humulene terpene cannabis in hand

Craft Beer, Craft Cannabis, and the Terpene They Share

by Dan Ketchum

No matter how enthusiastic your local budtender is about terps (and they can be really enthusiastic), it’s important to remember one thing up front: terpenes aren’t the exclusive domain of cannabis. These wonderful little hydrocarbons are found in the essential oils of many plants – from citrus to conifers – and help imbue them with their signature aromas and tastes. Humulene is best known for being the characteristic terpene that makes hops so darned hoppy, but its distinct flavor profile can also be found in sage, black pepper, coriander, ginseng, and, yes, cannabis. 

Let’s explore what makes this terpene so essential to two of our favorite things – craft beer and craft cannabis.  

What Is Humulene, Exactly?

According to Science Direct, humulene is a ring-opened isomer of β-caryophyllene notably lacking in CB2 activity, also known as α-caryophyllene. In non-scientist speak, it’s the terpene named after Humulus lupulus, or the hops plant. Humulene lends hops a robust, woody taste – chiefly because it’s found in hops wood – and aroma while providing cannabis with its signature sharp, earthy, and herbaceous scent. Leafly describes humulene as similar to the terpenes myrcene (a terp with a peppery aroma) and pinene (which, as you may have guessed, is present in pine-y strains), and a key component of the overall aromatic profile of the cannabis genus, as one of the plant’s most common terpenes.    

Humulene is a very close cousin to β-caryophyllene, a peppery terpene that can be found in clove, basil, and sage, but its scent profile tends to be a little more subtle than this forward-facing terpene.  

Why We Love It

In addition to being a beautiful bridge between hops and cannabis, humulene plays a key role in the life cycle of the cannabis plant, from pre-harvest to pre-rolls. Before cannabis is harvested, humulene synthesizes in the plant’s trichome head, where its aromatic presence helps ward off both pests and pesky fungal infestations. While it’s not as forward-facing as many of its terpene brethren, humulene does find its way to the shelf of your local dispensary after it’s done its job keeping your cannabis healthy – you can find humulene terpenes in many popular strains including

  • Super Lemon Haze (sativa), known for its lively energy.
  • Sour Diesel (sativa) strikes a balance between cerebral and energetic.
  • Skywalker OG (hybrid) offers low-key creativity with a touch of euphoria.
  • White Widow (hybrid) is big on creative energy and euphoric feelings.
  • Bubba Kush (indica) presents a sweet flavor alongside calming joyful vibes.
  • Pink Kush (hybrid) pairs vanilla-like flavor with powerful body highs.
  • Candyland (sativa) combines social energy with bodily relaxation.
  • Death Star (indica) brings the euphoria, but it brings it on slow and steady.
  • Headband (hybrid) features citrus notes that give way to de-stressing.
  • Super Original Glue (hybrid) packs a high-THC effect that feels uplifting, but very relaxed.
  • Girl Scout Cookies (hybrid) starts with a bright herbal flavor and ends with happy, full-body relaxation.
  • Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies (hybrid) pairs calmly creative feelings with a buzzy body high.

Because it does not directly interact with the endocannabinoid system, humulene itself won’t get you high. or affect the way that your high feels directly. You’ll notice it more as a terpene, exerting its earthy influence in the form of spicy, woody, and herbaceous flavors. And while strains that contain humulene are clearly diverse, encompassing sativa, indica, and hybrid strains, we can’t help but notice some common ground. 

Though terpenes like humulene themselves won’t get you high, It is believed that they can affect how you experience your high. Oftentimes, strains characterized by humulene content offer highs that are somewhat creative, while balancing de-stressing and relaxation with a euphoric or uplifting tilt. 

Health Benefits of Humulene

While humulene-packed treatments ranging from sage oil to Chinese ginseng have been widely used for centuries upon centuries, the terpene’s potential health benefits aren’t just folk remedies. ScienceDirect reveals a litany of health-related benefits associated with the humulene terpene, each one backed by published scientific studies: 

  • Humulene may exhibit anti-inflammatory properties when used both topically and systemically.
  • Speaking of its versatility in application, humulene is also an effective topical, oral and aerosol analgesic, which means it may help relieve pain.
  • The terpene also increases the secretion of the IL-8 chemokine (cytokines that attract white blood cells), which is thought to promote wound healing and is associated with compounds believed to be anti-cancerous.
  • Per a study published in PhytoTherapy Research, humulene also exhibits some antibacterial properties.
  • The journal Planta Medica finds that the humulene terpene may also assist the body in the absorption, metabolism, and excretion of drugs. 

Craft Beer, Meet Craft Cannabis

As if humulene’s protective role in cannabis growth, contribution to the plant’s iconic aroma, and a laundry list of potential health perks weren’t cool enough, this versatile terp is also crucial to the craft beer scene as a vital component of hop oil. According to the Oxford Companion to Beer, a 3:1 ratio of the terpenes humulene and caryophyllene is popular among craft brewers, lending brews a spicy, flowery, and herbaceous character. However, some notable hops – like Hallertauer Mittelfrüh and Kent Golding – retain more humulene content.

Stone Brewing identifies this trend, noting that most noble hops (traditional European hops that define classic brews like pilsner and Continental lagers) contain a higher percentage of humulene. 

Pair With Your Pens

At Mistifi, we can’t get enough of the magic of humulene. If you’re interested in experiencing this peppery, earthy, floral flavor across your vape and your beverage, try pairing these humulene-heavy hops with our HiPhi cannabis:

  • Accent the citrus, pine, and tropical notes of Over the Rainbow with a citrusy, herbal lager-like Deschutes’ Pacific Wonderland, which employs Mittelfrüh hops. 
  • Experience the perfect pairing of Houdini’s floral and berry flavors with a Saison or farmhouse ale, summery brews that commonly feature U.K. Kent Golding hops.
  • Contrast Phantom’s woody, juniper-esque profile with a sweet and crisp pilsner, such as Mittelfrüh-brewed Pilsner Gold by Ninkasi. 

Why pair beer that favors humulene terpenes with our signature triple-strain blends? It’s simple: because craft beer deserves craft cannabis.

Dan Ketchum splits his time between Dallas and LA as a freelance lifestyle, fashion, health, and food writer with more than a decade of experience. He’s been fortunate enough to collaborate and publish with companies such as FOCL, Vitagenne, Livestrong, Reign Together, Out East Rosé, SFGate, The Seattle Times, and more.

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