Myrcene is the most common terpene in cannabis. Mangoes, cloves, lemongrass, thyme, hops, ylang-ylang, verbena, bay leaves, and basil all contain this terpene. Technically beta-Myrcene, this cannabis monoterpene has a curiously musky aroma that smells like an earthy resin that is slightly metallic and similar to cloves.
Legends state that eating mangos before consuming cannabis will increase efficacy. Others state that different mangoes have different levels of myrcene. People also claim that it acts synergistically with THC to allow for faster absorption. Myrcene is also thought to provide sedative effects.
Are these claims myth or reality? Strain Genie’s analysis of terpenes and activity groups provides a deeper understanding.
Fun Fact: Forming hash can lead to the degradation of myrcene into a terpene with the same chemical formula, dubbed hashishene. This rare terpene has only been found in trace amounts of Scotch spearmint.
To form hashishene from myrcene, UV light can be shone on the plant. Hashish’s drying process exposes the plant to light. Since hashishene is so rare, its potential therapeutic effects have been largely unexplored.
Similarly, a reputable lab states that myrcene allows for chemicals in general to cross the blood-brain barrier. While there is no evidence for this, borneol has substantial scientific evidence to cause this effect.
Perhaps this confusion stems from the assumption that THC is the only chemical that gets you high. While CBD is certainly less psychoactive than THC, all of the cannabinoids and terpenes alter our mental state to some capacity.
Myrcene and other terpenes affect the GABA receptors, which then acts synergistically with THC. Hallucinogens and schizophrenia are related to GABA. In other words, terpenes have neuromodulatory effects in their own right. There is truth in the claim that myrcene and terpenes change the overall experience, but the precise mechanisms are more complicated.
Mangoes do contain levels of myrcene. However, you’d have to eat roughly 23 mangoes in order to get the same amount as smoking a quarter gram of cannabis. While mangoes may cause slight changes, it’s likely that the placebo effect can be more effective than a single mango. To top it off, mangoes contain higher amounts of other terpenes found in cannabis, such as delta-3 carene, limonene, terpinolene, and alpha-phellandrene.
Myrcene Effects in Cannabis
As many claim, myrcene does provide sedative effects. On average, indicas are more sedative, but plenty of sativas and hybrids have just as much myrcene. The entourage effect and its role in the endocannabinoid system helps describe a more complete story of how myrcene affects cannabis.
To further understand the entourage effect, Strain Genie’s team applied clustering algorithms on strains to find six activity groups that go beyond the sativa/indica paradigm. Our data scientists found that Elevate strains remarkably have the most myrcene, rather than Chill or Sleep. While this tricky terpene is a sedative, it turns out that the entourage effect of multiple terpenes is more important than any single terpene alone.
High Myrcene Strains
While Sleep strains are heavy indicas with comparable myrcene levels to Create, the difference mainly lies in other terpenes. Sleep strains have higher concentrations of linalool and camphene. Create strains and sativas feature terpinolene, which is counter-intuitively a sedative in isolation. The entourage effect causes complex changes in efficacy that are difficult to predict.
Medicinal Properties of Myrcene
The Brazilian shrub Myrcia sphaerocarpa is where myrcene got its name. This shrub has high levels of myrcene and is an ancient remedy for hypertension, diabetes, diarrhea, and dysentery.
Myrcene has been studied to have the following medicinal qualities:
- Sedative (sleep aid)
- Analgesic (pain relief)
- Anti-proliferative (cancer)
- muscle relaxant
The analgesic properties of this medically expansive terpene may be related to similar mechanisms found in lemongrass tea and dissimilar to aspirin. The study found that myrcene does not lead to an increase in tolerance, unlike morphine.
The use of lemongrass used as an ancient medicine to provide sedative effects may further support the claim that myrcene is sedative in cannabis, as it is the third most common terpene in lemongrass essential oils. However, lemongrass oil primarily contains geraniol, which also has depressant effects.
While lemongrass can be anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), myrcene does not provide anti-depressant effects and in high doses can increase anxiety. Fortunately, other terpenes found in cannabis, such as limonene, can provide anxiolytic effects. Myrcene may also help with ulcers, which have symptoms of upper abdominal pain.
There is also evidence suggesting that myrcene is slightly carcinogenic. It can degrade to other harmful chemicals under high temperatures. Given the recent uproar in the media over vape products with Vitamin E, take caution with dabbing and vaping cannabis with excess terpenes.