EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TERPENE HUMULENE: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
What is Humulene and the Benefits, Effects, Research, Science & More?
We take you through the benefits, options, and important criteria you should consider when looking at products containing the terpene humulene.
Introduction into the Terpene Humulene
Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Vance Green, PharmD.
Updated on January 25, 2022
Humulene is a terpene found in moderate amounts in hemp and cannabis strains and the subject of some interesting scientific research.
While the terpene humulene isn’t typically dominant in most strains, it’s often present in moderate amounts. As a result, humulene frequently appears in hemp and cannabis strains with a spicy, earthy, or floral scent. It contributes to this scented bouquet by blending with stronger terpenes.
Don’t dismiss humulene, however, just because it appears in smaller amounts and receives less attention than some of the other primary terpenes. Instead, it likely contributes to the “entourage effect.” This is the theory proposed by leading cannabis experts that the hundreds of compounds in the various forms of the plant work together synergistically to enhance one another.
In the following article, we’ll introduce you to humulene and explain what scientists think could be its major effects. This is part of the Absolute Nature CBD series on terpenes in hemp and cannabis; be sure to check that article for a complete introduction to the subject and a list of other terpene articles.
Humulene, also known as α-humulene is a naturally occurring monocyclic sesquiterpene (C15H24). It’s found in plats like hops, sage and many flowers.
What is the terpene humulene, and where is it found in nature?
Humulene is named for hops, which has the Latin name Humulus lupulus. Scientists first isolated humulene from the essential oil of this plant. Hops essential oil contains as much as 40% humulene.
Technically speaking, humulene is a monocyclic sesquiterpene, scientifically known as α-humulene. It’s closely chemically related to Beta-caryophyllene. The two chemicals are an isomer of one another: both compounds contain the same number of atoms of each element, but they’re arranged differently. Both terpenes frequently appear together in nature, too.
Hops are most well-known as one of the key ingredients in beer. Humulene reacts with the brewing process to help create the “hoppy” aroma that’s beloved in many beers. The brewing process does remove many of the terpenes present in hops, but ‘hopped’ beers, where hops are added after brewing, may add some back.
Hops are also part of the same family as hemp and cannabis plants. That may be why humulene is so common. While it’s rarely the main terpene, it often appears as the third-most common terpene in any given strain.
Some other plants with a lot of humulene include the culinary herb sage, ginger root, ginseng, and tobacco.
Scientists think terpenes play a key role in the “entourage effect.” In brief, the entourage effect is the idea that all the compounds in hemp or cannabis are more effective working together rather than isolated into their individual parts.
That’s why so many consumers report better effects from full-spectrum hemp supplements versus those made with just CBD isolate. While the additional cannabinoids like THC, CBG and CBN play a role, so do the terpenes.
For example, researchers think humulene, a common terpene in hemp flower, may contribute to its anti-inflammatory effects.
In a 2007 study of terpenes in a woody bush native to Brazil, humulene helped reduce several signs of inflammation.
What are some possible benefits of humulene?
Most research into humulene focuses on its potential anti-inflammatory benefits.
For example, in a 2007 study of terpenes in a woody bush native to Brazil (source), humulene helped reduce several signs of inflammation. This study used mice and rats. Nevertheless, the scientists concluded on a cautious note, suggesting these terpenes “might represent important tools for the management and/or treatment of inflammatory diseases.”
There’s lots of research supporting the idea that hemp and cannabis can have anti-inflammatory effects. This suggests humulene could contribute to the proposed “entourage effect” found in full-spectrum products.
One interesting extension of this anti-inflammatory action could be treating allergic reactions (source), specifically inflammation of the airway caused by allergies. In another study using mice, published in 2009, researchers wrote that “α‐Humulene, given either orally or by aerosol, exhibited marked anti‐inflammatory properties.”
Humulene seems to be easily absorbed into the bloodstream (source), according to a 2008 study using mice, which was published in Planta Medica.
Like so many aspects of research relating to hemp and cannabis, there’s probably much more awaiting discovery. Most of the current study only looks at this terpene in isolation or its action in other plants. We’ll need to see significant trials in human beings before we can speak definitively about the benefits of humulene.
Do certain cannabis and hemp strains contain a lot of humulene?
As we’ve warned in previous articles, there’s no way to guarantee that any particular terpene can be found in any strain, unless you check the third-party lab results. Lab results also ensure no additional impurities end up in the final product when you smoke or ingest it.
As we emphasized above, humulene could be considered something of a “helper” terpene. It contributes to the scent and taste of many strains without dominating. For example, humulene is the third-most prevalent terpene in Absolute Nature’s Wedding Cake strain. Consumers say this CBG-rich strain contributes to feelings of relaxation, euphoria and relief.
In THC-rich cannabis, you’ll find a lot of humulene in the popular “GSC” (previously called Girl Scout Cookies) strain. Other popular humulene-rich strains include Sherbet and Gelato, Headband, and the classic Indica strain OG Kush.
Reach out to us for help if you need some help picking your perfect strain or the right CBD product.
Some of the common terpenes in hemp and cannabis include myrcene, limonene, pinene and linalool.
Get to know our favorite ‘terps’
Thanks to the years of prohibition and the stigma that grew up around hemp and cannabis, we’re only just beginning to learn about how compounds like terpenes work and could help us.
Writer: Kit O’Connell is a writer and journalist from Austin, Texas. His work has also appeared in Yes! Magazine, the Texas Observer, and elsewhere. He served as Editor in Chief of the Ministry of Hemp from 2017 until 2021.