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Cannabis 101

Humulene: The Earthy Terpene

11.23.22 - 4 min read


  • Humulene has an earthy, woody, spicy aroma. 
  • Humulene is related to beta-caryophyllene but has a different arrangement of atoms within its molecule. 
  • Humulene is present in hops as well as cannabis and other spices: it contributes to the bitter taste of hops in beer. 
  • Humulene has been studied for potential anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and pain relief properties. 
  • Cannabis strains that are high in humulene include Love Affair, Animal Mints #10, Ice Cream Cake, LA Kush Cake #2. 

Anyone who’s been around cannabis knows it has a distinctive smell. In fact, it’s one of the most iconic scents there is. But how does it acquire this unique, earthy fragrance? As with many things in the plant, it all comes back to terpenes. This time though, it is specifically the Humulene that provides a wider variety and unique calling card to each strand. But what in the hell are Humulene Terpenes? How do they work? Don’t worry, we’ll explain everything. 


What are terpenes in the marijuana plant? 

Terpenes are natural chemicals that come from plants. They create distinctive odors and tastes, like pinene, which creates a pine odor, or limonene, a citrus smell that comes from orange or lemon peels. Terpenes are not only found in marijuana plants. They can be found in many types of plants, from large pine trees to herbs like lavender. In the cannabis plant, humulene helps to aid the plant’s natural defenses against fungal infections and agricultural pests. [Source] 

There are over 400 terpenes that have been identified in the cannabis plant. Terpenes can be isolated from plants using chemical processes. Some highly aromatic terpenes like pinene are made into cleaning products, while others are made into topical creams and cosmetics. Terpenes that are common in the marijuana plant aren’t unique to cannabis, they can also be found in other plants. Cannabis terpenes are thought to have a role in the entourage effect and they can interact with cannabinoids and potentially have calming or soothing effects along with other possible benefits. 


What Is Humulene? 

Humulene is a cannabis terpene that was formerly classified as α-caryophyllene. It is chemically similar, but not identical, to β-caryophyllene. Humulene commonly occurs in the Humulus lupulus family of plants, also known as hops.  

Is Humulene a monoterpene and what does that mean?  

Humulene isn’t a monoterpene. It’s a “sesquiterpene,” which means it has one-and-a-half times more atoms in its molecules than regular or monoterpenes. Sesquiterpenes can have stronger odors and be more diverse chemically than other terpenes. All of the terpenes in the sesquiterpene family are known for their potential anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. [Source] 

What does Humulene smell/taste like? 

Humulene has an earthy, woody, spicy aroma. Its taste is often described as bitter, but it also has spicy and herbal qualities.  

The best-known plant which contains humulene is hops, which are used to flavor beer as it brews. The mostly-bitter flavor of humulene helps to balance the sweetness of the malt that’s used in many beer recipes. Hops contribute a bitter flavor but also spicy and earthy scents.  

Humulene combined with different terpenes from different cannabis strains can also be fruity and citrusy in taste and odor. When it is separated from the natural plant material that it comes from, humulene is a clear, pale yellowish-green liquid.  

Humulene’s boiling point is 106 °C (222 °F) at 5 mmHg.  


Where can Humulene be found? 

In addition to marijuana plants, humulene is present in hops, especially in the flowering cone of the plant used to flavor beer. The distinctive flavor of “hoppy” beer comes from humulene. Humulene is also present in spicy ginger root and ginseng. Some studies of humulene’s potential wellness benefits have analyzed humulene extracted from the Cordia verbenacea plant, a form of black sage.  

Other spices or plants that contain humulene include basil, coriander, cloves, sage, black pepper, and balsam fir. The semi-bitter, crisp taste and smell of humulene contributes to the complex flavors and odors of all of these spices and plants, as well as cannabis strains.  

Health Benefits and Uses 

Current research is investigating whether humulene has anti-inflammatory properties as well as benefits for allergies. In the Chinese medical tradition, humulene is found in sage oil and is used for various remedies. Humulene is contained in ginseng, which is used in Chinese medicine to boost energy and as a natural anti-bacterial compound. [Source] 

Humulene has been studied for its potential benefits in helping combat cancer cells, and results have been promising. [Source] 

In research from 2018, Humulene, along with a number of other terpenes, was reported to show potential for anti-allergic and anti-asthmatic effects. 


Cannabis Strains High in Humulene 

Cannabis strains that can be high in humulene include  

  • Love Affair 
  • Animal Mints #10 
  • Ice Cream Cake 
  • LA Kush Cake #2 

Many strains of cannabis that are high in humulene are descended from Sativa strains, but there are also some Indica-dominant strains

Is Humulene the same as beta-caryophyllene? 

Humulene is not the same as beta-caryophyllene. Humulene was formerly called alpha-caryophyllene but was renamed Humulene because of its high concentrations in hop plants. Both humulene and beta-caryophyllene have the same number of carbon and hydrogen atoms, but the atoms are arranged differently within each molecule. Some chemists describe both terpenes as “cousins” because of their similarities. 




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