemary. Chinese scientists recently investigated the effects of caryophyllene on osteoblasts, the cells responsible for maintaining bone structure.1 Osteoblasts secrete hydroxyapatite, a hard calcium crystal, and also secrete many proteins that work together with the crystals to form a robust and solid bone structure.2 Osteoblast dysfunction is a common problem with aging and a contributing factor to bone loss in elderly individuals.1,2
To examine the effects of caryophyllene on osteoblasts, the researchers simulated osteoblast breakdown by damaging the cells with the chemical antimycin-A, placing the cells under oxidative stress conditions.2 Next they added different amounts of caryophyllene to the damaged cell cultures. After a short time, they measured the levels of a number of different biomarkers in each of the cell cultures. Collagen, osteocalcin, and ALP were markers used to evaluate the proliferation and differentiation of the osteoblast cells.1 The mineral content of the extracellular matrix was also measured to give an indicator of the cells’ ability to maintain healthy bone structure.
Mineral content in the extracellular matrix more than doubled with treatment of 5 µM caryophyllene.1 The mineral-enhancing effects of caryophyllene were also observed to be dose-dependent, i.e., the effect of caryophyllene on mineral content increased with the amount of caryophyllene added.1 The levels of osteocalcin, collagen, and ALP all increased as well.1 Further investigation revealed that the increased cell proliferation was likely due to activity of antioxidant enzymes like GSH and catalase, whose activity was almost double in cells exposed to 5 µM caryophyllene.1
This research suggests that caryophyllene alleviates oxidative stress and supports healthy osteoblast function, two factors responsible for the bone loss that occurs with aging. While more research is needed, the results from this preliminary study indicate that internal use of essential oils rich in caryophyllene (like Clove, Rosemary, and Black Pepper) may help to support bone health. *