Humulene, Best Known as the Dominant Terpene in Hops, Has Potential Uses Beyond Imparting a Distinctly Herbal Aroma to Beer and Weed

There are numerous therapeutic benefits.

Have you ever smoked a deliciously dank strain that reminded you of a distinctly pungent beer, or maybe sipped a particularly bitter ale that reminded you of a skunky eighth? For beer and weed aficionados out there, that crossover is a common occurrence; cannabis and hops are cousins, and they share a common oil profile, including the unmistakable terpene humulene.

Most of us are familiar with humulene, or α-humulene (or, if you want to get all scientific, alpha-caryophyllene), because it plays a large role in creating the grassy, earthy, or woody aromas we expect from different varieties of beer. When it comes to cannabis, however, humulene does more than contribute to a strain’s scent. The terpene has been known to provide numerous therapeutic benefits.

What is humulene?

Humulene is a naturally occurring monocyclic sesquiterpene, which is science talk for a terpene with ring-shaped molecules. In cannabis, it plays an integral role in the entourage effect, which is the theory that cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids work in concert, enhancing psychoactive or medicinal properties.

Humulene has a well-established history in Chinese medicine and is used as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antibacterial agent. Studies have shown its effects to be indistinguishable from those of dexamethasone, a steroid commonly prescribed to treat inflammation, and in a clinical setting, it has been shown to provide relief to patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

Cannabis strains bred for their humulene-forward terpene profiles have even demonstrated an ability to kill cancer cells and reduce tumor growth. Additionally, studies have shown that humulene promotes healing by assisting in the creation of new blood cells.

Humulene is found in all manner of botanicals, but is super common in sativa, indica and hybrid cultivars. We rounded up a few humulene-dominant cannabis strains so that you can explore how the terpene’s traditional therapeutic properties can not only enhance and expand a high, but also maybe leave you less inflamed and/or bacteria-ridden. Pair these with your favorite local craft beer or hop soda for maximum enjoyment.

Ghost Rider OG

Bred from The White and either Biker Kush or Lucifer OG (depending on whom you ask), these super-snowy buds have a nuanced terpene profile. Rather than resulting in a hoppy mouthful, users report that Ghost Rider OG is more peppery yet still robust and funky. Therapeutic uses may include treatment of chronic pain and insomnia, but if you’re simply smoking it for fun, you’ll appreciate the deeply stoney body and head effects. Expect a piney, hoppy perfume and a sharp, almost astringent aftertaste.

BUY: Orchards Cannabis Market, 11800 NE 65th St., Vancouver, Wash., 360-258-1880, orchardscannabismarket.com.

Ice Cream Cake

A great example of complexity in a humulene-rich terpene profile is Ice Cream Cake. It has a creamy mouthfeel and nutty-sweet flavor, as well as a pungent aroma. The strain’s effects are both euphoric and tranquilizing. Users report cozy, syrupy head highs with a strong dissociative streak, while your body will likely feel like it’s been covered in a wet blanket. Ice Cream Cake is known to help people suffering from nausea, chronic pain and insomnia. However, its recreational reputation tends to overshadow any therapeutic benefits because the strain leads to such a strong, sedating body high. Expect a nutty, cake-sweet nose and a silky, earthy exhale.

BUY: Green Muse, 5515 NE 16th Ave., 971-420-4917, gogreenmuse.com.

Garlic Cookies

Hear me out: Garlic Cookies tastes freaking delicious. This cross of Chemdawg and perennial fave Girl Scout Cookies is an extra-potent 30% THC and higher cultivar that typically delivers heavy, sedative effects. Full disclosure, though: When I smoke this strain, I get spontaneous dancies, so your experience, as with all cultivars, may vary. Users report sometimes overwhelming feelings of euphoria and relaxation that often give way to epic munchies. Expect a dank, pungent aroma and a nutty, earthy-sweet aftertaste.

BUY: Electric Lettuce, all locations.

Alien Rock Candy

ARC, as it is colloquially known, is a semi-rare hybrid cross of Sour Dubble and Tahoe Alien. The resulting cultivar is an indica-forward, medium-potency (15% to 20% THC on average) smoke with a seriously memorable sour exhale. Users report bright, staggering onsets and extra-languid body and head highs that are great for low-stakes creative activities. Therapeutic users recommend this strain for chronic pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia and spasms. Expect a skunky-citrus perfume and a lemony, grassy flavor.

BUY: The Dispensary on 52nd, 4452 SE 52nd Ave., 503-420-8000, thedispensaryon52nd.com.