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Myrcene Is So Much More Than The ‘Couch Lock’ Terpene

Francis Cassidy
Woman on couch

When it comes to myrcene, many think of scattered pizza boxes and young students strewn across couches like beached whales.

The tidal force of the wave of myrcene leaves them high and dry, unable to lift themselves until the effects of that pungent hydrocarbon eventually subside. In truth however, there’s a lot more than couch-lock syndrome to myrcene.

The evolutionary purpose of myrcene was never to create couch-lock. Like all terpenes, myrcene acts as the natural defense for the plant. It helps protect against diseases and pests while also helping to lure in potential pollinators with its alluring earthy smell. But like those pollinators, we humans are also attracted to that very fragrance. And whatever our culturally sanctioned view of what medicine is, our body knows at some deeper level that it means healing.

What is Myrcene?

Myrcene is renowned for its earthy spicy smell that’s often likened to cloves. It’s dominant in many common cannabis strains and composes up to 50% of the terpene content in individual strains. Strains that have more than 0.5% myrcene content will often induce a sedative medicated feel, something commonly associated with indica strains.

Close up of Shatter

What Are the Benefits of Myrcene?

Myrcene exhibits some potent benefits to medicinal patients. Two widely used applications are treating chronic pain and rampant inflammation. The analgesic properties of myrcene exist due to the ability of myrcene to assist cannabinoids in crossing the blood-brain barrier. When more of the active plant compounds successfully navigate that barrier, more of them bind with receptors in the brain and help encourage the analgesic responses.

Aside from cannabis, myrcene is also widely used in traditional medicines. Lemongrass tea contains high levels of myrcene and is commonly used in Brazil for its anxiolytic and pain-relieving benefits. In Mexico, lemongrass has been used for generations as a sedative and muscle relaxant. While in Germany where hops are widely grown for the beer industry, the myrcene-rich crop is harnessed as a sleep aid.

It doesn’t sound all that different from the intended use many have for medicinal cannabis, does it? When our modern uses align with those of traditional medicines around the world, and we’re treating the same ailments in a similar way, then it’s safe to say we’re doing something right.

How Myrcene Helps Treat Modern Diseases

Myrcene can help mitigate the cancer-causing effects of exposure to aflatoxins. Myrcene inhibits the production of the liver enzyme, CYP2B1, the presence of which enables aflatoxin to damage our DNA. These anti-mutagen effects of myrcene also extend to other toxins and are consistent with the properties of several other terpenes and extend to antioxidant and antimicrobial benefits.

What Do the Studies Say About Myrcene?

They have a lot to say as it turns out. As one of the most common terpenes in cannabis, it’s of particular interest to many researchers. Breeders search after it for its potent effects.

A 2008 study that appeared in the Therapeutics and Clerical Risk Management journal documented the analgesic properties of myrcene. Interestingly, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the pain-relieving effects of myrcene actually mimic opium but without the associated downside of the addictive potential.

Looking into the sedative effects of myrcene, a study that appeared in the Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology (2002), demonstrated its effectiveness in helping to manage symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, and sleep disorders. By giving patients a dose of 200mg/kg of body weight, researches were able to increase sleep time by an astounding 2.6 times.

Trichomes terpenes macro view

Is the Mango-Myrcene Myth True?

Several myths exist within cannabis circles. While some are true, most sadly aren’t. But one of those that is actually true is that consuming a mango 45 minutes before medicating with cannabis will help increase the potency of the cannabis. It turns out that mangoes are extremely high in myrcene and its presence enables more of the THC to cross the blood-brain barrier. Hops, thyme, and lemongrass all have substantial quantities of myrcene and will potentiate the effects of THC when consumed before you medicate. But for those who want their myrcene strictly from cannabis, where can you find it?

Three Strains High in Myrcene

Myrcene appears commonly in what many people consider “indica” strains. It’s debatable whether that’s even a fair term to use in these days of rampant cross-breeding, but those strains with sedative qualities usually have them due to the presence of myrcene.

Close up of cannabis bud showing trichomes

Mango Kush

You can probably guess from the name that this strain is high in myrcene. In some cases, the terpene profile is over 50% myrcene. Mango Kush exhibits an exotic mango flavor with a hint of pine and citrus. The potent medicated effects consist of extreme relaxation that modulates on a happy uplifting vibe.

Cannabis Plant Close up

White Widow

The pungent White Widow is a hybrid strain with high quantities of myrcene. Known for its euphoric effects it exhibits aromas of earth and wood. Originating in South America, it’s a cross between a South American sativa landrace and a South Indian indica.

cannabis buds

Skunk XL

This well-known hybrid is a cross of Colombian, Afghan and Mexican landraces. People love Skunk XL for its relaxing effects. These couple with a nice head buzz. It exhibits some earthy fruity flavors where the presence of myrcene is easily distinguishable.

Much More Than the Couch-Lock Terpene

Myrcene is about much more than empty pizza boxes and daytime sofa naps. This potent terpene has a major role to play in how the medicinal effects of the cannabis plant modulate. Simply put, the more we learn about it, the more we realize that it’s responsible for a lot more than couch-lock.

Francis Cassidy

Francis Cassidy is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics. With a particular focus on the cannabis industry, he aims to help ensure the smooth reintegration of cannabis back into global culture. When not writing, he's to be found exploring his new base in British Columbia, Canada. You can follow his other works including his photography on his blog thestrayphotographer.com

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