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The Spices That Activate the Endocannabinoid System and How to Use Them

July 10, 2017

Ever since the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in 1990, the cannabis industry has exploded as medical research centers around the world race to find the newest discoveries in cannabis-based medicine. This race has doubled up in recent years as an even deeper exploration of nonpsychoactive cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), cannabichromene (CBC), and as many as 80 other individual varieties get underway. Each new discovery seems to demonstrate not only the potential of phytocannabinoids to influence our endocannabinoid system but also just how vital this system is to our health and well-being.

RELATED: How Does CBD Support Weight Loss: All You Need to Know

As recently as 2008, researchers in Zürich, Switzerland published evidence suggesting that there are other compounds found in common herbs and spices that could potentially be just as strongly beneficial for the endocannabinoid system and related illnesses. While the specific classification of this non-psychoactive molecule remains debatable (some researchers would argue it's a terpene or a terpenoid which is responsible for aromas - others refer to it as a “food-based” cannabinoid), it is considered to be a CB2 agonist. This is because it is just as effective as cannabis based cannabinoids in stimulating the CB2 receptors found within our endocannabinoid system.

This plant based compound, called beta-caryophyllene (EBCP), selectively activates the CB2 receptor, much like we understand cannabis derived cannabinoids do. While the research is still in its infancy, it's believed that these food-based cannabinoids offer a new avenue for alternative therapies, and could be used in conjunction with other cannabinoid treatments. Through its relationship with the CB2 receptor, EBCP is theorized to affect pain perception and inflammatory responses. One of the newest areas of study is examining its potential to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapies.

Unlike cannabis, which still enjoys a somewhat muddled legal status, the most exciting elements of this discovery of the spice based cannabinoids, is just how many herbs and spices contain high quantities of EBCP. Plus, the vast majority of the herbs and spices on this list are easy to find and usually inexpensive. Below is a quick review of eight of the spices that have been found to contain EBCP - listed in order of EBCP content. Keep in mind thatcannabis sativa typically contains anywhere from 12% to 35% EBCP.

Ashanti Peppers (Black and White) -Piper guineense

Black Ashanti contains 58% and White Ashanti Contains 52% EBCP

This pepper is well-known in herbal lore, especially for treatment of diabetes. It contains antibacterial characteristics and specifically has been shown to targetstaphylococcus aureus infections (staph) and thee.coli bacteria. Originating in West Africa, they are considered a false Cubeb pepper.

Indian Bay Leaf-Cinnamomum tamala

Indian Bay Leaf contains 25% EBCP


Common in North Indian cuisine, this plant is closer in relation to cinnamon instead of the Western variety of bay leaf. It has a deep Ayurvedic tradition within India, and current studies show it to be an antioxidant and to also help with Diabetes Type 2.

Grains of Paradise - Aframomum melegueta

Grains of Paradise contains 22% EBCP.

A variety of cardamom, grains of paradise are originally from West Africa and used throughout savory African dishes. This spice is likely harder to find and more expensive than many others on this list, but during the days of the spice trade, they were a cheaper option to the very expensive black pepper. Spice traders invented a magical story about their origins in Eden, and how it was collected after floating down the river and out of paradise. They have been found to have antioxidant properties, be an anti-inflammatory, treat diarrhea, and to be antimicrobial.

Black pepper -Piper nigrum 

Organic black pepper contains between 7% to 19% EBCP depending on the sample tested.

One of the most commonly used spices around the world, there is also scientific evidence suggesting it can be beneficial in the fight against colon cancer, and it has been found to be antibacterial.

African Basil-Ocimum kilimandscharicum

African Basil contains 14% EBCP.

While there are many varieties of basil, not all were created equal in terms of EBCP contents. African basil has been found to have the highest out of all the varieties tested so far. On top of its cannabinoid stimulating characteristics, basil has long been considered one of the most potent ingredients in herbal medicine. This has been backed up with scientific study, demonstrating it has powerful antiviral antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Ceylon (Sri Lankan) Cinnamon-Cinnamomum verum

Organic Ceylon Cinnamon contains between 7% to 11% EBCP.

The most renowned variety of cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon has also been found to potentially manage blood sugar and level out unbalanced metabolisms. It may also reduce high blood pressure, and help people with weight loss.

Rosemary -Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosemary contains between 1% to 8% EBCP, depending on strain tested.

Rosemary can be distilled to a volatile oil, which has been used in perfumes and medicines for millennia. Typically, in medicinal applications, rosemary has been used to soothe upset stomachs, treat cold and flu symptoms and in some cases when taken internally it is thought to act as a stimulant.

Black Cumin Seed - Nigella sativa

Black cumin seeds contain 8% EBCP.

There is evidence that black cumin seeds have been in use by humans for roughly 5000 years, as a food flavoring, as a food-preservative, and as a medicine. When reduced down to an oil, true cold-pressed black cumin oil has some serious medicinal benefits. This includes having antioxidant, antifungal and antibacterial properties.






Blesching, Uwe.The Cannabis Health Index. North Atlantic Books, 2015. Print.

NIIR Board of Engineers.The Complete Book on Spices & Condiments (with Cultivation, Processing & Uses) 2nd Revised Edition.Asia Pacific Business Press, 2006. Print.

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