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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 872394, 8 pages
Research Article

β-Caryophyllene, a Compound Isolated from the Biblical Balm of Gilead (Commiphora gileadensis), Is a Selective Apoptosis Inducer for Tumor Cell Lines

1French Associates Institute for Agriculture and Biotechnology of Drylands, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Sede-Boqer Campus, Midreshet Ben Gurion 84990, Israel
2Dead Sea and Arava Science Center, the Dead Sea 86910, Israel
3Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, D.N. Hevel Eilot 88840, Israel
4The Unit of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Newe Ya'ar Research Center, Ramat Ishai 30095, Israel
5Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel

Received 3 January 2012; Accepted 1 February 2012

Academic Editor: David Baxter

Copyright © 2012 Eitan Amiel et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The biblical balm of Gilead (Commiphora gileadensis) was investigated in this study for anticancerous activity against tumor cell lines. The results obtained from ethanol-based extracts and from essential oils indicated that β-caryophyllene (trans-(1R,9S)-8-methylene-4,11,11-trimethylbicyclo[7.2.0]undec-4-ene) is a key component in essential oils extracted from the balm of Gilead. β-Caryophyllene can be found in spice blends, citrus flavors, soaps, detergents, creams, and lotions, as well as in a variety of food and beverage products, and it is known for its anti-inflammatory, local anaesthetic, and antifungal properties. It is also a potent cytotoxic compound over a wide range of cell lines. In the current paper, we found that Commiphora gileadensis stem extracts and essential oil have an antiproliferative proapoptotic effect against tumor cells and not against normal cells. β-caryophyllene caused a potent induction of apoptosis accompanied by DNA ladder and caspase-3 catalytic activity in tumor cell lines. In summary, we showed that C. gileadensis stems contain an apoptosis inducer that acts, in a selective manner, against tumor cell lines and not against normal cells.