Smell that sage with its earthy, woody aroma? It’s your olfactory senses perceiving a particular molecule called humulene. This special chemical (sometimes dubbed α-Humulene), is one of the 20 major terpenes that may appear in a particular strain of cannabis. It often conveys the smell of beer hops (depending on the other terpenes present). That’s right: The aroma of craft beer sometimes also permeates a variety of strains of cannabis because it results from the same molecule. Read on to learn more.
About 200 terpenes may be present in an individual strain of pot. However, terpenes are not limited to cannabis. More than 20,000 terpenes appear throughout nature. Both naturally derived and synthesized terpenes are a major component of the cosmetic and food industries.
Once thought to simply produce an intense aroma as an evolutionary defense mechanism against predators, such as animals and insects, terpenes have been found to possess significant medicinal value.
Like cannabinoids, terpenes have been proven, through anecdotal evidence and a number of research studies, to offer a wide range of medical benefits. These include treating everything from cancer to arthritis to Alzheimer’s, with specific efficacy for conditions involving inflammation.
Humulene: The anti-inflammatory + appetite killer
If killing cancer wasn’t enough, humulene also possesses significant anti-inflammatory properties. It is a helpful treatment for arthritis, bursitis, fibromyalgia, and any condition that benefits from a reduction in systemic inflammation.
Research has revealed that humulene is most effective as an anti-inflammatory when combined with BCP (β-caryophyllene), another terpene that is sometimes categorized as a cannabinoid.
Like the cannabinoid THCv, humulene has also been shown to act as an appetite suppressant (anorectic). In addition, it has been shown to decrease edema formation resulting from histamine injections. Humulene has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years for a wide variety of applications.
A 2003 study published in the biochemistry journal Planta Medica found humulene to be an anti-cancer agent. The research discovered that humulene helps produce Reactive Oxygen Species, which are chemicals that help destroy cancer cells through apoptosis, a process by which cells kill themselves in a pre-programmed death ritual.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology discovered that the terpenes BCP and humulene work together to kill cancer cells. In simple terms, BCP amplifies the anti-cancer effects of humulene.
This is an example of the entourage effect, a theory that explains the interactive dynamics of cannabinoids and terpenes in which they enhance or buffer one another.
Another 2007 study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology illustrated the anti-inflammatory properties of humulene. It found humulene to be as effective as a popular steroidal anti-inflammatory, dexamethasone.
A 2009 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology again examined the anti-inflammatory characteristics of humulene. It found this terpene to be effective against inflammation when consumed either orally or by aerosol. Concluded the researchers,
Humulene, given either orally or by aerosol, exhibited marked anti-inflammatory properties…