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As you may or may not already know, there are hundreds of terpenes in the cannabis plant. Some are more important than others. One of the most important of all though is myrcene. It’s the tip of the terpene spear. The best pound for pound terpene in the world. The speaker of the House of Terpenes. You get the idea. Bad analogies aside, the point is that no discussion about cannabis terpenes is complete until you bring myrcene into it.
Why is that the case? In addition to being one of the most abundant terpenes in cannabis (nothing to sneeze at), myrcene is host to significant therapeutic properties backed by a growing body of scientific research. It also lies at the heart of a curious and rather dubious theory involving mangoes and their ability to augment the effects of THC. Thus, we’re training our terpene spotlight squarely onto myrcene today.
Terpenes are organic aromatic compounds that occur in most plant life, and they serve two major purposes: 1) they lend plants and flowers their distinctive fragrances and flavors, and 2) they ward off predatory insects and germs while attracting pollinating insects such as bees.
Nature’s most charming aromas—lavender, mint, eucalyptus, lemon grass, pine, orange, etc.—are produced by particular combinations of terpenes. Not sure how many people would use “charming” to describe the smell of cannabis, but we can all agree it’s unique and unmistakable. THC and CBD, the two best-known constituents in cannabis, have nothing to do with this smell: it’s all on account of the terpenes.
Before continuing, it’s worth noting that terpenes also play an important role in the entourage effect. Studies have shown that the effects of cannabinoids are reinforced when they’re allowed to freely interact with terpenes. A 2018 study carried out by Frontiers In Neurology found that, compared to high-potency CBD oil, CBD-rich extracts (containing terpenes) were better at treating symptoms of epilepsy.
The Skinny on Myrcene
As mentioned earlier, the cannabis plant features more than 200 terpenes. Myrcene, known for its musky and earthy scent, is easily the most prolific, amounting to roughly half of all the terpene content in some strains. In other strains, it accounts for around two-thirds. Needless to say, myrcene has a tremendous influence on the smells, tastes and effects we’ve come to associate with weed.
Besides cannabis, myrcene is found in high concentrations in lemon grass, hops, basil, mangoes, and thyme. Classified as a monoterpene, it has a simple chemical structure, and is frequently used as a natural ingredient in a wide array of consumer products, from food additives and bug repellent to cosmetics and perfumes.
Health Benefits of Myrcene
Humans have been using myrcene therapeutically for centuries. Traditionally it was believed to be an effective treatment for diabetes, hypertension and dysentery, among other chronic conditions.
More recently, scientists have investigated myrcene’s ability to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, as well as chronic pain and inflammation. If the early research is anything to go by, myrcene is the real deal.
A 2002 study concluded that at very high doses myrcene “presented sedative as well as motor relaxant effects,” while a 2015 review cited it as a potential treatment for osteoarthritis. In the latter case, the authors wrote that “myrcene has significant anti-inflammatory and anti-catabolic effects,” and may be able to temper the rate of arthritis-related cartilage destruction, if not stop it altogether.
Now About Those Mangoes…
If you’re a cannabis consumer, you’re probably familiar with the notion that by eating a ripe mango just before lighting up, you can get twice or maybe even thrice as high as you otherwise would. You might even have tried this; and who knows, maybe you really did get “stoned to the bejeezus-belt,” to quote Bill Murray in Caddyshack.
Since mangoes are known to contain myrcene, it’s widely assumed that our spotlighted terpene is responsible for the mysterious mango-marijuana nexus. While that would be a nice feather in myrcene’s cap, it’s not entirely true.
Simply put, mangoes don’t contain anywhere near enough myrcene to make a difference. As we’ve seen, myrcene does have significant sedative properties, but that’s only when it’s administered at high doses. The dose of myrcene in certain strains of cannabis is pretty high; in mangoes, not so much.
So if you achieve a state of “couch lock” after consuming a mango with your bud, the odds are that you only think you’re profoundly stoned. Which is, like, pretty gnarly and rad when you think about it, man.
If you are interested in learning more about other terpenes, check out this blog!
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