As smart and savvy cannabis consumers, you’re probably abundantly familiar with terpenes, the aromatic hydrocarbons (aka essential oils) that give different strains of cannabis—and countless other plants and natural substances—their distinctive aromas and flavors.
Today, we’re going to focus on myrcene, the most prevalent of the ten most abundant of cannabis’ roughly 200 known terpenes. If you’ve ever detected an earthy scent reminiscent of lemongrass, basil, bay laurel or—most famously—fresh mangoes in cannabis, you’re picking up on its myrcene content.
The aroma and flavor of myrcene are distinctive and lovely—assuming you like mangoes, of course—but that’s only half the story. A growing body of evidence suggests that terpenes do much more than provide a characteristic scent; they’re also partnering with our bodies to create some fascinating and medically useful interactions.
What Does Myrcene Do For Us?
We typically associate cannabinoids like THC, CBD, and CBN with specific effects in the body such as pain relief, the lessening of anxiety, or gentle sedation. However, terpenes elicit specific bodily responses as well, and the effects of myrcene—whether it’s found in cannabis or other plants—have been documented for years now.
Myrcene is believed to assist cannabinoids in passing the blood-brain barrier, acting as a sort of “booster” for cannabinoids’ powerful effects. Some of myrcene’s other known effects include:
Sedation: Cannabis strains containing over 0.5% myrcene content are known to have broadly sedative effects. Medically speaking, this is related to the terpene’s other qualities.
Pain Relief: Myrcene has been shown to reduce the perception of pain by helping stimulate opioid receptors in animal-based studies. Studies on humans—as well as ample anecdotal evidence—suggest that this effect is pronounced in our bodies as well.
Anti-Inflammation: Studies suggest myrcene has a powerful role to play in reducing inflammation; it’s undoubtedly a corollary effect to the sedative and analgesic effects we referenced above.
In fact, the myrcene content of a given cannabis plant is so crucial that it essentially dictates whether or not the cannabis will exhibit a sativa-like energizing effect or an indica-like sedative effect. What’s more, while it’s only a single terpene, it’s the chemical precursor—or grandmother—to many others, making it perhaps the single most important member of the terpene family.
How to Get Myrcene from Cannabis
Many cannabis strains are already naturally high in myrcene, and because it’s a precursor to other terpenes, it’s found in at least some quantity in many if not most cannabis.
Blue Dream is a popular and readily available strain, characterized by sweet berry aromas and gentle cerebral effects. Its high myrcene content provides anti-inflammatory and analgesic qualities.
White Widow is a potent, crystal-dusted strain known for imparting a strong euphoric and energizing effect. Those resinous crystals should serve as a warning: This is an extremely potent strain with a high THC content.
Sour Diesel exhibits classic uplifting and buzzy characteristics thanks to a generous myrcene and limonene content. Most citrusy fruits carry this same terpene in their rinds, so the next time you purchase a gram of Sour Diesel, consider nabbing a few oranges to maximize the effects.
This brings us to the “Mango Effect.” Because mangoes are naturally rich in myrcene, some cannabis fans suggest consuming mango up to 45 minutes before a myrcene-rich cannabis strain to reap the full benefits of this terpene-rich pairing.