Article written by
Dipak HemrajHead of Research and Education
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Pouring a hot cup of chamomile tea before bed is part of many people’s nightly routine. People turn to Chamomile often when they’re looking to calm their minds, and it is one of the most common substances used to induce states of relaxation and quell gastronomical issues. Chamomile has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries in ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Greek societies.
One of the active ingredients in Chamomile is a little-known terpene called alpha-bisabolol (α-bisabolol), which is colloquially referred to as bisabolol. This terpene was discovered in the 1950s and is found in high amounts in Chamomile and cannabis. It is commonly used to treat anxiety, but also has anticancer and antibacterial properties.
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What Is Alpha-Bisabolol?
Alpha-bisabolol was initially derived from German Chamomile, and it’s one of the camomile’s main active ingredients. Chamomile is a powerful herb for many different afflictions — from minor as stomach aches to conditions as major as helping with general anxiety disorders. Researchers have begun to discover the terpene has a host of unique properties.
Alpha-bisabolol is also known as levomenol or bisabolol. In cannabis plants, it is known as a lesser terpene which means it is found in lower concentrations than more common terpenes like myrcene, linalool, and limonene. It has an incredibly alluring scent with honey, herbal and vanilla notes.
This compound makes the perfect component for skin-care products and cosmetics because it’s fragrant and medicinal. Bisabolol has many other characteristics that make it an ideal ingredient in the skin-care industry, including penetrating the skin deeply, which enhances the entire product. Its anti-irritant properties and ability to initiate collagen turnover help the skin’s natural ability to heal itself.
Whether it’s ingested or used topically, this compound has an uncanny ability to produce a sense of calm. Whether you need an anti-irritant to calm an anxiety-ridden mind or inflamed skin, alpha-bisabolol can produce results in varying degrees. Alpha-Bisabolol is also found in other plants, including the South African candela tree, the figwort plant, the Brazilian Candeia tree, and a host of different cannabis strains.
Health Benefits and Uses
Since alpha-bisabolol is a lesser terpene and found alongside dominant terpenes like myrcene and limonene, on top of the cannabis strain’s unique cannabinoid profile, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint which compounds are producing the effects you’re feeling. It’s how all of these compounds synchronize in their unique way that produces each cannabis strain’s unique, intoxicating effects.
Alpha-bisabolol has been shown to have a myriad of medicinal characteristics, and you could experience any one of them if the terpene is ingested via cannabis. It could even produce different effects when combined with other cannabinoids and terpenes. According to the National Library of Medicine (NCBI), this lesser terpene also exhibits other notable pharmacological properties such as analgesic, antibiotic, and anti-cancer activities.
Bisabolol is an Antibacterial
When bisabolol is combined with tea tree oil, it can have antimicrobial effects that help treat oral bacterial conditions like halitosis, according to a 2012 study published in the Archives of Oral Biology.
Alpha-bisabolol has been found to aid in essential functions like the immune system, and it is widely known for its ability to induce calm and relaxing states of mind. It is also used to reduce inflammation and anxiety.
Bisabolol and Cancer
In studies conducted on mice and human cells, scientists found that this compound can induce apoptosis in glioma cells, explaining its anti-cancer properties. Apoptosis is the process of programmed cell death, and gliomas are brain tumors. So when high concentrations of alpha-bisabolol oil are introduced to glioma cells, it results in 100 percent cell death.
There have also been positive results when bisabolol oil was used to treat pancreatic cancer cells and Leukemia, but more research is needed to see if it could be used as an actual treatment for the disease.
Bisabolol for Neuropathic (Nerve) Pain
It has been used for pain relief throughout human history for many ailments because it can reduce pain in many different body regions. Chamomile has been shown to help prevent nerve damage brought on by diabetes in a study by the American Chemical Society.
Bisabolol has been shown to have a wide range of pain-relieving effects because of how it can modulate the Cav3.2 T-type calcium channels in mice. These sensory channels are vital in the perception of acute pain.
Potential Risks and Side Effects
Alpha-bisabolol can be irritating to sensitive skin, but other than that, there’s relatively no risk involved in using bisabolol. It has an incredibly low toxicity level and is deemed safe for commercial use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is why it’s a common ingredient in skin-care products and consumer-based fragrances.
Cannabis Strains (Chemovars) High in Alpha-Bisabolol
Bisabolol is found in many popular cannabis strains like Dolato and Ice Cream Cake. These two strains are classified as indica-hybrids that produce relaxing and euphoric effects. Each of these strains has a similar amount of bisabolol — Dolato has 0.02 percent, and Ice Cream Cake has 0.18 percent. And while they have similarities, they also have wildly different visual characteristics, flavor profiles, and range of effects.
Bisabolol only plays a small part in a cannabis strain’s chemical makeup, but it’s undoubtedly contributing to powerful pharmacological properties. Other popular strains that produce bisabolol include Chocolate Thai, Gelatti, and Master Kush.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Where does Alpha-bisabolol come from?
Alpha-bisabolol was initially synthesized from the German chamomile plant in the 1950s. Chamomile tea is probably the most prevalent source of bisabolol. Still, it can be found in South African candela trees, figwort plants, Brazilian Candeia trees, and popular cannabis strains like Gelatti, Delato, and Ice Cream Cake.
What is Alpha-bisabolol used for?
It’s most commonly used in commercial skin-care products and fragrances because it has tangible medicinal qualities and smells incredible. It’s widely used because it has a low toxicity level, and its intrinsic qualities amplify skin-care products’ effectiveness.
It’s also used for its fragrant properties. This terpene is called the honey-scented terpene because of its mild floral aroma and vanilla and peppery notes.
Is Alpha-bisabolol good for skin?
Bisabolol is good for skin health. It has properties that activate the skin’s natural ability to heal itself through collagen turnover. It also reduces inflammation, irritation and has skin penetrating properties that allow other skin-care ingredients to be more effective. While people with sensitive skin may have mild adverse effects from bisabolol, it’s a safe, natural ingredient and is genuinely considered an incredibly beneficial compound for skin care in particular.