Some experts believe that the future potential of the cannabis plant lies in preserving or extracting the delicate terpene molecules, not necessarily cannabinoids. But what about individual terpenes? With more than 200 possible in cannabis, which are the most common and most likely to be in that pot in your pipe? Let’s start with myrcene.
One of the wonderful things about cannabis is how different strains vary in their aroma. Being the most common terpene in cannabis, myrcene produces what is the most stereotypical and common smell from the kind herb.
Strains dominated by this terpene produce earthy, balsamic, spicy, and clove-like odors. If your herb smells like dirt, it may be because it’s full of myrcene.
Studies on myrcene
Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in cannabis, according to a 1997 study conducted in Switzerland. It sometimes composes up to 50% of the terpene volume in a cannabis plant. It has also been found to aid in the formation of other important terpenes.
A 2007 study at the University of Jordan found that myrcene, in tandem with another terpene, thujone, fights the symptoms of diabetes. One year later, a study by GW Pharmaceuticals investigated how it is an effective analgesic (pain reliever).
The research found that the terpene’s medical efficacy is similar to that of opium, only without the addiction.
A 2011 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology called “Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-terpenoid Entourage Effects,” found myrcene to have medical efficacy typically considered to be delivered only by cannabinoids.
The study discovered that the most common terpene in cannabis relaxes muscles in mice. In addition, this study found that it acts as a sleep aid if consumed in high doses.
This study went on to find that it has specific efficacy when paired with particular cannabinoids. For example, myrcene and CBD decreases inflammation, reduces pain, and even fights cancer.
When combined with THC, myrcene results in pain reduction, muscle relaxation, and, in high enough doses, can act as a hypnotic sedative.
When combined with the cannabinoid CBG, this powerful terpene fights cancer.
Determines sativa vs. indica
According to Steep Hill Labs in Berkeley, California, if is the percentage (as measured by weight by volume) of myrcene in a particular strain of cannabis that determines if it is sativa or indica. According to them,
If a sample has over 0.5% myrcene, it will have indica, or “couch-lock” effects. If a sample has less than 0.5%, it will have the soaring sativa effect.
This is one reason so many sativa-dominant strains of cannabis emit a fruity or floral aroma. It is the presence of other terpenes, like limonene, that produces a small of citrus or fruit.
Why mangos help your high
There has for decades been the urban legend that eating a mango before smoking herb enhances its psychoactive effect. This is actually true. It’s because myrcene, which is available in high concentrations in mangos, helps THC molecules reach specialized receptors in the brain.
Thus, eating a mango about 45 minutes before smoking cannabis (to allow the myrcene to be digested and reach the blood stream) will stretch your precious pot dollars further by enhancing your high.
Rabinski crafts compelling educational media that focuses on the science of the cannabis herb, patient advocacy, and eliminating the social stigma that has existed for more than a century in the United States. His photography is available on Instagram at gooey_rabinski and he Tweets from @GooeyRabinski.
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