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Copaiba vs. CBD: What’s the Difference?

Using natural plant products in traditional health has been a practice for centuries. Mother Nature has provided some of the most diverse, complex compounds still used today to promote wellness and address a variety of concerns. When presented with so many essential oil options, you might pose the common question: What’s the difference? How do you compare Lemon and Lime? Lavender and Clary Sage? Cassia and Cinnamon Bark? Or, in this case, CBD and Copaiba?

The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a hot term in complementary and alternative medicine, and for good reason. It plays a fundamental role in managing many modern and prevalent concerns, including mood, inflammation, appetite, and relaxation. This biological system, composed of receptors, cannabinoids, and enzymes, is found throughout the central and peripheral nervous system and acts as a regulator for countless physiological processes. What that means is the ECS helps maintain internal balance in a world that is constantly changing.

CB1 and CB2 Receptors

Within the ECS, there are two primary receptors, cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2). The brain and spinal cord contain CB1 receptors, whereas CB2 receptors are predominately found in our immune system. Due to residing in different parts of the body, activation of these receptors can have very different effects. For instance CB2 activation supports healthy nervous and immune system function, while activating its counterpart (CB1) receptors can modulate mood, memory, or even perception of pain. While binding to the CB1 receptors positively influences many brain functions, research has shown that it may also have some unwanted psychoactive effects 1 .

There are three groups of molecules that can greatly affect the function of the ECS: endocannabinoids (produced by the body), phytocannabinoids (produced by plants), and synthetic cannabinoids (produced in a lab). Phytocannabinoids are different because they are produced naturally by plants, such as Cannabis, Black Truffle, and Cacao, and found within essential oils such as Copaiba, Black Pepper, and Melissa.

Literature suggests that these ECS-influencing substances tend to be selective in the receptors they activate 2 . This means they tend to activate either the CB1 or CB2 receptors, and they do so directly or indirectly depending on their chemical makeup. Furthermore, the stronger or more directly the molecule adheres to its receptor, the quicker it will produce a physiological effect. This is precisely why Copaiba is such a valued essential oil, it is high in a phytocannabinoid called beta-caryophyllene (BCP). Beta-caryophyllene has the ability to bind directly to CB2 receptors to affect the ECS.

The Advantages of Copaiba

At the 2019 Together Convention, doTERRA’s Director of Education and Training, Scott Johnson, said, “Copaiba and CBD work within the same biological system, so people naturally want to compare them, but it’s not really a fair comparison[…]Copaiba has benefits that can’t be achieved with CBD.”

Because BCP directly binds to CB2 receptors, it produces rapid and powerful changes within the body. On the other hand, CBD doesn’t effectively bind to either receptor so it indirectly affects the ECS. In fact, despite having the unique ability to bind (indirectly) to both CB1 and CB2, CBD’s interaction is not nearly as intense as that offered by other compounds.

Exemplifying doTERRA’s commitment to Pursue What’s Pure, Copaiba is a product born from that standard. Unlike CBD, essential oils rich in BCP, such as Copaiba, are easily tolerated compounds that offer countless benefits to the human body. At this year’s convention, Scott highlighted other possible targets and pathways for BCP outside the ECS such as the CD14 receptor, the μ-Opioid receptor, and the α7-nACHRs receptor.* These receptors affect pathways associated with healthy inflammatory response 3 , overall body comfort, and cognitive function.

The Limitations of CBD

Because CBD does not bind directly to receptors, you can expect slower cellular responses. Scott Johnson said it best at convention describing CBD as a “helper molecule that signals the ECS to work more efficiently and modulate our responses to the molecules that do directly bind to our receptors.” Furthermore, as doTERRA’s in-house GCMS testing has shown, CBD—which is an isolate extracted from the cannabis plant—is often mixed with carrier oils, so absorption is limited and the effect is further decreased. In fact, a recent review of clinical data on CBD revealed internal usage may come with potential unwanted risks 4 .

In addition, according to a study published in 2017, 69% of CBD products were mislabeled and found to have higher levels of THC than are currently permitted by regulations 5 . This poses regulatory challenges and also increased risk for unwanted side effects. Not only can formulations of CBD contain some amount of THC 6 , but as previously mentioned, CBD is not an essential oil, it’s an isolate extracted from the cannabis plant. For doTERRA, the fact that it is nearly impossible for CBD to meet CPTG Certified Pure Tested Grade™ standards for purity and potency is reason enough to keep it out of the product line.

Why Copaiba

With its fast and direct bonding to CB2, beta-caryophyllene is a powerful constituent with potential to support well-being in a variety of ways. Try taking Copaiba orally to support a healthy inflammatory response 7 , apply topically to help reduce blemishes, or use aromatically to create a calm and relaxing environment.* As Scott Johnson says, “When used daily, Copaiba helps you live a longer and healthier life with greater periods of homeostasis.”

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

BCP directly binds to CB2 receptors to produce rapid and powerful changes within the body.

A Chemist’s Perspective: Cannabinoids, Cannabis, and Caryophyllene

Foreword

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.

Conclusion

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

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