Terpenes are a vital element of cannabis therapy. They may enhance the effects of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, as well as having benefits of their own. Within the cannabis industry, the phenomenon of these chemicals working together in harmony is known as the ‘entourage effect.’
The entourage effect means that cannabis’ active compounds could work more efficiently together than in isolation. It could also reduce the risk of some of the common side effects that we associate with high doses of THC.
Terpenes play a large part in this. Plants produce them as part of their defenses against pests and disease, and they are responsible for the unique smells and tastes of different species. Terpenes also interact with the human body to bring about a variety of changes.
Although many plants produce terpenes, they are especially prevalent in marijuana. In this article, we look at myrcene, the most abundant of all cannabis terpenes. Here’s all you need to know.
What Is Myrcene?
Myrcene is the most common cannabis terpene. In some strains, it makes up as much as 50% of the overall terpene content. It is a monoterpene, meaning that it has a relatively simple structure. It is also a precursor to some of the more complex terpenes that we find in marijuana.
Like many terpenes, myrcene is an ingredient in numerous everyday products. It is an oily, yellow liquid with a pleasant earthy and clove-like fragrance. It tastes sweet and citrusy and has become a popular flavoring in many foods.
Myrcene also has several potential benefits for human health. Let’s take a closer look.
As well as enhancing the actions of THC in certain marijuana strains, myrcene has some significant effects of its own. Although research into myrcene, and terpenes in general, is still ongoing, here is what we have discovered so far:
Myrcene is probably best-known for its relaxing, sedative effects. A 2002 study for the journal Phytomedicine looked at the impact of myrcene on mice. The researchers found that high doses of myrcene made mice less likely to explore the open arms in an elevated plus-maze test. It also increased sleeping time by approximately 2.6 times.
These results are good news for anyone suffering from stress and insomnia. High-myrcene cannabis strains could potentially offer powerful sedation and help you to get a good night’s sleep.
Researchers have also found that myrcene could help to reduce inflammation. Most people associate inflammation with painful conditions such as arthritis. However, scientists have also linked it with a variety of other issues, including heart disease, strokes, diabetes, cancer, and depression.
A 2015 study for the European Journal of Pharmacology looked at the effects of myrcene on inflammation in osteoarthritis. The results showed that myrcene reduced inflammation and catabolic activity in human chondrocytes (cartilage cells). The authors concluded that myrcene could slow down or even halt the progression of cartilage damage in this condition.
Anyone looking to relieve the symptoms of arthritis with cannabis could, therefore, opt for a high myrcene strain. You could enhance its benefits further by choosing a CBD-rich strain, as CBD has potent anti-inflammatory effects.
Myrcene could also act as an effective pain-reliever. A 1990 study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology looked at the analgesic effects of myrcene in mice. The authors subjected mice to a hot plate method and the acetic acid writhing test. They observed that myrcene reduced nociceptive pain, the pain that we associate with injuries such as sprains and bruises.
The effects of myrcene were blocked by the drug naloxone, suggesting that this terpene influences the body’s endogenous opioids. These are chemicals which the body produces naturally in response to pain. They act in a similar way to opiates like morphine, but without the dangerous side effects.
Therefore, myrcene could help to relieve some of the most common types of pain. Coupled with its sedative and anti-inflammatory effects, this could make high-myrcene strains ideal for anyone suffering from painful conditions.
Myrcene could also possibly improve glucose tolerance in people with diabetes. A 2007 paper by Al-Omari describes how myrcene reduced serum glucose levels in diabetic rats by 28.1%. In comparison, the popular anti-diabetic drug, metformin, decreased glucose levels by 28.5%.
Of course, further research is necessary to confirm whether myrcene could help to control blood sugar in humans. However, it is possible that it could help.
Potential Risks: Does Myrcene Cause Cancer?
Although myrcene has a range of potential benefits, some researchers have also linked it with an increased risk of cancer.
A 2010 report for the National Toxicology Program found that high doses of myrcene had carcinogenic (cancer-causing) effects on rats. The study found evidence that male rats, especially, had higher rates of kidney and liver cancer after treatment with myrcene.
Despite these worrying findings, there is currently no evidence that myrcene causes cancer in humans. However, in 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed it from its list of approved additives in light of the research.
There is some dispute regarding whether myrcene should be listed as a carcinogenic substance or not. Until scientists conduct further research, it is impossible to comment with certainty about how safe myrcene really is.
However, you should note that the new FDA regulations apply to synthetic myrcene, not naturally myrcene-containing foods. The small amounts of this terpene that you will find in food and cannabis seem unlikely to cause problems.
High Myrcene Cannabis Strains
The majority of cannabis strains with a high myrcene content also have indica genetics. This is unsurprising considering that many users choose indicas for their sedating and pain-relieving effects.
Some popular high myrcene marijuana strains include the following:
- OG Kush
- Skywalker OG
- Blue Dream
- 9 Pound Hammer
- Grape Ape
- Granddaddy Purple
- Girl Scout Cookies
- Thin Mint GSC
These strains could be good options for patients looking to treat pain, inflammation, or insomnia. Recreational users may also enjoy these strains for their relaxing ‘couch-lock’ effects. However, since they could increase sedation, they are most suitable for evening use, once you have done all of your chores.
Other Sources of Myrcene
As well as cannabis, you can find myrcene in a variety of herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables. Some common sources of myrcene include:
Some people even believe that eating a mango before smoking weed can enhance the effects of THC. There is little research to back this theory up, but it may be worth a try. Those in the know suggest eating a ripe mango 45 minutes to one hour before toking up. The myrcene in mango supposedly helps THC to cross the blood-brain barrier, allowing it to absorb more readily.
You will have to decide for yourself whether there is any truth to the mango myth or not. However, these fruits are low fat and packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Therefore, you could do far worse when choosing a pre-session snack!
What Is Myrcene? Final Thoughts
Myrcene is the most abundant marijuana terpene and has a range of beneficial effects on the body. Studies have shown that it has sedating, relaxing effects, and could relieve inflammation and pain. This means that strains with high myrcene contents could be ideal for patients suffering from stress, insomnia, and painful conditions.
If you are looking for a strain with a generous dose of myrcene, choose an indica or a hybrid with strong indica genetics. However, you might want to reserve your high-myrcene cannabis for later in the day. Otherwise, you might end up feeling too relaxed and unable to move off the couch.
Although some scientists have linked myrcene with cancer in rats, there is no evidence that it has these effects in humans. We recommend that concerned individuals read the research provided and decide for themselves whether the benefits outweigh the risks.