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Myrcene: Beyond The “Couch-Lock” Terpene

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Myrcene is the terpene that gives cannabis flowers spicy, earthy, peppery, and musky scents and imparts a mildly sweet flavor. This sensory profile can also be found in other myrcene-containing plants like hops and mangos. Myrcene is thought to have good benefits for pain and is set to be used in a UCLA clinical trial of terpenes and THC for that purpose this year (2020).

Beta-Myrcene is also the starting chemical material for many other industrially important products (geraniol, nerol, linalool, and isophytol). It is used widely as a food flavoring and scent additive and can be manufactured by breaking down another cannabis terpene- beta-pinene. Interestingly, beta-pinene is known for having an energizing effect, and myrcene is known to be sedative.

Table of Contents

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are aromatic molecules that are components of plant essential oils. They are the largest group of plant chemicals, with up to 20,000 different terpenes that have been characterized [3]. It may surprise you to learn that cannabis terpenes are the component responsible for the smells and flavors of the plant.

Some terpenes are thought to act in synergy with cannabinoids, or in a complementary fashion [3]. Indeed, terpenes are also a large part of the experience and effects of particular cannabis strains.

Unlike cannabinoids, terpenes have a special FDA clearance called “GRAS.” This means they are “Generally Regarded as Safe” in terms of consumption. Because of this terpenes can be used as common food and supplement ingredients and do not face strict legal restrictions.

What is the Entourage Effect?

The “entourage effect” is why full-spectrum cannabis products have good activity at medium doses (like a bell-shaped curve). By contrast, isolated cannabinoids generally have the best activity at either low or very high doses (like a “u” shaped curve).

Researcher Ethan Russo reviews some of the synergistic effects of myrcene:

What is Myrcene?

Myrcene (beta-myrcene) is one of the most common cannabis terpenes and is also found in hops, lemongrass, basil, mango, and bay leaf [1]. The terpene myrcene is named after a Brazilian medicinal shrub called Myrcia sphaerocarpa. This plant is used in traditional medicine to treat diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, and hypertension. While other plant compounds play a role in its use, myrcene is thought to be partially responsible for these benefits.

The chemical structure of beta-myrcene.

Myrcene Benefits

In Germany, myrcene from hops is commonly used as a sleep aid [RUSSO]. It is thought to be responsible for the “couch-lock” effect experienced by some cannabis strains. However, there is much more to myrcene than sedation and couch-lock. In fact, myrcene can help improve the utilization of other cannabinoids in the body [1].

Myrcene is also a potent analgesic that is thought to act through opioid receptors and is of interest in the treatment of pain without opioids [1, 2, 3]. Another myrcene benefit that makes it of interest for pain conditions is its strong anti-inflammatory abilities.

Diabetes is another condition that could benefit from myrcene [1]. In lab trials with rats, the terpene was able to improve glucose tolerance without changing glucose levels.

High Myrcene Cannabis Strains

High Myrcene Hemp Strains

Closing Thoughts on Beta-Myrcene

Myrcene is a legend among cannabis terpenes. Not only it is suspected to be a major contributor to “couch-lock,” it is also the reason why (anecdotally) you may have an enhanced high when you eat mangos when using marijuana.

This synergy with THC is a trademark of heavy-hitting myrcene marijuana strains like OG Kush, White Widow, Grape Ape, and many Kush strains (Mango Kush, eg). It is also found in hemp strains that have more sedating and relaxing effects.

When it comes to strain selection and buying hemp, remember to look beyond the CBD potency. The entourage effect of cannabinoid and terpene synergy is a critical feature to consider. Terpenes are truly what sets apart cannabis strains from each other and makes them unique.

References

  1. Hartsel, J. A., Eades, J., Hickory, B., & Makriyannis, A. (2016). Cannabis sativa and Hemp. In Nutraceuticals (pp. 735-754). Academic Press.
  2. Jansen, C., Shimoda, L., Kawakami, J. K., Ang, L., Bacani, A. J., Baker, J. D., Badowski, C., Speck, M., Stokes, A. J., Small-Howard, A. L., & Turner, H. (2019). Myrcene and terpene regulation of TRPV1Channels (Austin, Tex.)13(1), 344–366.
  3. Russo E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effectsBritish journal of pharmacology163(7), 1344–1364.
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