Myrcene, also sometimes called beta myrcene, is a monoterpene and a significant component of the essential oil of numerous plants and fruits. These include cannabis, ylang-ylang, bay, parsley, wild thyme, lemongrass, hops and cardamom, plus the mango fruit. Production of the myrcene terpene generally derives semi-synthetically from the myrcia flower. The terpene’s floral origins make it an indirect ingredient in some fragrances. Myrcene is notable as the most prominent terpene contained in cannabis according to a Swiss study, comprising up to 65% of the terpene content in a cannabis plant.
“This beer has lots of good stuff in it, including a natural infusion of myrcene.”
“I’m tasting some earthy flavors in this weed; it probably has a high level of myrcene.”
What is Myrcene?
The most abundant terpene in cannabis, myrcene may be recognizable for its earthy scent and flavor profile. Some perceive a balsam fragrance in the myrcene terpene, while others describe it as smelling of clove or musk. In beer, as a component of hops, myrcene may be experienced as having a peppery or spicy taste. Like other terpenes, myrcene is theorized to be part of the entourage effect, which means that it works in conjunction with cannabinoids to create a potential health supplement for a multitude of physical and mental ailments.
Myrcene in Everyday Life
If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping at night, you may have prepared a cup of chamomile tea to help you doze off. In folk medicine, lemongrass tea is also 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, as a fresh accompaniment to sushi, or as an herb in another Asian dish. Any dish made with parsley may also contain myrcene. Sink your teeth into a juicy mango, and you’ve experienced myrcene. Wash down a platter of lemon-thyme chicken with a bottle of beer, and you’ve experienced a double dose of the myrcene terpene.
Benefits of Myrcene
There is a potentially long list of myrcene benefits. Like other terpenes, such as bisabolol, myrcene is believed to have a potential anti-inflammatory effect, in addition to possible anti-tumor, sedative, and a staggering variety of other health benefits.
A 2015 study conducted on human chondrocyte (cartilage) cells, published in the European Journal of Pharmacology, investigated myrcene’s potential effects on osteoarthritis. The researchers found that myrcene had an anti-inflammatory influence on the cells and claimed the terpene could “slow down cartilage destruction and osteoarthritis progression,” while noting that this assertion warrants additional research.
Any list of potential myrcene effects should include its possible anti-tumor properties. Due in part to its anti-inflammatory effects, the myrcene terpene may contribute to the death of cancerous tumors. In 2015, Korean scientists published a study suggesting 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.
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 is one 2002 Phytomedicine study which demonstrates that at very high doses, myrcene may have a sedative effect in mice. 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.
The myrcene terpene is currently being investigated for its ability to protect against ultraviolet light-induced aging in human skin. By acting partially as an antioxidant, myrcene may very well be a beneficial additive to anti-aging and sunscreen lotions.
Can Myrcene Get You High?
The myrcene terpene consumed on its own will not get you high. However, high myrcene levels are often associated with the experience of fast-acting and powerful highs. Recent research suggests this may be due to the myrcene terpene playing a key role in facilitating the transport of cannabinoids into your brain. Additionally, myrcene has been linked to enhanced transdermal absorption, potentially opening up another avenue for greater cannabinoid uptake.
Ultimately, myrcene’s effects on the blood-brain barrier and other factors related to blood flow make it a key player in the entourage effect—helping other cannabinoids like THC move into the brain more efficiently—but it will not produce psychoactive effects if consumed n isolation.
Myrcene in Cannabis: High Myrcene Strains
White Widow, Skunk XL and Special Kush 1 are all types of cannabis that may contain high levels of myrcene, which is extremely common across many cannabis varieties. Cannabis that contains myrcene may produce greater than average relaxation, although there is a significant lack of evidence to support these claims.
Designated as the most frequently encountered terpene in cannabis, myrcene may offer an enhanced high as well as hope for those coping with osteoarthritis and other inflammatory conditions.