Terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbons, found in the essential oils of every plant and used in healing for thousands of years. Today, terpenes are perhaps best known as the compounds that give each cannabis strain its unique aroma and flavor – but it was only recently that scientists realized terpenes could modify the plant’s effects.
Growers and consumers spent years scratching their heads over why strains with similar levels of THC, once the most sought-after component of cannabis, could benefit medical conditions in different ways. Now we know it’s because of the “entourage effect.” THC (and other cannabinoids, like CBD) work much better together with other cannabis compounds, like terpenes, than they do in isolation.
There are only a few of more than 200 terpenes that occur in large enough concentrations for medical use, but how do their effects differ? That’s the question we’re answering in a six-part series of the most common terpenes found in medicine. Next up: myrcene.
What Is Myrcene?
Myrcene (also known as alpha-myrcene or beta-myrcene) is the most common and a particularly potent terpene, with a spicy, earthy, musky scent that gives cannabis strains a mildly sweet flavor profile.
You’ll also find myrcene in plants like lemongrass, eucalyptus, and ylang-ylang, fruit like mangoes (heard the rumor that they can maximize your high? It’s true), and herbs like thyme, basil, and hops (the one that gives flavor to beer). But myrcene expresses itself most abundantly in cannabis.
Myrcene is the terpene to turn to for calming the body and mind. Research shows that consuming cannabis with myrcene levels above 0.5 percent results in the fondly coined “couch lock,” a deep state of relaxation induced by Indica-dominant strains. In fact, myrcene can make up as much as 50 percent of total terpenes in a cannabis plant. By contrast, sativa-dominant strains usually contain less than 0.5 percent.
What Does Myrcene Treat?
- Sleep disorders like insomnia
- Pain and bodily discomfort, acting as a powerful muscle relaxant
- Diabetes, along with another terpene, thujone
- Cancer, for its ability to inhibit tumor growth
Popular Strains (and What You Should Know Before Buying)
As mentioned earlier, myrcene levels vary widely from strain to strain. They even vary from grower to grower. Generally, though, you’ll find myrcene in indica-dominant strains such as:
- Pure Kush: A super-potent strain best for pain and insomnia.
- Grape Ape: For stress and depression, this is another strain with higher levels of myrcene than most.
- Mango Kush: A hybrid that makes you feel calm and euphoric.
- White Widow: An earthy hybrid for an energizing but calming boost.
- OG Kush: The pinene- and limonene-rich hybrid we mentioned in our last post.
Myrcene can also be isolated, extracted, and concentrated as a non-psychoactive alternative. Terpene extracts can be used in a variety of ways, boosting the flavor and effects of edibles, topicals, and concentrates.
Again, all components of cannabis work best as a whole. At the same time, terpenes can enhance or even hinder each other’s effects as well as the effects of cannabinoids. It’s important to consider how each works together when figuring out which strain can treat your condition. Next, we’ll look at where linalool comes into the equation.