Humulene: the aroma of beer also present in cannabis

Humulene is an unknown word, even though its meaning enjoys great popularity. We could translate it as the aroma of freshly cut grass, damp earth or wood. Do these olfactory sensations tell you anything else?

It is due to the terpene humulene: an aromatic ingredient present in a multitude of plants, especially in hops (the essential ingredient of hops). beer), and one of the most frequent terpenes in the varieties of cannabiswith benefits for our organism, and capable of modulating the effects of cannabinoids.

What is humulene and what effects does this terpene have on cannabis?

What is humulene?

Humulene is a terpene which owes its name to the hop, or as it is scientifically called Humulus lupulus. This aromatic component produced at high levels by the brewing plant is also found in cannabis as a defensive tool against insect and fungal pests.

Humulene has a fresh and herbaceous aroma, with earthy notes, also woody, resin tints, and even hints of spicy, peppery nuances.


It is a sesquiterpene, like beta caryophyllene. It is also known as alpha humulene, or alpha caryophyllene (this was its initial name), and has a molecular structure formed by three isoprenes of 5 hydrocarbons each.

The chemical fact that interests us is that, among the ingredients that confer aroma to plants, humulene belongs to the heavyweight family of terpenes. It is therefore less volatile (compared to other terpenes such as limonene), and does not form the main aroma of a cannabis strain, but is a compound that provides the undertones.

What is the aroma of humulene?

Humulene, or alpha caryophyllene, gives off a fresh, herbaceous aroma. It also has earthy notes, also woody, with hints of resin, and even suggests spicy, spicy nuances. It is a complex, bitter and refreshing scent, with a wide range of fragrances.

It is most easily recognized, rather than in cannabis, in IPA beers. India Pale Ale beers have a high hop content, which is why they also have high levels of humulene. The bitter, earthy and herbaceous aroma with a spicy touch of the trendy beers is the result of humulene.

Where is humulene found?

Humulene in cannabis is found in the trichomes of cannabis flowers. It develops from the flowering stage, when the female plants cease vegetative growth and begin to sprout buds on the branches, and they grow in crescendo as harvest time approaches.

Humulene, like the rest of the terpenes, is synthesized in the trichome head (at the circular end of the resin gland) as a defensive tool of the plant against insect pests and as an antifungal against fungi. And this natural defense of plants becomes a sensory pleasure for humans.

Which plants are rich in humulene?

The plant richest in humulene is undoubtedly the one that gives it its name, Humulus lupulus. Humulus lupulus commonly known as hops, and the main ingredient of beer. After hops, the aphrodisiac medicinal plant Muira Puama (“powerful wood”, Ptychopetalum olacoides), from the Amazon rainforest, is the second richest in this component.

Some of the plants richest in humulene are widely used as energizers or aphrodisiacs.

But humulene is a sesquiterpene also present in ginger, cloves, nutmeg, sage, tamarind, guava or ginseng. What do many of these plants have in common? That bitter and spicy aftertaste, isn’t it? Well, that is, at least in part, because of humulene.

Humulene-rich marijuana varieties

Many varieties of cannabis have humulene levels, but few of them have it in high percentages. Some of the genetics that provide these bitter herbaceous undertones in all their splendor are the legendary Sour Diesel, or the legendary American Girl Scout Cookies (GSC).

CBD flowers rich in humulene

In the case of CBD flowers, we will notice those hints of humulene in the Ninja Fruit (Strawberry Kush x Watermelon) , Candy Krush (Zkittlez CBD) , Funky Monkey (Gorilla Glue) , Orange Mood (Mandarin Cookies) y Meditate (CBD Pineapple Kush) .

These are the CBD flowers rich in humulene that you can find in Cannactiva, to buy legal CBD buy Legal CBD .

How to identify the aroma of humulene in cannabis?

Humulene, although present in countless varieties of cannabis, is always present in very small proportions. Usually present in a less significant form than limonene, myrcene, beta caryophyllene or linalool, terpenoid profile analyses of most strains usually reveal lower levels of humulene than other terpenes.

It is almost never the predominant terpene of a variety, and rarely dominates the overall aroma of a genetic. It is rather one of those terpenes that nuances the background odor of a certain flower.

It is therefore a type of aroma that enriches the overall organoleptic quality of a plant, but does not monopolize it. For this reason, it is not as easily identifiable as the intoxicants myrcene or linalool, for example. Humulene is one of the terpenes offered by the back notes (the back notes), as the experts call them, of a particular plant.

Effects of humulene on cannabis

Humulene, like the other terpenes in cannabis, has effects on our body. Even though the plant produces it for its own survival and to keep away such devastating predators as insects or fungi, this terpene can bring benefits to our organism through inhalation, topical application, or ingestion, and its contraindications are practically null.

In the case of cannabis, the first and most obvious effect of humulene is aroma and flavor. That packaging on the palate and aroma on the nose that enhances the presence of a particular variety and differentiates it from others. But apart from the sensory experience of taste and smell, humulene can also modulate the effects of other plant compounds.

How does humulene interact with cannabinoids?

As a terpene, and due to its entourage effect, the entourage effect, humulene modulates the effects of other terpenes and cannabinoids. humulene modulates the effects of other terpenes and cannabinoids. Due to the synergy between the different chemical compounds of cannabis, humulene enhances the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of other active principles of the plant.

Because if phytocannabinoids were initially considered to be the only compounds in the cannabis plant capable of interacting with the human organism, subsequent research has revealed that terpenes also play an active role in the effects of cannabis.

Given the anti-inflammatory properties of humulene itself, this terpene could potentiate the anti-inflammatory effects of the cannabinoids CBD and THC, due to the synergy between the two.

How to preserve the humulene in cannabis?

Terpenes are the organic elements (hydrocarbons, to be exact) that impart aroma to the cannabis plant, and can easily evaporate . While cannabinoids do not evaporate, humulene and other terpenes can be easily destroyed during flower curing and subsequent storage.

Temperature, light, oxygen and humidity levels are vital to preserve a flower’s terpenes after harvest. With regard to heat, it should be remembered that terpenes can evaporate when subjected to temperatures between 22 and 35 degrees Celsius.

The boiling point of humulene is approximately 198 °C. This means that the humulene will begin to evaporate and release its aroma and volatile properties as the temperature reaches this point.

Benefits of humulene

The main benefits that humulene can offer are due to its anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antibacterial properties. Aren’t these properties that you may also have heard attributed to ginger or ginseng, humulene-producing plants? Coincidence?

Regarding the first point, this study revealed that humulene administered orally acts favorably against tissue inflammation. Humulene extracted from the Cordia verbenacea plant, a plant used by indigenous peoples of the coast and interior of Brazil, was used for this purpose (1).

This anti-inflammatory property was also concluded in this other study, where in addition to the oral route, the anti-inflammatory efficacy of humulene was proven by the topical route (2). But in addition to being an active ingredient against swelling, it has also been found to have analgesic (3) and antibacterial (4) properties.

The next time you are enjoying the taste of a beer and you are left with that bitter aftertaste in your mouth, remember that humulene is the originator of that sensation. And don’t forget, this terpene also brings those amazing aromatic nuances to your favorite cannabis strain. It’s the secret ingredient that makes everything even tastier!

  1. Fernandes ES, Passos GF, Medeiros R, da Cunha FM, Ferreira J, Campos MM, Pianowski LF, Calixto JB. Anti-inflammatory effects of compounds alpha-humulene and (-)-trans-caryophyllene isolated from the essential oil of Cordia verbenacea. Eur J Pharmacol. 2007 Aug 27;569(3):228-36. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2007.04.059. Epub 2007 May 22. PMID: 17559833.
  2. Rogerio AP, Andrade EL, Leite DF, Figueiredo CP, Calixto JB. Preventive and therapeutic anti-inflammatory properties of the sesquiterpene alpha-humulene in experimental airways allergic inflammation. Br J Pharmacol. 2009 Oct;158(4):1074-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2009.00177.x. Epub 2009 May 8. PMID: 19438512; PMCID: PMC2785529.
  3. Humulene. Cannabis sativa – an overview. Chapter 38. Nutraceuticals (Second Edition), 2021
  4. Pichette A, Larouche PL, Lebrun M, Legault J. Composition and antibacterial activity of Abies balsamea essential oil. Phytother Res. 2006 May;20(5):371-3. doi: 10.1002/ptr.1863. PMID: 16619365.

Jásminka Romanos
Periodista especializada en comunicación para el sector del cannabis

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