Terpene University: Part 4 – Humulene

Beer has existed as long as agriculture. One of the first written recipes was for beer, and ancient Sumerians even named the goddess Ninkasi after this staple drink. Clearly, this amazing beverage has been a traveling companion to humans throughout the ages, and for good reason.

Early civilizations used beer (and wine) as an antibacterial agent for the digestive system and for sterilizing external wounds. And nearly every family member would consume it for caloric sustenance. Lesser known is that beer is full of terpenes that provide a host of additional benefits.

Beer is well known for its alluring and popular aroma. And in western cultures especially, its flavor exists in no small part due to humulene – the “hops terpene.” In addition to its hoppy fragrance, this terpene also carries many medicinal and therapeutic benefits. Let’s start by taking a closer look at humulene and where it comes from.

What Is Humulene?

Humulene is a terpene that was first discovered in the essential oils of hops (Humulus lupulus). Humulene is a sesquiterpene, meaning it has three isoprene units – the building blocks of a great many organic compounds. And these 5-carbon chain molecules comprise a variety of useful hydrocarbons. Take humulene as an example. Its molecular formula is C15H24 – 5 carbon atoms for each isoprene unit making up its skeleton.

Humulene Molecule
α-Humulene is also known as α-caryophyllene. This makes it an isomer of β-caryophyllene. Humulene is a sesquiterpene consisting of three isoprene units.

Fun Fact: Humulene’s alter ego is caryophyllene. α-humulene is the exact same terpene as α-caryophyllene. This makes β-caryophyllene an isomer of humulene!

Where Can You Find Humulene?

Humulene is produced by many plants, including and especially cannabis. Because we know humulene is related to caryophyllene, it comes as no surprise that they are frequently found together in black pepper, cloves, and hops!

Humulus Lupulus
The flowers of the Humulus lupulus plant are a great source of terpenes such as myrcene and humulene.

The flowers of budding Humulus lupulus plants contain several popular terpenes, many of which we’ve already reviewed. These include both myrcene and caryophyllene. However, it’s humulene that most often steals the show at a brewery. Humulene is a primary contributor to beer’s wood-like, earthy aroma.

When you cultivate a strain of cannabis that gives off a “beer-like” fragrance during its flowering phase, humulene is often responsible.

What Are the Benefits of Humulene?

Next time you’re watching (or participating in) a marathon, you may notice that beer is often served at the finish line. This is true for many countries that participate in foot racing. The strongly represented terpene prevalent in beer, humulene, combines its healing abilities, with the ability to prevent mucus buildup in the lungs. Granted, to maximize the benefits of humulene in beer, it’s sometimes recommended to drink alcohol-free brewskis.

Humulene and Healing
Humulene is great for helping the body heal after distance running and other cardio-heavy activities. It acts as both an anti-inflammatory and helps mitigate mucus build-up in the lungs.

The advantages humulene has to offer are not just for distance runners. Additional benefits of humulene include:

Like its sibling β-caryophyllene and its alter ego α-caryophyllene, humulene has tremendous therapeutic benefits for people suffering from inflammation and injury. And it just might be part of the answer in unlocking natural remedies to mitigate some types of cancer.

Cannabis Strains Containing Humulene

If you’re a fan of what you’ve learned about humulene and want to augment the genetics of your strain’s terpene profile, we’ve found a few strains worth checking out:

  • Wedding Cake – This hybrid cannabis strain may not taste like cake, but its strong terpene profile and high THC content has made it popular to both cultivate and manufacture into extracts. Humulene, caryophyllene, and limonene work in tandom to produce a calm-inducing high that’s helps treat pain, insomnia, and inflammation.
  • White Widow – A Dutch cannabis cultivator by the name of Ingemar bred White Widow and named it as such in 1987. Since then, the strain has grown to find itself in many of the best seed banks across the world. White Widow is a hybrid plant with a pepper and piney aroma.
  • Sherbert (or Sherbet) – This flavorful breed of cannabis was bred by crossing the strain “Pink Panties” with “Girl Scout Cookies.” This gives the indica a sweet and nutty taste. Sherbert is a great source of humulene and is known to ease anxiety and stress.
  • Candyland – Also spelled as “Kandyland”, this award-winning sativa strain is the perfect choice for daytime toking. Candyland boasts an impressive terpene profile that includes humulene, and is often used to spark creativity. This strain is also used to treat pain and can help ease the symptoms for conditions such as ADHD.

Cannabis plants are creative chemists, producing a wide array of terpenes in every strain. For this reason, you’ll often notice the same strain promoted for different terpenes. And when you have a terpene like humulene, this is certainly true as it frequently appears alongside caryophyllene.

A Closer Look at Humulene

For your convenience, we’ve put together a snapshot of this mighty “hops terpene”. Feel free to bookmark this page so you can easily reference the characteristics of humulene when deciding which cannabis strains and terps to leverage:

AromaSpicy, earthy, wood-like fragrance
Foods Containing PineneHerbs such as sage and ginseng, black pepper, cloves, cilantro
Natural OccurrencesCannabis, Humulus lupulus
Common BenefitsStrong anti-inflammatory, respiratory protectant, appetite suppressant, anti-tumor, angiogenesis
Popular Cannabis StrainsWedding Cake, White Widow, Sherbert, Candyland
α-Humulene can be found throughout nature and often appears where you find caryophyllene due to their molecular relationship. The medicinal benefits of humulene pair very well with those of its sibling, β-caryophyllene.

Terpenes are a growing interest in the field of medicine, as so many provide natural solutions to common ailments. The dynamic duo of β-caryophyllene and α-humulene pack a mighty one-two punch to inflammation. And they excel in their regenerative properties. Cannabis cultivators and manufacturers alike should definitely take these terps into consideration when expanding their crops and product lines.

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