Neuroinflammation is known to play a neuropathological role in cognitive decline. Beta-caryophyllene (BCP), found in many plants, is a substance that crosses the blood-brain barrier and acts on the microglial cells to reduce neuro-inflammation. The purpose of this prospective, randomized study is to determine the effect of BCP on cognitive function in older individuals, who have noticed worsening of memory. In this 8-week study, 52 participants were randomized to two different doses of BCP: 90 mg (n=29) or 180 mg (n=29). At baseline, week 4, and week 8, cognitive function using four brain games taken online and quality of life were measured. At baseline, the average age was 67 ± 5 years, and the subjects were obese according to mean body mass indexes.
Baseline mean brain scores for the four tests were near or below average; the percentage changes for all scores were small (2-5% increases, except for two tests for those taking two BCP capsules, which had increases of 7% for Spatial Planning and 10% for Double Trouble). The percentage of participants who improved in all tests over 8 weeks was between 40% and 73%; similar improvements were observed between those taking one BCP capsule or two capsules. Interesting, over 8 weeks, the biggest improvements were observed for the combined summed means of all four tests for those with baseline mean scores at or below 100 (those taking one BCP capsule improved 5.0 ± 9.8%, and those taking two capsules improved 9.0 ± 12.9%).
Of the ten quality of life questions, four did not change significantly over 8 weeks. Questions related to memory, forgetfulness, remembering things, and focus improved significantly over 8 weeks (P < 0.05). A feeling of wellbeing and general health worsened in both groups, but the study was conducted in the early period of the Coronavirus disease-19 pandemic, so this may explain these findings.
Compliance with the BCP capsules was excellent and no other dietary or lifestyle changes were imposed. As no treatments are available to treat dementia, the current study suggests that the use of BCP from cloves is an easy way to improve cognitive function in an elderly population, and it could be especially beneficial to those with the poorest cognition.