Humulene (α-humulene) is a subtle earthy, woody monocyclic sesquiterpene with a spicy and herbal aroma. Humulene occurs in up to 40% concentration in some forms of hops, and is often found alongside caryophyllene as it’s actually an isomer of that terpene. It can be found in balsam fir and many hops plants, and is credited as a reason beer has its “hoppy” aroma. Noble hop varieties are usually found with higher concentrations of humulene, while bitter hop varieties are found with lower levels. It can also be found in pine trees, basil, cloves, oranges, marsh elders, tobacco and sunflowers.
Humulene in particular was found in a 2003 study to induce apoptosis, or cancer cell death in tumors. Strains containing high humulene include White Widow, GSC, Headband, Sour Diesel and Skywalker OG.
- Legault, J. Dahl, W. Debiton, E. Pichette, A. Madelmont, JC. Antitumor activity of balsam fir oil: production of reactive oxygen species induced by alpha-humulene as possible mechanism of action. Planta Medica. (2003)
- Legault, J. Pichette, A. Potentiating effect of beta-caryophyllene on anticancer activity of alpha-humulene, isocaryophyllene and paclitaxel. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. (2007)