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A Guide To Humulene: A Flavor And Medicinal Powerhouse

Posted by Eric Van Buskirk on

The refreshing sip of your a ice cold beer, the tangy spike of ginseng, the crackling spiciness of black pepper - what do all of these flavors have in common? They’re all powered by an important terpene called humulene.

Like the taste of beer? The humulene terpene is the secret ingredient behind it all.

A Closer Look At This Terpene Profile

Humulene is an herbaceous compound that has been used in traditional Eastern medicine as well as modern biomedical research. Turning to cannabis, humulene can be found in many popular strains and is an essential element in forming the broad flavor and aromatic profile of cannabis.

Humulene and Beta-Caryophyllene: A Special Relationship

Humulene is unique among terpenes in that its medicinal properties derive largely from how it interacts with another compound: β-caryophyllene (BCP). BCP is a terpene found in cannabis that interacts with our endocannabinoid system. For more information on β-caryophyllene, take a look at our article on that here.

The Endocannabinoid System

Put simply, our endocannabinoid system (ECS) contains two receptors - CB1 and CB2. These receptors are found throughout the body and can interact with cannabinoids that are produced in our body and cannabinoids that we consume from external sources (i.e. cannabis). BCP has such positive medicinal effects because it binds with the CB2 receptor.

So What’s Alpha Humulene?

Here’s the thing: humulene is what’s known as an “isomer” of BCP. Isomers have the same molecular formula/number of atoms as each other, but have a different chemical structure. In this context, that means that humulene shares many of the same properties as BCP. For this reason, humulene is also known as alpha humulene or alpha caryophyllene.

As you can see, humulene and β-caryophyllene share a similar chemical makeup and structure.

What Can Humulene Do For You?

Now that we’ve covered how humulene works in your system, let’s discuss its actual potential as a significant palliative. Broadly speaking, it acts as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent much in the way that BCP does.


A study published in the Arabian Journal of Chemistry found evidence that humulene has the potential to slow bacterial growth.


Its anti-inflammatory properties, when used in conjunction with b-caryophyllene, make it effective for treating arthritis, bursitis, and fibromyalgia.


Several studies have shown that humulene is toxic to the larvae of several kinds of mosquitos that are responsibility to transmitting serious diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and West Nile virus. It can also be applied topically to act as an insect repellent.

Weight Loss

Unlike THC which will give you the munchies, humulene has the ability to suppress activity in the appetite pathways in your body.

Fight Cancer

Humulene is what’s known as a sesquiterpene. Sesquiterpenes are a specific type of terpene that have the ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. When there is a high concentration of sesquiterpenes in the brain, it increases the oxygen in your limbic system. Oxygenated environments make it hard for cancer cells to multiply. Equally important is research suggesting that humulene may have the ability to induce cancer cell death through apoptosis.

Trans-Nerolidol: Another Important Sesquiterpene

Another one of the most commonly asked about terpenes out there is trans-nerolidol. While it is a secondary terpene (meaning it occurs less frequently in nature), like humulene, trans-nerolidol is a sesquiterpene, which gives it unique medicinal properties. It is a natural sleep aid and some research has shown that it may even have the potential to heal skin lesions.

Cannabis flower essential oil, which are derived from hemp, are 100% legal!

Are Terpenes Legal?

Now, if this article piqued your interest in acquiring some humulene, the next question people ask is: is all this legal? Well, you’re in luck - even though humulene is found in many different strains of cannabis, it is not strictly derived from cannabis. In fact, no terpenes are. In contrast, the fight for marijuana legalization is still on going. Check out this article series for more info on that important topic. That means that the pesky issue of marijuana legalization doesn’t apply here. Rather, terpenes are subject to their own regulations as essential oils. What’s more, even cannabis flower essential oil, which is derived from hemp is legal in all 50 states.

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