Myrcene, also sometimes called beta myrcene, is a monoterpene and a significant component of numerous plants and fruits. These include cannabis, ylang-ylang, bay, parsley, wild thyme, lemongrass, hops,cardamom, and the mango fruit. While myrcene is present in many plants, commercial production comes from beta-pinene, another terpene found primarily in turpentine. Myrcene is notable as the most prominent terpene contained in cannabis, according to a 1997 study conducted by the Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture. The study reported that myrcene comprises up to 65% of the terpene content in a cannabis plant.
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 terpene, while others describe it as smelling of clove or musk. As a component of hops used in beer, 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 potentially treat a multitude of physical and mental ailments.
What is myrcene used for?
Myrcene's primary commercial use is as an intermediary in cosmetics and fragrances. In folk medicine, lemongrass tea is 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 or as a flavorful ingredient in Asian cuisine. Any dish made with parsley also contains myrcene. Sink your teeth into a juicy mango, and you'll experience myrcene. Wash down a platter of lemon-thyme chicken with a bottle of beer and experience a double dose of the terpene.
What does myrcene taste like?
Cannabis strains with high myrcene levels are often described as tasting spicy, earthy, and musky. Myrcene also carries sweet undertones, which have been compared to ripe mango and other fruity flavors.
Therapeutic properties of myrcene
There is a long list of myrcene's potential therapeutic 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 other health benefits.
A 2015 study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology used human cartilage cells to investigate myrcene's potential effects on osteoarthritis. The researchers found that myrcene had an anti-inflammatory influence on the cells while it slowed damage and disease progression. They also noted 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. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the Korean Society for Applied Biological Chemistry suggested 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 was one study published in 2002 in the journal Phytomedicine that showed myrcene may have a sedative effect in mice at very high doses. 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 and if it is indeed capable of producing couch lock.
The myrcene terpene may have the ability to protect against ultraviolet light-induced aging in human skin, according to a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 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 levels of myrcene are often associated with the experience of fast-acting and powerful highs. Research published in 2016 in the journal Nutraceuticals suggested that this sensation 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. That said, it will not produce psychoactive effects if consumed in isolation.
Role of myrcene in cannabis
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 strains that contain high levels of myrcene may have a reputation for producing greater than average relaxation, or even a sedative effect, but scientific evidence has not yet supported these claims.
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.
Major contributions from Dr. Adie Rae.