Terpene: Part 3 – Myrcene

May 20, 2021 by Sandy Yanez

In the last terpene article, I discussed Beta-caryophyllene and its awesome anti-inflammatory, pain reducing, anti-cancer and mood improving benefits. In this article I’d like to introduce you to Myrcene – a powerful relaxant and sedative.


What Is Myrcene?

Myrcene (murh-seen) or beta-myrcene is the most aromatic, abundant, and notably potent terpene found in cannabis. This delicate and naturally occurring monoterpene conveys an earthy, spicy, clove aroma, and has tropical undertones in taste that gives cannabis a mildly sweet yet funky flavor profile.

Myrcene is found in high amounts in cannabis. In fact, according to a Swiss study myrcene can make up to 65% of the terpene profile. Of course, these levels will vary greatly based on the cultivators grow methods, climate and so on. One reason myrcene is so important is that it’s the chemical precursor to many of the other terpenes. And the myrcene content of any given cannabis plant determines whether the specific plant will be categorized as an Indica or Sativa. Myrcene levels in cannabis above 0.5% result in the well-known ‘couch lock’ effect of classic Indica strains. The higher the level, the heavier the couch lock. If the myrcene content is less than 0.5% it gives the opposite – energizing and joyful Sativa-like experience.

You’ll also find myrcene in plants like lemongrass, eucalyptus, and ylang-ylang, herbs like thyme, basil, and hops, and fruit like mangoes.


Heard the legend that mangoes increase your high?

It’s a common urban legend that if you eat a fresh, ripe mango about 45 minutes before you smoke cannabis that it allows you to feel the effects more quickly, more intensely, and will last longer in duration. The only question is, what are the real facts?              

After searching for reputable studies, here is what was found, there are no peer-reviewed studies reporting proof that mangoes do intensify the effects of cannabis or that myrcene lowers resistance at the blood brain barrier (BBB). One study reported, “myrcene has been shown to enhance transdermal absorption”, and “one mechanism that would be of particular note in cannabis is its claimed effect on the permability

of cell membranes, particularly the blood brain barrier, increasing transport of cannabinoids into the brain; however, perusal of claimed references in the popular literature shows a lack of hard data regarding brain transport” and that more research is needed before it can be conclusive. Something worth mentioning is another monoterpene that has some of the same effects as myrcene called borneol, has been shown to lower resistance at the blood brain barrier.

Although there are dozens and maybe hundreds of online and even print pieces circulating the mango rumor, it remains unfounded. So, unfortunately, for now, there are just anecdotal reports, but it is worth pointing out that many cannabis users have reported this phenomenon.


What Does Myrcene Do?

So far, there have been some outstanding discoveries that indicate the health benefits of myrcene.

Some of the scientifically proven medical benefits include but not limited to the following.

  • Anti-inflammatory – powerful, inhibits the production of certain inflammatory markers, boost blood circulation to affected area
  • Analgesic – offers a soothing sensation which contributes to pain relief benefits, blocked by naloxone (suggests being opioid-like)
  • Sedative – soothes the mind, relieves stress, and promotes sleep quality
  • Gastrointestinal – prevents peptic ulcer disease
  • Antimutagenic – ability to inhibit tumor growth
  • Antibiotic – has a prominent impact on the immune system, slows bacterial growth
  • Anti-catabolic – has the ability to slow down/halt cartilage destruction and osteoarthritis progression
  • Anti-diabetic – may help manage blood sugar levels comparable to metformin
  • Antispasmodic – powerful muscle relaxant, reduces spasm as well as the body’s reaction to them

Myrcene and the Entourage Effect:

Extensive research on terpenes conducted in 2011 systematically observed what lead researcher, Dr. Ethan Russo, called “phytocannabinoid-terpenoid synergy.” The detailed study, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology was titled “Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-terpenoid Entourage Effects.”

Russo’s research concluded that myrcene interacts with certain cannabinoids, producing therapeutic benefits. Specifically, they found the following targeted effects in their clinical studies:

  • Myrcene + CBD: reduced pain/inflammation and fights cancer
  • Myrcene + THC: reduced pain, muscle relaxant, and exhibited sedative properties
  • Myrcene + CBG: showed potential to relieve the effects of cancer
  • They also corroborated earlier research of the analgesic and sleep aid effects.

Are there risks with Myrcene?

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 using 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 the government should list myrcene as a carcinogenic substance or not. Until scientists conduct further research, it is impossible to comment with certainty about how safe myrcene is.

However, it is notable that the new FDA regulations apply to synthetic myrcene, not foods that naturally contain it. It’s unknown if the same effects can be caused by naturally occurring myrcene.


Final thoughts

Myrcene has potent anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, and pain-relieving properties, and valued by its ability to mitigate the effects of diabetes and prevent peptic ulcer disease. The terpene’s sedative effects are also helpful for treating pain, muscle tension, and insomnia.

As we learn more about terpenes in cannabis and the role they play in the entourage effect of full-plant medicine, I am confident we’re going to hear a lot more about myrcene in the future.


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