Effects of super-class cannabis terpenes beta-caryophyllene and alpha-pinene on zebrafish behavioural biomarkers

Sci Rep. 2022 Oct 14;12(1):17250. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-21552-2.


Terpenes possess a wide range of medicinal properties and are potential therapeutics for a variety of pathological conditions. This study investigated the acute effects of two cannabis terpenes, β-caryophyllene and α-pinene, on zebrafish locomotion, anxiety-like, and boldness behaviour using the open field exploration and novel object approach tests. β-caryophyllene was administered in 0.02%, 0.2%, 2.0%, and 4% doses. α-pinene was administered in 0.01%, 0.02%, and 0.1% doses. As α-pinene is a racemic compound, we also tested its (+) and (-) enantiomers to observe any differential effects. β-caryophyllene had only a sedative effect at the highest dose tested. α-pinene had differing dose-dependent effects on anxiety-like and motor variables. Specifically, (+)-α-pinene and (-)-α-pinene had significant effects on anxiety measures, time spent in the thigmotaxis (outer) or center zone, in the open field test, as well as locomotor variables, swimming velocity and immobility. (+ /-)-α-pinene showed only a small effect on the open field test on immobility at the 0.1% dose. This study demonstrates that α-pinene can have a sedative or anxiolytic effect in zebrafish and may have different medicinal properties when isolated into its (+) or (-) enantiomers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents*
  • Bicyclic Monoterpenes
  • Biomarkers
  • Cannabis*
  • Hallucinogens*
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Polycyclic Sesquiterpenes
  • Terpenes / pharmacology
  • Zebrafish


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Bicyclic Monoterpenes
  • Biomarkers
  • Hallucinogens
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Polycyclic Sesquiterpenes
  • Terpenes
  • caryophyllene
  • alpha-pinene