Terpene of the Month: Humulene

 In Medical Marijuana, Terpenes

Each month we highlight one of the 200+ volatile aromatic compounds called terpenes that create the unique flavors and aromas of different cannabis strains. Terpenes generally enhance the health benefits of cannabis while reducing the intoxicating effects that can cause anxiety. Additionally, each terpene has unique therapeutic properties. This month we’ll discuss the terpene humulene.

Primary Aromas

Humulene has a subtle warm, woody/earthy aroma with spicy herbal notes.

Botanicals Containing Humulene

Humulene is the primary terpene found in the closest relative of cannabis: Humulus lupulus, or common hops (used to give beer its unique hoppy/tangy flavor). Humulene is also commonly found in sage, cloves, basil, ginseng, and cannabis.

Cognitive Effects

Humulene is primarily a neutral terpene, with mildly sedative effects.

Therapeutic Effects

Humulene has been widely studied for its numerous therapeutic benefits. It has been traditionally been used in folk medicines for its anti-bacterial properties, but it was only in 2006 that it was formally studied and found to fight Staphyloccocus aureus infections effectively.

Research has also shown that humulene is a very powerful anti-inflammatory, with properties comparable to steroidal anti-inflammatories like dexamethasone. One study found that it worked as both a topical and systemic anti-inflammatory, with antinociceptive properties that reduce the sensation of pain. Furthermore, the previous research shows that humulene is an effective anti-inflammatory whether taken orally or as an aerosol, and can significantly alleviate allergic inflammation of the airways.

There is also evidence that humulene has the rare ability to produce Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), which may cause apoptosis, or cancer cell death. Research has found that humulene is able to inhibit human tumor cell growth by 50-69% on its own, and is even more effective (75-90%) with the addition of beta-caryophyllene (an example of the synergy between terpenes, known as the Entourage Effect).

Lastly, there is considerable anecdotal evidence of humulene’s unique appetite-suppressing (anorectic) properties, making it a beneficial part of weight loss regimens.

Boiling Point

198°C/388 °F (For more information, see Leafly’s How to Customize Your Cannabis High with Temperature).

Cannabis Families with Abundant Humulene

To identify strains rich in humulene, use your nose or select strains that are listed as having an hoppy, spicy aroma. Terpene levels vary from harvest to harvest, but some strains consistently produce high levels – particularly strains in the Widow, Kush, Diesel and Headband families. According to the most recent tests of our concentrated terpene extracts, our strain with the highest level of humulene is NYC Diesel.