There is a wealth of information available in the scientific literature regarding the classes of cannabinoid compounds and the receptors involved in the endocannabinoid system CBD is all the rage these days. Everyone seems to be talking about it, but what exactly is CBD and what does it do? In this podcast, Dr. David Hill explores the differences and similarities between CBD and Copaiba oils.
A Chemist’s Perspective: Cannabinoids, Cannabis, and Caryophyllene
It has come to my attention that there has been a lot of confusion recently surrounding the properties of cannabinoid compounds found in certain oils. Individuals with ties to the CBD oil industry would have you believe that beta-caryophyllene, a compound found in Copaiba oil and Black Pepper oil, is not a cannabinoid. The same individuals would also have you believe that cannabidiol (CBD) oil never contains the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or any of its isomers. This is not surprising, because both of these claims promote the CBD oil industry. Unfortunately, this misinformation has been perpetuated to the point that many people are convinced that it is accurate, despite strong evidence to the contrary.
I’ve prepared this article in hopes that I can set the facts straight. Having worked as a medicinal chemist for 15 years, I’ve learned a great deal about the chemical properties of all kinds of essential oils. I’ve even conducted my own chemical analyses of hemp, CBD, and cannabis oil in my lab at doTERRA. In this article, I will discuss the chemical properties of cannabinoid compounds found in the various cannabis oils and compare them with beta-caryophyllene. Beta-caryophyllene is the main compound found in Copaiba, doTERRA’s alternative to cannabis.
Beta-Caryophyllene is a Cannabinoid
There is a wealth of information available in the scientific literature regarding the classes of cannabinoid compounds and the receptors involved in the endocannabinoid system. For several years now, beta-caryophyllene has been known to be a cannabinoid. But don’t just take my word for it. Back in 2008, a study by J. Gertsch et al. rolled off the press with the unambiguous headline, “Beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid.” 1 The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, a prestigious scientific journal. Since then, at least a dozen more papers have been published on the subject, reemphasizing the fact that beta-caryophyllene is a cannabinoid. 2-13
By definition, a cannabinoid is any ligand, molecule, or class of molecules that acts on either or both of the currently identified cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. Interestingly, these two receptors produce significantly different physiological responses when activated. CB1 activation, caused by THC and other similar cannabinoids, results in a psychoactive drug high. On the other hand, CB2 activation by beta-caryophyllene (BCP) has produced results showing some promising benefits. These include supporting a healthy inflammatory response, soothing discomfort, and positively affecting mood without the psychoactive side effects associated with other cannabinoids. 2-4,10 It is true that the positive benefits associated with BCP have also been observed using other cannabinoids, such as THC, cannabidiol, and cannabinol, but using these compounds can also come with unwanted psychological effects, especially in the case of THC.
Types of Cannabinoids
There are three distinct classes of cannabinoids: endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids, and synthetic cannabinoids. Synthetic cannabinoids are found in certain pharmaceutical products designed to help with glaucoma, appetite stimulation, antiemetics, and other disease-linked targets. Endocannabinoids, on the other hand, are produced naturally by the body. These molecules are mainly composed of amines and amides. Endocannabinoids are pharmacologically similar to some phytocannabinoids, but vary greatly in their chemical structure. This gives different endocannabinoids the ability to produce different neurological responses, even when administered in similar doses. The primary function of endocannabinoids is to modulate normal physiological functions.
The last class of cannabinoids is known as the phytocannabinoids. These are molecules that are produced by plants such as Cannabis and Copaifera. The Cannabis species produces the commonly known molecules THC and CBD, while the Copaifera plant family produces only BCP. Although BCP differs significantly from other cannabinoids in its structure, it nonetheless reacts selectively with the CB2 receptor, thus defining it as a cannabinoid. 2 However, it is chemically distinct from other cannabinoids, which is why it cannot cause a positive result on a drug test. BCP is classified as a sesquiterpene based on its chemical structure and makeup. Research on BCP is ongoing and will continue to add to our understanding of its potential value.
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil can contain the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
To be legally marketable, CBD oil is not supposed to contain any discernable amount of THC. 14 However, our own internal investigation involving analytical testing and evaluation has found that various CBD oils on the market do contain significant levels of THC and therefore could very likely trigger a psychoactive response and/or positive drug test. Our evaluation has also shown that commonly purchased brands of CBD oil can vary greatly in their claimed CBD content. In fact, in some samples we were not able to identify the presence of any CBD at all. In contrast, my analyses have shown that doTERRA oils are 100% free of THC, and oil compositions are consistent between batches.
In summary, this article is not intended to be a complete picture of the benefits of beta-caryophyllene nor an outline of the properties of the endocannabinoid system. Rather, it is a statement of scientifically-accepted facts aimed to clear up the misleading information on the molecules in question. My hopes are that reading this article will help individuals in their personal research on cannabinoids and, most importantly, their decisions about which oils to use in their daily life.
Dr. Cody Beaumont, PhD
Director, Analytical Services & Quality Control
Everything You Need to Know About CBD
CBD is all the rage these days. Everyone seems to be talking about it, but what is CBD and what does it do?
What Is a Cannabinoid?
Perhaps you have heard CBD called a cannabinoid. The term cannabinoid refers to any compound that triggers your endocannabinoid system by activating its receptors. Cannabinoids are produced naturally in your body, but they can also come from other sources.
The cannabinoids that are naturally produced in your body are called endocannabinoids. Cannabinoids that come from plants are called phytocannabinoids. CBD is one example of a phytocannabinoid, though there are many. There are also synthetic cannabinoids.
How Do Cannabinoids Work?
A cannabinoid is anything that triggers your endocannabinoid system (ECS). So what exactly is the endocannabinoid system? The ECS plays an important role in regulating many functions within your body, including the inflammatory system, immune function, sleep, appetite, digestion, pain receptors, hormones, reproductive function, and memory. Your body makes endocannabinoids as needed to help with this regulation. These endocannabinoids activate your cannabinoid receptors—cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) 1 .
CB1 receptors are found mainly in the brain and throughout the central nervous system 2 . They are primarily associated with pleasure and reward pathways.
CB2 receptors are found mainly in the immune system 3 . They are found on the surface of white blood cells throughout the body, including muscles, skin, and vital organs. CB2 receptors are also linked to the regulation of the inflammatory system. CB2 receptors are not as widely distributed throughout the body as CB1 receptors 4 .
Have you ever felt the famed “runner’s high”? You can thank your endocannabinoid system for that. After a period of strenuous exercise, the body begins to produce an endocannabinoid called anandamide. Anandamide activates both CB1 and CB2 receptors. When the anandamide activates the CB1 receptors, it produces an almost euphoric feeling while the activation of the CB2 receptors soothes discomfort in the muscles and joints.
THC & CBD
Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of “more than eighty biologically active chemical compounds” found in cannabis 5 . THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid and causes psychoactive effects or a “high.” THC activates both CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is another compound found in cannabis. CBD does not have the same psychoactive properties as THC. CBD directly interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors, but the interaction is so weak it is inconsequential 6 . CBD does still affect your endocannabinoid system, but it actually affects it indirectly and by a different mechanism than most cannabinoids.
CBD acts on an enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). FAAH breaks down the before mentioned anandamide. CBD slows down FAAH’s activity, which leads to increased levels of anandamide in the body 7 . Anandamide is an endocannabinoid the body makes which affects both CB1 and CB2 receptors, resulting in increased feelings of euphoria (CB1) and soothing of inflammation in tissues (CB2).
Is CBD Safe and Effective?
It seems that CBD has flooded the marketplace and can be found in every product imaginable, from mascara to doggy treats. Amidst this excitement, however, there are a few reasons you should remain cautious.
The FDA acknowledges, “[S]ome companies are marketing products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and that may put the health and safety of consumers at risk.” 8
There is relatively little medical and scientific research regarding CBD. This is due in large part to legal and research limitations. Some studies indicate promising benefits, but the research is young, and it is still too early to come to any definitive conclusions about the perceived health benefits of CBD.
Is CBD Legal?
A lot goes into determining whether a substance is legal. It is important to start with some background.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for reviewing and approving applications to ensure that new drugs meet the standards of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is responsible for enforcing the Controlled Substances Act. They also regulate “the handling of all controlled substances, including those being used by researchers to conduct studies.” 9
“The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) places all substances . . . regulated under existing federal law into one of five schedules. This placement is based upon the substance’s medical use, potential for abuse, and safety or dependence liability.” 10
“[Marijuana] is listed in Schedule I of the CSA due to its high potential for abuse, which is attributable in large part to the psychoactive effects of THC, and the absence of a currently accepted medical use of the plant in the United States.” 11 (Exceptions 12 )
However, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 made some cannabis no longer subject to the Controlled Substances Act by defining hemp as “Cannabis . . . with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent.” 13 This means hemp can be grown in states whose laws allow the industrial production and sale of hemp. This is contributing to the purported presence of CBD in various products, including alleged CBD oil. Any plant containing an excess of 0.3 percent THC is considered marijuana and is therefore a Schedule I controlled substance under the CSA and thus subject to the DEA. Even if something is considered hemp (according to the 2018 Act) by containing less than 0.3 percent THC, it is still subject to all other relevant federal laws. 14
The 2018 Act did not remove the FDA’s “authority to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds under the FD&C Act and . . . the Public Health Service Act (PHS Act).” 15 This means that any product containing cannabis or cannabis compounds, such as CBD, is still subject to the same laws as any other drug or dietary supplement. This includes CBD oil. Any product containing CBD, regardless of its THC content, cannot currently be sold as a dietary supplement. 16 This is because the FDA has approved neither THC nor CBD under the FD&C Act. 17
Drug Approval Process of Schedule I Substances
- Conducting clinical research for the drug approval process of Schedule I substances requires at least the following:
- Filing a registration application with the DEA
- Initial review of the application and research procedures by the FDA
- Working with the FDA to submit an application to the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER)
- Obtaining the controlled substance (in this case, cannabis) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Conducting clinical trials
- Continued review of research procedures and security measures by the FDA
- Compiling scientific data and submitting it to the FDA for approval of controlled substance
Companies that are selling products said to contain CBD are bypassing this process. Their products are not meeting FDA standards because the FDA has not set any. The FDA reviews “applications to market drugs to determine whether proposed drug products are safe and effective for their intended indications.” 19 Without FDA oversight, “the purity and potency of the drug may vary considerably.” 20
According to gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS) analyses conducted by doTERRA’s analytical chemists, THC is found in high concentrations in many brands of cannabis oil. THC is found in both hemp and CBD oil in more than just trace amounts.
Without FDA oversight of CBD, it is difficult to be certain of both the amount and purity of CBD a product may contain. Regardless of what a product may claim, it may contain no CBD at all, while others may vary in purity or consistency of formula. “Over the past several years, FDA has issued several warning letters to firms that market unapproved new drugs that allegedly contain cannabidiol (CBD). As part of these actions, FDA has tested the chemical content of cannabinoid compounds in some of the products, and many were found to not contain the levels of CBD they claimed to contain.” 21
In the case of “CBD oils,” the CBD is combined with a carrier oil. This is because CBD is merely an isolate and not an oil by itself. Depending on what CBD is extracted from and depending on its quality, CBD is heavily diluted using varying amounts of a carrier oil.
A doTERRA chemist has stated, “[O]ur own internal investigation involving analytical testing and evaluation has found that various CBD oils on the market do contain significant levels of THC and therefore could very likely trigger a psychoactive response and/or positive drug test. Our evaluation has also shown that commonly purchased brands of CBD oil can vary greatly in their claimed CBD content.” 22
Why Isn’t doTERRA Producing a CBD Oil?
Due to issues of legality, as well as limited research and other concerns, doTERRA is not making any CBD products or oils at this time. We are committed to our standard of CPTG Certified Pure Tested Grade™ oils and nothing less. Right now, it is not possible to deliver a CBD oil that meets our CPTG ® standards.
Are There Alternatives?
While CBD may not be a good option at this point, there are other ways to boost the health of your endocannabinoid system.
Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) is a sesquiterpene found in hundreds of different plant species. It is also known as a cannabinoid because it interacts directly with CB2 receptors around the body, soothing tissues and helping to manage healthy inflammatory responses. 23 Remember that any compound (group of molecules) that acts on either or both of the cannabinoid receptors is a cannabinoid. BCP does not affect CB1 receptors and there is no risk of psychoactive effects. 24
Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) in Copaiba
BCP is the main chemical constituent in Copaiba essential oil, which comes from distilling the oleoresin of the copaiba tree. A GC/MS analysis confirmed that doTERRA Copaiba essential oil has approximately 55 percent BCP content—the highest BCP content of any known oil.
There is substantial evidence supporting the powerful benefits of oral supplementation of beta-caryophyllene. Further human clinical trials are needed, but current studies are already quite promising—as little as 1–2 drops of Copaiba oil produce noticeable results in humans.
All doTERRA essential oils, including Copaiba, are CPTG Certified Pure Tested Grade. This means that the oil is pure: there are no added fillers, synthetic ingredients, or harmful contaminants that would reduce its efficacy. Each batch of oil undergoes rigorous internal and third party testing to confirm that oils are meeting our quality standards. Every bottle of oil has a unique Quality ID that you can use to view the GC/MS test results from an independent, verified third party lab on Source to You.
Because doTERRA Copaiba essential oil has approximately 55 percent BCP content, the amount of oil needed to produce noticeable results is incredibly small—only a couple of drops. doTERRA Copaiba oil is actually a blend of oils that come from four species of the copaifera tree: Copaifera reticulata, Copaifera officinalis, Copaifera coriacea, and Copaifera langsdorffii. This blend of multiple copaifera species contributes to a more potent and effective version of the essential oil.
Because Copaiba is so pure and potent—needing only a drop or two for the BCP to start affecting the human body—its price point as a potential natural solution is affordable. This becomes especially true considering the cost of most CBD products and oils on the market—products and oils that aren’t substantiating the actual amount and purity of CBD you are receiving in their product.
We know that BCP activates CB2 receptors directly. This means that you can have confidence and assurance in BCP’s ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system. Additionally, knowing exactly how BCP triggers the endocannabinoid system (by directly activating CB2 receptors), we are able to collect more reliable information about dosage and effects than we can at this point with CBD.
Episode 19: CBD vs. Copaiba
This episode Dr. David Hill, Founding Executive of doTERRA, looks at CBD and Copaiba and will answer questions like: What is CBD oil? and What is the difference between CBD and Copaiba? He’ll also explain why you would choose Copaiba over CBD.
Hi, everyone. Dr. Hill. I’m excited to spend a little bit of time with you today and I’m going to talk with you about one of my new most favorite subjects. And of course, that’s Copaiba essential oil. But today I want to do a comparison between Copaiba and CBD.
Now, I know and I recognize that there’s a lot of discussion that happens about this all of the time and many of you either have participated or you’ve heard individuals talking about it. So, can we take just a few minutes and talk about what we know and maybe help you understand some of the differences. Now there are some things that are resolute in this discussion and I feel like we need to be appreciative of that.
What We Know
We know for example that the endocannabinoid system is a resolute system. We know all there is to know about CB1 and CB2, we know where the interact in the body. We know that there’s the greater preponderance of CB2 in the periphery, for example and that CB 1 receptors are more centralized and that they have very specific functions. The whole endocannabinoid system for example is very influential all throughout the body because of this wide distribution and the variation that exists between those different types of receptors.
CB2 receptors, which is where most of discussion seems to be focused and centralized, really deals a lot with the body’s immune capability, how the body is able to monitor and control inflammatory responses appropriately. Even lots of discussion and information showing and defining how the endocannabinoid system is very influential in helping to control different levels and forms of discomfort that we might experience. All of this factors together to mean that that system must hold some real value for us. And so of course there’s a lot of enthusiasm that seems to be present.
Now some of that is much less defined. Some of it is not as concrete as what we just described. And primarily that difference lies between what we know about endocannabinoids and what we know about cannabinoids that exist outside of our body’s own framework. Now we know that the body is self-sustaining in a lot of ways and so we probably don’t need to spend a lot of time talking about the cannabinoids that our body produces on its own. But instead let’s talk about those that we find in an outside source and specifically talking about CBD and talking about Copaiba essential oil.
Now when we talk about those it really becomes a question of how do we best influence this system within the body? We know that it’s meaningful. We know that it’s powerful and we know that its influence is needed. So how do we best create that influence? Right now, there’s a lot of discussion about CBD and its influence within that system. But I have continually spoken to and will I think forever more be in this camp between the two that I think Copaiba is a much better solution. And I’ll tell you some of the reasons why. Influence of a receptor or influence into a system is always a process of how it’s best influenced or what it is that happens within that system.
What is CBD?
There’s some distinct differences between CBD and between Copaiba essential oil that I keep referring to it as CBD and Copaiba essential oil because in fact Copaiba is an essential oil where CBD is not an essential oil. It is a botanical; it’s an isolated molecule. It does come from a hemp plant or it does come from marijuana in all of its different forms. It’s a botanical that’s housed within that plant, but it’s not an essential oil. One of the things that we know in a most basic sense is that essential oils behave very differently in the body. This is no exception. People sometimes refer to it as CBD oil because that molecule as it’s isolated is isolated and then combined with some type of a carrier oil so mistakenly referred to it as an essential oil. But know that this is isolated chemistry that’s combined with or put in some other type of a product. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. So we have to look at all of the characteristics that exist with CBD.
Indirect Receptor Stimulation
One of the things that exists with CBD which makes it a little bit different and not exactly like what we would experience with Copaiba is essential oil is it’s actually an indirect activity. We know that to stimulate the endocannabinoid system we have to stimulate those individual receptors and indirect activity means that it doesn’t just go directly to that receptor.
Instead it goes through a whole process of activity that eventually may stimulate that receptor. Now a receptor is an all or nothing principle, either it’s stimulated or it isn’t, but how readily that stimulation takes place, or that activity takes place, within the body I think is an important consideration.
That becomes an issue of several factors including the amount that’s present. One of the things that’s unique about this as an isolated compound is that we generally don’t see it in very high amounts. Very minimal amounts in terms of the dosage and that may not be substantial enough to create the benefits that we look for consistently. And so it’s this shortened activation or a cascade of activation that has to take place, and then we have some question about dosage.
What are the Longterm Effects of CBD?
And then the other thing that really occurs within, there’s a lot of study that’s been done, but it’s not study that’s necessarily focused exclusively on CBD and its interaction with the body, and we really don’t know long term effects and benefits associated with that.
Is CBD Legal?
The other issue is that, at least to some degree, there is some regulatory challenge that exists. While many states have said that you can have this, the federal government to date still has not.
Copaiba Essential Oil
And so, all of those things combined together for me personally, really begins to cause some question. Now, when we compare that to what we see with Copaiba essential oil it really becomes very, very different. This is an essential oil. And one of the things we know about essential oils is that we have a complete plant chemistry. In doTERRA that’s the whole cycle, that’s the whole process that exists around CPTG® and all the things that we do with that.
Direct Receptor Stimulation
We have direct receptor activity. So our interaction with the receptor is not dependent on some other thing that’s happening within the body. It can happen very quickly, and we have direct response. Direct interaction with that receptor.
One of the things that’s really been interesting to me as we look at some of the science is very small amounts of Copaiba essential oil can actually be very effective. As little as five milligrams, which is really less than one drop, of Copaiba essential oil can have very dramatic effects. And so I like that we have not only consistent interaction, but we have small amounts of dosing that’s required to create that interaction.
Does Copaiba work?
And there are more than a thousand published studies that are talking directly about Copaiba and its influence within human physiology and some of the activity that way.
So it’s not necessarily that CBD oil in and of itself or all by itself somehow is just mismatched and we shouldn’t give it any consideration. I don’t think any of us are saying that. I think it’s more of a wait and see model. Let’s see what we find out in the long term. Let’s see how it is influential.
But what we know right now is even if CBD didn’t have any of those obstacles by comparison Copaiba essential oil is different. It is an essential oil. Here we have four species of Copaiba blended together the chemistry and the construct of that is completely different including that’s primarily sesquiterpene. And one of the great values of sesquiterpenes, and of course you know I’m going to talk about chemistry; I have to do that. One of the great things about sesquiterpenes is that we have the potential for many downstream effects and benefits. In other words secondary metabolites and even tertiary metabolites longer lasting effects and benefits.
And don’t forget we get this direct activity in response with the system itself with very small amounts. So, this means that it’s perfect for using with a model of consistency.
Purity and Potency
Now I always when I think about Copaiba versus CBD, or frankly any other thing that right now kind of fits into that category, there’s four ways that I always think about it. One is purity. Nothing is more important with an essential oil, or frankly any product, than is purity.
One of the major differences that we see between Copaiba essential oil the way that doTERRA is supplying it is beyond just the chemistry and beyond the potency, which is the second P, it’s the potency and the purity of CBD is in question all of the time. We’re not really sure of the benefits of that and we don’t really know where the dosage levels are and where the efficacy comes from.
Impurity comes into question because our discovery has led us to believe that because it exists in such small amounts most of the product that we see in the marketplace in order to have enough present to be deemed as a value is really being derived more synthetically, and we don’t have to have this debate about the difference between something natural in the body and something more synthetic in the body.
So purity potency. The other thing that I think is remarkable is price. Copaiba in and of itself is extremely cost effective, especially using it the way that we want to use it with this, which is with consistency. If the endocannabinoid system is as important as we all believe that it is, regardless of what position we take within that process—whether we’re a fan of one versus the other, what we’re really looking for is consistency.
And that means that we have to have some opportunity for a daily use or some opportunity for consistent exposure. The cost difference between the two is substantial and what little we know now currently about dosage with CBD suggests that the cost for that would be in excess of well over one hundred dollars per day. That doesn’t make any sense. It’s not sustainable. And so what we really get is inconsistent product delivery with very small amounts, and we don’t get the efficacy.
So why not choose something that the price makes it equitable and makes it usable on a daily basis so that we have constant support into that system?
Then the last thing and I get excited about this one is pathway. We’ve been involved in this for a while now and we’re making this wonderful discovery where for the first time the first time in history we have this ability to look at the essential oil, and in this case Copaiba, in its full context, all of the chemistry, everything combined, not an isolated molecule. Everything in context, one with another and we can see pathway. We know where it’s going to; we know the influence that it’s having within the body.
All Factors Considered
And so when I look at those four factors, all of which are critical in my mind, price, which gives us the ability for consistency of use; potency and purity which gives us confidence within its use and gives us the assurance that we’re going to receive the maximum benefit; and then pathway in the understanding that comes from not just having the confidence in the Copaiba essential oil, but in knowing exactly what it’s going to do for us. To me it seems like something that we should all gravitate to regardless of what we think otherwise.
Copaiba is an essential oil that I believe is at the crux and at the core of what we need to do on a daily basis to help us maintain our health, to support and sustain the body, and all of the things that it must do and especially in the environments we now live in that are so challenging. So a quick invitation to you, learn about Copaiba about essential oil. Learn how to use it, learn how to incorporate it. It is one of my very favorite essential oils.
Thanks for spending a little bit of time with me. I hope to see you all very soon.