Article written by
Ruth LemonVP of Operations
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Strangely, these compounds taste entirely different, more in the realm of citrus: orange-lemon with a dash of grapefruit and lime. Some may be familiar with the smell and flavor of bergamot in Earl Grey tea. Bergamotene has long been used in skincare products, and more recently, there is promising research showing it has anti-cancer properties.
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What Is Bergamotene?
The bergamotenes include alpha-bergamotene (α-bergamotene), beta-bergamotene and trans-bergamotene, all originating from farnesyl diphosphate (a precursor to sesquiterpenes). In cannabis, bergamotene acts as a terpene, giving rise to some strains’ interesting aromatic profiles. It is relatively uncommon in cannabis, but it exists in abundance in many other plants, fruits, and seeds, including:
- Bergamot plant
- Black pepper
Its scent is akin to pepper or warm tea, spicy and woody, but it tastes more fresh and citrusy. The fragrance, essential oil, and food industries all take advantage of this unique scent and flavor profile, and you can find it in many of their products. For this type of use, it is often extracted from the Copaiba tree or Canadian Fleabane, and it can also be extracted from conifers and other gymnosperms.
As with many other cannabis terpenes, bergamotene does not act on the endocannabinoid system, so it does not give the psychotropic “high effect” of cannabis. It does have many other possible health benefits.
Health Benefits of Bergamotene
While there haven’t been many human studies investigating bergamotene, various animal and cell studies suggest its potential for therapeutic use.
Researchers and pharmaceutical companies alike have long noted the anti-inflammatory effects of bergamotene. Researchers have demonstrated that a basil essential oil containing bergamotene had significant anti-inflammatory effects. This treatment effectively reduced edema or swelling of the paws in mice, especially for chronic inflammation issues.
Other studies have noted its ability to reduce nitric oxide production, thereby reducing inflammation and proliferation of cancerous cells. Researchers indicated its therapeutic potential as a broad-spectrum treatment for inflammatory disease and cancer. These findings suggest widespread usefulness for bergamotenes.
Many terpenes have an anti-bacterial effect, and bergamotene is no different. A basil-centered essential oil containing α-trans-bergamotene demonstrated inhibition of E. Coli and Staphylococcus bacteria growth, both of which can cause nasty stomach pain, vomiting, and fatigue.
With the help of other terpenes, bergamotene has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing the spread of cancer cells. It is highly cytotoxic to cancer cells, which gives the basis for its anti-tumor effects. This can help to reduce the size and spread of cancer. It has also shown efficacy in reducing the proliferation of prostate cancer cells, alongside antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
Oxidative stress has long been known to play a role in various conditions, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and chronic fatigue syndrome. This occurs due to an unbalance in the ratio of free radicals to antioxidants which can cause cell death or damage.
Interestingly, when bergamotene is contained within coreopsis tinctoria, it has shown a promising reduction of free radicals. This acts as an antioxidant that can help reduce damage to cells and develop the diseases mentioned above. When extracted from a Brazilian plant E. klotzschiana, it has demonstrated additional usefulness with a moderate-to-high antioxidant effect.
Potential Risks and Side Effects
Studies on the side effects of bergamotene in humans are limited. However, it has been noted that trans-alpha-bergamotene is fatal if swallowed and enters the airways, which is not likely with cannabis consumption. With the low number of studies, it is unclear whether this terpene has negative effects. It may be possible as other terpenes can cause respiratory issues, low blood pressure, and dizziness.
Bergamotene can, however, harm certain bugs.
Indirectly Lethal to Hawkbane Moths
According to the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, a variety of wild tobacco plants, Nicotiana attenuata, can excrete bergamotene in different tissues. This tissue-specific bergamotene release acts as a pheromone for Manduca Sexta moths (Hawkbane moths). This release calls the moths to the plant at night, where they pollinate it. Unfortunately for the plant, these moths then lay their eggs on it.
When the Manduca Sexta Larvae hatch, they feast upon its leaves. The tobacco plant cleverly also releases bergamotene during the day, which acts as a pheromone to predatory bugs. These bugs come and eat the larvae, which prevents the tobacco plant from being destroyed. In this way, the plant is still pollinated but not consumed by pollinators.
Cannabis Strains High in Bergamotene
While bergamotene is relatively uncommon in cannabis, it does exist in higher amounts in a few strains (more accurately called “cultivars”). These strains are often heralded for mood-improving qualities, relaxation, and creativity. They include:
- Lemon Haze
- White Widow
- White Recluse
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Frequently Asked Questions
Does bergamotene make you high?
While bergamotene does exist in some strains of cannabis, it does not interact with the endocannabinoid system and thus does not make you high.
How common is bergamotene in cannabis
Bergamotene is one of the less common terpenes in cannabis. However, it still exists in a few strains, including the beloved Lemon Haze, Chemdawg, and White Recluse.
Does bergamotene interact with other cannabinoids?
Bergamotene does not interact with other cannabinoids or act on the endocannabinoid system. The current research indicates it does not have psychotropic effects.