Humulene is a secondary terpene found in low concentrations in the cannabis plant and its essential oil. However, humulene is the primary terpene found in the hops plants used to make beer and its aroma is what gives beer its “hoppy” smell. The scientific name for hops is Humulus lupulus and this is where humulene gets its common name. Other names for humulene used in scientific nomenclature include α-humulene and α-caryophyllene.
Humulene was one of the primary medicines used by the ancient Chinese. It has been widely thought for centuries to be a very strong anti-inflammatory agent, as well as a strong anti-bacterial agent. Thus, it can be useful in treating infections and their effect on the human body (inflammation, etc). For these reasons, humulene has been studied more than most secondary terpenes found in cannabis. Humulene is also often combined with β–caryophyllene as an alternative treatment for inflammation. However, full spectrum CBD oil contains both humulene and β–caryophyllene in ratios relative to one another that are naturally occuring in nature.
There is something very intriguing about humulene that may one day generate a big announcement so keep your ears and eyes out for it. Humulene is an isomer of a much more prevalent terpene in cannabis, β–caryophyllene, usually just referred to as caryophyllene, without the beta sign in front of it. Isomers have the same chemical formula, i.e. the same exact atoms both in kind and in number, but they are arranged differently, usually only slightly differently, as is true in this case. However, these slight differences in structure confer different properties to the isomer compounds. On the other hand, isomers are often seen to work synergistically at different parts of chemical pathways.
So, why is this so interesting? β–caryophyllene is the ONLY terpene found to be able to bind to a cannabinoid receptor site, more specifically to CB2 receptors that are known to be involved in reducing inflammation and infection. This makes β–caryophyllene very unusual and the subject of more research and intrigue into exactly how it works and how it interacts with cannabinoids like CBD at these same receptor sites. Although terpenes often amplify the effect of cannabinois, they don’t usually bind to the same receptor sites in the endocannabinoid system. Since humulene (α-caryophyllene) is a slightly different isomer of β–caryophyllene, there has been a strong interest in finding out if it too somehow binds to the CB2 receptor, or perhaps to another yet undiscovered type of receptor in the endocannabinoid system! So, stay tuned… this terpene could get really interesting, especially since β–caryophyllene is so well known for reducing inflammation, one of the most popular reasons many people take CBD oil daily and when they get sick!
Another reason there’s great interest in humulene is that it is thought to be a powerful appetite suppressant without the negative side effects that prescription appetite suppressants often have. Therefore, there are many in the weight loss industry that would like to learn how to artificially synthesize humulene and sell this as a weight loss supplement for a very high profit. However, by taking full spectrum CBD oil instead, you can get humulene in its natural form, along with all the other terpenes and cannabinoids in cannabis that it works synergistically with. In this way, it can be not only more effective as a weight loss tool but part of broader program that includes getting healthy in other ways too.
In 2003, Humulene was first shown to have anti-tumor effects in a research study published in the Planta Medica Journal. The effects of humulene were tested on several in vitro tumor cell lines. Humulene was shown to deplete GSH and increase Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen that oxidize cancer cells and retard their growth. In subsequent research studies, it was proven that when β–caryophyllene (humulene’s isomer) is present with humulene (α-caryophyllene), humulene is able to inhibit the growth of cancer cells by more than fifty percent more! This is yet another example of how terpenes and cannabinoids can be more beneficial when they act synergistically and how isomers often work together. This is sometimes called the “entourage effect” and it’s one of the biggest advantages to taking full spectrum CBD oil instead of CBD with only one chemical isolated and or synthesized in a lab. The healing properties of Mother Nature work best when they are allowed to work holistically. If modern medicine would move more in this direction, we would likely not have as many people living with painful chronic diseases.