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What do mangoes, lemongrass tea, beer, basil, and almost every strain of cannabis have in common?
Myrcene (MUR-seen), also known as beta-myrcene, is a mango-smelling monoterpene and the most common terpene found in cannabis. If you know nothing about terpenes, myrcene is the best one to learn about first, due to its prominence in cannabis, its profound physiological effects, and it immense potential in other applications.
Myrcene is known for its sedative and muscle relaxant effects and most cannabis strains packed with this peppery. The terpene enhances the effects of GABA (Gamma-amino butyric acid) at the GABA-A receptor, which is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. GABA limits nerve transmission, which prevents nervous activity and can greatly reduce anxiety. This terpene also creates the typical ‘couch-lock’ sedative feeling upon ingestion, making it a great ingredient in a late dinner or midnight snack on restless nights. It was previously believed that typically strains with high myrcene levels are indica. However, this is not true. Myrcene is dominant in about 40% of all sativa strains, as well as indica and hybrid strains and terpene profiles.
Pain Relief: The first published claim for myrcene reducing pain was generated in 1990 by scientists in Brazil. They concluded that myrcene reduced pain by increasing the brain and spinal cord’s own opioid chemicals, but this has been deemed controversial by some and often debated. More exhaustive studies are needed to prove whether or not myrcene has bona fide pain-relieving properties in humans, and with incoming federal cannabis legalization in the U.S., hopefully funding for these kinds of studies increase exponentially (despite Myrcene being separate from cannabis, THC, and other cannabinoids, studies have been limited due to the legality of cannabis).
Myrcene has been shown (in mice) to provide pain relief by “inducing antinociception, probably mediated by alpha 2-adrenoceptor stimulated release of endogenous opioids.” Myrcene also has been shown to prevent liver cancer from forming, which is interesting because when compared to common pain-relieving over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen which has been proven to cause liver disease. While Tylenol and other over-the-counter acetaminophen pain-killing medicines harm the liver, myrcene protects it.
Anti-inflammatory: A 2015 study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology used human cartilage cells to investigate myrcene’s potential effects on osteoarthritis. Researchers discovered that myrcene had an anti-inflammatory influence on the cells while it slowed damage and disease progression. They also asserted that this claim warrants additional research.
Inflammation is a symptom of and the root of wide array of different ailments. Consider consuming a Myrcene-dominant cannabis strain if inflammation is a chronic issue in your life.
Anti-tumor: Any list of potential myrcene effects should include its possible anti-tumor properties. Due in part to its anti-inflammatory effects, this mango terpene may contribute to the death of some cancerous tumors. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the Korean Society for Applied Biological Chemistry suggested that myrcene may play a role in encouraging anti-metastatic activity in human breast cancer cells. Because the study was performed on cells and not directly on humans, more research is necessary to determine if myrcene could have a direct impact on killing malignant tumors in cancer patients.
Sedative: In popular culture, cannabis strains high in myrcene have been reported to produce “couch lock,” or sedation. Although there is no clinical evidence to support these claims, there was one study published in 2002 in the journal Phytomedicine that showed myrcene may have a sedative effect in mice at very high doses. Myrcene increased barbiturate sleeping time when compared to a control group, which demonstrates the terpene’s prospects as a sedative. The study concluded that myrcene, in elevated amounts, may sedate and reduce locomotion in animals. Additional insight is needed into the terpene’s related effects on humans and if it is indeed capable of producing couch lock.
If you suffer from restless nights from overexposure to blue light, stress, or insomnia, consider dripping a few drops of the terpene isolate onto your pillow, placing it in an air diffuser near your bed, or consuming a cannabis strain that is dominant in the sweet mango terpene.
Antioxidant: The myrcene terpene may have the ability to protect against ultraviolet light-induced aging in human skin, according to a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine. By acting partially as an antioxidant, myrcene may very well be a beneficial additive to anti-aging and sunscreen lotions.
If you picked a random flower product off of a shelf in a legal state, you could expect it to be myrcene-dominant about 40% of the time. This reflects the relative lack of chemical diversity in modern commercial cannabis. There’s a lot of room for breeders to experiment with increasing the chemical diversity of strains, potentially even creating novel strains with terpene profiles that are unlike anything commercially available today.
Myrcene leads the list of influential cannabis terpenes that interact with other terpenes and cannabinoids to impart the benefits of whole plant medicine. These effects of this potent cannabis terpene can be felt whether you smoke, vape, or ingest it. Other sources of myrcene are mangoes, lemongrass, thyme, parsley, and ylang-ylang.
Cannabis’ distinct aroma isn’t coming from your favorite cannabinoids. Instead, it’s the terpenes that give cannabis its unique fragrance and flavor. They may also influence the cannabis experience and may convey some of its potential therapeutic benefits.
Have you or a friend every try eating mango before smoking cannabis because you read on the internet that it makes the effects of the cannabis last longer?
Once in a blue moon, a longstanding cannabis myth will be proven true thanks to the ever surprising compounds contained in cannabis. At some point throughout history, a rumor arose linking the eating of mangos to an increase in THC potency. This seemingly random comparison may sound like a theory envisioned during a long smoking session, but in fact, it is true! If you haven't tried it before, and are looking to gain more of an effect from less cannabis, give it a shot!
Myrcene’s primary commercial use is as an intermediary in cosmetics and fragrances. In folk medicine, myrcene-dense lemongrass tea is believed to help with insomnia by naturally tranquilizing the mind. As lemongrass contains the myrcene terpene, you may have encountered it either in a relaxing tea or as a flavorful ingredient in Asian cuisine. Any dish made with parsley also contains myrcene. Sink your teeth into a juicy mango, and you’ll experience myrcene. Wash down a platter of lemon-thyme chicken with a bottle of beer and experience a double dose of the terpene.
A common claim we hear is that you can tell whether a strain will have “indica” or “sativa” effects by knowing its myrcene levels. It’s often stated that strains with more than 0.5% myrcene by weight will produce “indica” (relaxing) effects, while strains <0.5% myrcene by weight will produce “sativa” (energizing) effects. If this claim was true and reliable, we would expect to see a clear difference in myrcene levels between strains labeled as indica, hybrid, and sativa. Indicas should have mostly >0.5% myrcene by weight, sativas should have mostly <0.5%, and hybrids should be in the middle.
This claim may have originated from the common belief that myrcene is sedating and may be responsible for the “couch lock” effect many consumers sometimes feel with cannabis consumption. But do we know that this is actually true? What’s the evidence that myrcene produces sedating effects in humans?
While myrcene is great, hopefully (as federal legalization approaches in the States) more people learn to grow and we get more strains high in terpenes that are quite rare in most strains' terpene profiles, like valencene for example. Myrcene has been the king for decades now, and for good reason, but as more DIY botanists begin cross-breeding strains, we may see a decrease in the prominence of this essential terpene isolate.
As far as we know, myrcene is the most abundant monoterpene in cannabis and has sedative and muscle relaxant effects, making it great to infuse into a late dinner or late-night snack when you’re in for the evening. An easy way to mix myrcene into a recipe is by simply adding some mango or mango juice into it, or on the side. Myrcene also naturally occurs in thyme, lemongrass, and basil.
Myrcene is a key ingredient in hops (a cousin of cannabis in the plant family) and also an excellent terpene to infuse into alcoholic beverages for one reason; myrcene’s ability to alter the permeability of the blood brain barrier. Currently, there are no verified scientific reports to verify this characteristic, however it is commonly believed and demonstrated often with mangoes. Mangoes contain ß-myrcene, a linear (non-cyclic) monoterpene, which is thought to allow increased transport of cannabinoids into the brain. For this reason, myrcene can have great benefits in alcohol, allowing the consumer to feel the effects more dramatically with less of the liquor. Less alcohol, less money spent, for more of a buzz. It’s economical.
Myrcene is a great addition in savory dishes and pairs well with herbs like thyme, bay leaves, eucalyptus, and hops. Myrcene is probably best in dishes with sweet and savory notes like maple glazed carrots or a mixed greens, mango, and pineapple vinaigrette. Do not cook myrcene at a temperature higher than 332 °F. This level of heat will completely vaporize the compound leaving little to no trace of it in the dish.