We love being a part of Los Angeles cannabis culture: The sights, the tastes, the activities! But we’re not afraid to put on our lab coats to get a bit geeky about weed. Because as we’re learning, the science of cannabis is a universe all to itself. And one of its most fascinating components is the topic of terpenes, the fragrant oils that give cannabis strains (and many other natural products) their distinctive flavors and aromas.
Terpenes are found everywhere in nature: in plants, trees, foods, etc. In a sense, we’re only now catching on to the wonder of terpenes. Folk healers have been aware of their medicinal properties for centuries, using the linalool contained in lavender as a natural calming agent and the humulene in hops as an appetite regulator.
Today, we’re going to explore the most abundant and arguably most important terpene: myrcene. If you’re at all familiar with cannabis, you’ll recognize its earthy aroma. But beyond its appealing flavor, it’s exerting a powerful effect on our bodies and minds.
Myrcene: What Does it Smell and Taste Like?
Myrcene may be the most abundant terpene, but unlike its unmistakable cousins limonene and pinene, it can be difficult to pick out a single defining characteristic. But if you’ve ever been captivated by the cannabis plant’s distinctive “funk”—that musky, earthy scent some call “dank”— there’s a good chance you’re sniffing myrcene. Other plants that contain goodly hits of myrcene include basil, bay laurel, lemongrass, and mango.
Speaking of mangos, they give rise to an enduring urban legend about supercharging your cannabis high. Supposedly, consuming a mango an hour or so before cannabis will “boost” the cannabis plant’s psychoactivity, allegedly due to the mango’s high concentration of myrcene. While there has yet to be a gold-standard study on this effect, a little math suggests the “mango effect” is indeed a myth.
What Does it Do for Our Bodies?
One reason myrcene is so important is that it’s the chemical precursor to many of the other terpenes. And the myrcene content of any given cannabis plant determines whether the specific plant will have a typically sativa-like energizing effect or an indica-like sedative effect. In general, the more myrcene, the more sedation you’ll experience. What’s more, myrcene acts as a helper, allowing cannabinoids to pass more easily into the bloodstream through what’s called the blood-brain barrier.
As we mentioned above, myrcene has a powerful sedative effect, making it a potent tool against insomnia. Plus, it exhibits powerful pain-fighting properties. In some rodent-based studies, myrcene was shown to reduce the perception of pain. Studies on humans further support this finding, as does a wealth of anecdotal evidence.
Much of this effect is due to myrcene’s powerful anti-inflammatory effects, again supported by current research. Here’s a tip: if you’re seeking to address aches and pains without the psychoactivity of THC, try a cannabis topical with a high myrcene content.
How to Get It From Cannabis
In general, you’ll have no trouble finding cannabis strains high in myrcene, though we do need more research regarding whether the myrcene in cannabis has the same effects as myrcene found elsewhere.
Here are a few perennial favorites known to be rich in this most important terpene.
OG Kush is a potent high-THC strain, and its piney, peppery and earthy aromas lead many fans to label it the ultimate “dank” weed. It will impart a strong euphoria and general sense of uplift, but it can also exhibit a powerful “couch lock”!
White Widow is known for its strongly euphoric and energizing effect. But exercise caution: This is an extremely potent strain with a typically high THC content.
Sour Diesel is known for its “classic” uplifting and buzzy characteristics, thanks in part to a generous helping of myrcene.