What Is Humulene? [Cannabis Terpenes Explained]

Cannabis terpenes have been gaining more attention in recent years. They are responsible for the unique flavors and effects of different strains. They also possess a variety of potential benefits for health and wellbeing.

Today we look at humulene, one of the most abundant cannabis terpenes. We’ll explain its effects and where to find it, including some of the best humulene rich strains.

What Is Humulene?

Humulene is a terpene, more specifically, a sesquiterpene. In cannabis plants, these compounds play a role in protection against pests and disease. They are often highly aromatic and are part of the reason why different marijuana strains have varying tastes and effects.

Humulene has the chemical formula C₁₅H₂₄. Its atoms are arranged in an eleven-membered ring, and the molecule is an isomer of beta-caryophyllene.

This means that the two terpenes have the same formula but a different structure and, therefore, different properties. For this reason, humulene is also sometimes known as alpha-caryophyllene.

People usually describe humulene’s aroma as woody and earthy with hints of spice.

Cannabis and Humulene Research

Research has highlighted several potential benefits of humulene. However, it is crucial to note that most of the existing studies utilized humulene extracts from plants other than cannabis. One of the most common species is Cordia verbenaceae, a shrub native to Brazil. It is also sometimes known as black sage.

Part of the reason for this is marijuana is notoriously difficult to study thanks to its illegal status. However, now that interest in cannabis terpenes is growing, it is likely that more studies will emerge in the near future.

Until then, we must rely on evidence relating to other plants to inform us of humulene’s benefits. Let’s look at some of the key studies on humulene’s effects to date.

Humulene Effects

It appears that humulene has several beneficial effects, including the following:

Anti-inflammatory Effects

Like many cannabis compounds, humulene seems to have potent anti-inflammatory properties.

A 2007 study for the European Journal of Pharmacology found that humulene reduced inflammation and paw swelling in mice and rats. Amazingly, the anti-inflammatory effects of humulene were comparable to the potent corticosteroid, dexamethasone. The authors concluded that this terpene could be an important tool in the management and treatment of inflammatory disease.

A further 2008 study for Planta Medica supported these results. It found that alpha-humulene had anti-inflammatory activity following both oral and topical administration.

Finally, a 2009 study for the British Journal of Pharmacology looked at the effects of oral or inhaled humulene in mice with allergic airway inflammation. Once again, the compound displayed anti-inflammatory effects. Furthermore, aerosol administration of humulene decreased mucus production by as much as 51%.

Antioxidant Effects

A 2016 study for the Biomedical and Pharmacology Journal investigated the effects of alpha-humulene on diabetic rats. The results indicated that the terpene had antioxidant effects. It decreased levels of 8-OHdG, a marker of oxidative stress, and displayed potential anti-diabetic properties.

Antibacterial Effects

Since one of the primary roles of terpenes is protecting plants from disease, it is no surprise that many of them possess antibacterial properties.

A 2006 study for Phytotherapy Research found that balsam fir essential oil was effective against Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The oil contained numerous terpenes, including alpha-pinene, beta-caryophyllene, and alpha-humulene.

Although these results are positive, further research is needed to confirm the clinical effects of humulene in humans. We hope to see more evidence emerging soon.

The Best Humulene Rich Strains

If you are a medical marijuana patient suffering from inflammation, you may want to try the effects of humulene for yourself.

In this case, you will need to choose a strain that contains generous levels of this terpene. Here are some of the best humulene rich strains on the market today:

Girl Scout Cookies

This popular strain has some of the highest humulene levels around at approximately 2.45%. In addition to its fantastic terpene profile, Girl Scout Cookies contains an average 17% THC and trace levels of CBD.

Its parent strains are marijuana royalty: Durban Poison and OG Kush. With such fantastic genetics, it’s no wonder this strain became an instant hit.

Users love GSC for its sweet aroma and potent effects. As a slightly indica-dominant hybrid (60%), its medical uses include chronic pain and mood disorders such as depression and stress.

Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies

As the name suggests, Thin Mint GSC is a close relation of Girl Scout Cookies. However, it is a slightly more balanced hybrid with a 50/50 indica to sativa breakdown. It contains around 2.35% humulene and an average 20% THC.

If you love strains with a fresh and minty flavor, Thin Mint GSC could be ideal for you. Patients often use it to relieve pain, thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects. It may also help boost appetite and aid sleep.

Sour Diesel

Sour Diesel is the most sativa-leaning strain on our list at 90%. It contains approximately 1% humulene and a hefty dose of THC, often exceeding 20%. Its CBD content is unknown but is likely to be negligible.

This strain’s exact lineage is a bit of a mystery. However, Chemdawg 91 and Super Skunk are most likely to be involved.

As its fuel-like name hints, Sour D is most famous for its ability to energize and motivate. Patients use it for issues such as depression and fatigue. However, it is something of an acquired taste, and not everyone can come to terms with its pungent aroma.


If you prefer a strain that tastes a little sweeter, Candyland could be the one for you. It is 70% sativa-dominant and contains around 0.75% humulene. The strain’s THC levels average at a moderate 14%, so it shouldn’t be too overwhelming for novice cannabis users. Its CBD content is typically less than 1%.

Candyland is a cross between Platinum Cookies (another GSC phenotype) and the ever-popular Granddaddy Purple. Its most common medical uses include relieving anxiety, nausea, and fatigue.


Our final humulene rich strain is Sherbet, another good option for fans of sweet-tasting weed. It clocks in at around 0.48% humulene, 20% THC, and 1% CBD.

Sherbet is yet another strain with Girl Scout Cookies genetics, this time combining them with an unknown Kush strain. It is strongly indica-leaning at 85%.

This cannabis is famous for its intensely calming effects. Patients use it for a variety of mood disorders, including chronic stress, anxiety, and depression.

Other Sources of Humulene

In addition to cannabis, you can find humulene in a variety of other herbs and spices.

One of the richest sources of humulene is hops, a common ingredient in beer-brewing. Hops are, in fact, closely related to cannabis as both are members of the family Cannabaceae. Their Latin name is Humulus lupulus, giving some indication of just how much humulene they contain.

Some other familiar sources of humulene include:

  • Sage
  • Ginger
  • Black pepper
  • Cloves
  • Vietnamese coriander
  • Ginseng

To boost your humulene intake, consider adding more of these foods to your daily diet.

Final Thoughts on Humulene

Humulene is an important cannabis terpene. Its potential benefits include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial effects.

However, to date, most of the research on humulene has focused on animals rather than humans. Therefore, more studies are necessary to confirm the clinical usefulness of this compound.

You can find humulene in a range of everyday herbs and spices as well as some types of beer. It is also abundant in certain cannabis strains, especially those with Girl Scout Cookies genetics.

Therefore, anyone wishing to increase their intake of humulene should consider these varieties next time they visit the dispensary.

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