FEB 08, 2022 8:01 AM PST

Meet the Terpene Humulene

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

Although the more dominant and well-known terpenes like limonene and myrcene receive more research attention, several past and current research studies highlight the potential therapeutic applications of humulene. Also known as alpha-humulene and alpha-caryophyllene, humulene is present in sage, basil, hops, cloves, and black pepper. It has an earthy and spicy aroma and taste which supposedly repels pests in the natural world. Some cultivars with higher amounts of humulene include Girl Scout Cookies, Sour Diesel, and White Widow. Humulene has versatile properties; it can act as appetite suppressant, an antibiotic, a pain reliever, or an anti-inflammatory solution comparable in strength to the steroid dexomethasone. It has rapid onset and can be used orally or topically. For centuries, people have used plants rich with humulene to make antibacterial poultices, and now contemporary researchers are exploring medical uses for humulene.

A 2020 study found alpha-humulene inhibited Staphylococcus aureus development responsible for canine dermatitis. Researchers assessed the effectiveness of essential oils obtained from verbena, lemongrass, cinnamon, and other plant sources for managing skin irritation. The study found that alpha-humulene generated an effective antimicrobial response to canine bacterial skin infections; it also concluded that humulene could be especially useful when medical conditions are caused by antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. 

Other research studies have highlighted humulene’s ability to act as anti-cancer and analgesic agents. A 2009 study published in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology  evaluated humulene’s anti-inflammatory and antibiofilm activities against pathogens. The researchers found that humulene significantly reduced the growth of cancer cells after oral and aerosol administration of humulene. A 2016 study determined beta-caryophyllene and beta-caryophyllene oxide interfere with cancer cell development. When combined with phytocannabinoids and terpenes, humulene also effectively reduces pain. 

Although more research needs to determine humulene’s most effective uses, studies suggest topical and oral use of humulene is safe for humans and canines.  


Canadian Journal of Microbiology, Cancer Medicine, Microorganisms


About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
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