Planta Med 2008; 74(14): 1678-1683
DOI: 10.1055/s-0028-1088307
Original Paper
© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Pharmacokinetics and Tissue Distribution of the Sesquiterpene α-Humulene in Mice

Juliana Siqueira Chaves1 , Paulo César Leal2 , Luis Pianowisky3 , João B. Calixto1
  • 1Departamento de Farmacologia, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil
  • 2Departamento de Química, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil
  • 3Rua Setúbal, Bragança Paulista, SP, Brazil
Further Information

Publication History

Received: May 8, 2008 Revised: June 25, 2008

Accepted: July 25, 2008

Publication Date:
24 October 2008 (online)


A quantitative study was undertaken to assess the plasma and tissue levels, tissue distribution and skin (ear) absorption of the sesquiterpene α-humulene, the main active constituent isolated from the plant Cordia verbenacea (Boraginaceae), after oral, intravenous and topical administration in mice. The α-humulene levels were quantified by GC-MS analysis. The peak α-humulene concentration was achieved 15 min following its oral administration (150 mg/kg). Then, the α-humulene plasma concentration gradually decreased and it was almost undetectable at 2 hours after intravenous administration and 12 hours after oral administration. When the oil of C. verbenacea was given orally (1 g/kg), the peak α-humulene plasma concentration was observed after 30 min, being detectable only up to 2 h. The oral bioavailability of α-humulene was found to be 18 %. The half-lives of α-humulene were very short, 16.8 min after oral administration and 1.8 min after intravenous administration. However, the elimination half-lives were longer, 118.2 min and 55 min, for oral and intravenous routes, respectively. We also assessed the amount of α-humulene in some selected tissues at 0.5 and at 4 h after oral administration. We found a high amount of the compound in the liver, followed by the kidneys, heart, lungs, spleen and brain, 0.5 h after oral administration. Notably, the yield of α-humulene decreased significantly in all analyzed tissues, especially in the liver, 4 h after oral administration. Of note, 30 minutes after topical administration of Acheflan® formulations (cream and aerosol) containing 0.5 % of C. verbenacea essential oil, a schedule of treatment that produces marked and similar topical anti-inflammatory activity, the amount of α-humulene absorbed in the ear was very similar (about 2 μg/ear). It is concluded that α-humulene exhibited a rapid onset and relatively good absorption following oral and topical administration. Taken together, these findings further contribute to an explanation of the topical and systemic anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive properties previously reported for the essential oil and for α-humulene obtained from Cordia verbenacea, they also provide support for the clinical studies conducted with the phytomedicine Acheflan®.


AUC:area under the plasma level/time curve

Cmax:maximum peak concentration

GC-MS:gas chromatography/mass spectrometry

Tmax:time to achieve Cmax


Tœ a:half-life of absorption

Tœ b:half-life of elimination


Prof. Dr. João B. Calixto

Departamento de Farmacologia

Centro de Ciências Biológicas

Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina



Santa Catarina

Brazil CEP 88040–900

Phone: +55-48-3721-9491 Ext. 229

Fax: +55-48-3232-9139

Email: [email protected]

Email: [email protected]