Complete Guide to Myrcene, the Terpene That Gives Cannabis Some ‘Spice’

mango sliced into halves and crosswise cuts in the flesh next to cannabis leaves on green background

Table of contents

  1. What Is Myrcene?
  2. Health Benefits and Uses
  3. Potential Risks and Side Effects
  4. Cannabis Strains High in Myrcene
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

Myrcene is often the most abundant terpene found in the cannabis plant. Also called beta-myrcene or β-myrcene, this terpene is known for the musky, earthy aroma and flavor it yields. Myrcene is also found in other plants, including fruits, vegetables, and herbs, and serves numerous therapeutic purposes. Myrcene is very common in hops, too. Myrcene is also one of the main compounds that gives cannabis its sedative effects. Cannabis varieties high in myrcene may be particularly useful for anxiety and insomnia. Varieties lower in myrcene and higher in terpenes like limonene may have more energizing effects.

Learn more about myrcene and how to tap into this terpene’s health benefits through cannabis and other plants. 

What Is Myrcene?

Myrcene is perhaps best known for its role in the beer-making process, as the terpene is a component of hops. In beer, myrcene’s earthy scent and taste are often transformed into a spicy or peppery profile.

Other food and beverage sources of myrcene include:

  • Mango
  • Guava
  • Thyme 
  • Parsley
  • Bay leaves
  • Lemongrass
  • Cardamom
  • Sweet basil
  • Ylang-ylang essential oil
  • Juniper essential oils

As part of the cannabis plant, myrcene works with other terpenes and cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to maximize the synergistic entourage effect. Food sources that contain myrcene may offer some of the same nutritional and health benefits as cannabis strainswith high myrcene levels. 

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Health Benefits and Uses

High doses of the myrcene compound have several reputed health benefits. Here are some potential therapeutic effects that may occur with high levels of myrcene. 

Anti-inflammatory

The role of inflammation in disease is well-documented. Chronic inflammation occurs when the body perceives a threat that no longer exists (like a prior infection), and the immune system keeps fighting for months or even years. White blood cell counts increase with visible signs of inflammation appearing as external swelling. In this prolonged combat state, the immune system may eventually attack itself and trigger serious diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS)

In high concentrations, it appears that myrcene may reduce inflammation in the human body. This ability may be useful in combating numerous diseases linked to inflammation, including autoimmune conditions like Crohn’s and irritable bowel disorder (IBD). 

In addition, myrcene may help reduce inflammation linked to the progression of osteoarthritis, a painful condition involving degeneration of joint cartilage and bones. Along with the terpenes limonene and beta-caryophyllene, myrcene was found to potentially slow down cartilage destruction in one scientific study. As such, myrcene may prevent disease progression in people with osteoarthritis. 

Anti-tumor 

If a terpene has anti-inflammatory effects, it is likely also to have anti-tumor effects. As tumors, both benign and cancerous, are linked to inflammation, myrcene may have the ability to counteract them. 

Korean scientists studied human breast cancer cells and found that myrcene may discourage these cells’ metastasis (spreading). When cancer metastasizes or spreads, it moves from a primary tumor site to one or more secondary tumor sites. Metastasis often precedes cancer classification progressing from stage one or two to a higher stage with poorer outcomes. 

While it is not yet proven that myrcene can prevent cancer from reaching a more serious stage, the terpene’s anti-tumor effects are encouraging. 

Analgesic Effects

Could myrcene be an alternative to morphine? Myrcene may offer significant pain relief benefits, according to one scientific study. Researchers found that myrcene has pain-relieving properties without dependency that often develops with continued morphine use. 

In the study, rats received an oral injection of myrcene in the form of lemongrass leaves. While the study was performed on animals, researchers noted that myrcene-rich lemongrass tea has a long history of use in folk medicine.  

Whether or not there will be an intersection between traditional and modern uses of myrcene for pain relief remains to be seen. 

Antioxidant

Antioxidants protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals or harmful molecules that can lead to many diseases, including cancer. Antioxidants also have a beneficial effect on external health, contributing to a youthful appearance through glowing skin. One study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine revealed that myrcene might protect against skin aging

Study results indicated that myrcene could specifically target skin damage from ultraviolet rays. These findings could potentially make myrcene a beauty aid or ingredient in sunscreen products.  

Sedative Effects

According to research published in the journal Phytomedicine, myrcene can produce a sedative effect in very high doses. In this study conducted on mice, the subjects became lethargic and moved less when administered high doses of myrcene. 

Potential Risks and Side Effects

In the raw, undiluted form, myrcene may cause severe irritation if it comes into contact with the eyes or skin. Directly inhaling or swallowing myrcene may be harmful or fatal. Some research has linked myrcene with higher cancer risk, but the evidence is inconclusive. Furthermore, other research has shown the opposite effect, that myrcene may shrink tumors and offer cancer-fighting properties. 

The side effects of myrcene include sleepiness or a stronger psychoactive response when consuming the terpene through cannabis. 

Cannabis Strains High in Myrcene

Since myrcene is the most common terpene found in cannabis, there is no shortage of myrcene-dominant weed strains to choose from. The following cannabis strains contain high myrcene levels:

  • Grape Ape
  • Harlequin
  • OG Kush
  • Blue Dream
  • Remedy
  • Granddaddy Purple
  • 9 Pound Hammer
  • ACDC
  • Jillybean
  • Critical Mass
  • Skunk XL
  • Banana Kush
  • Thin Mint Cookies
  • White Widow

Some of these cannabis strains, like OG Kush, are known for producing the “couchlock effect” or sedative effects. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does myrcene make you high?

Myrcene alone will not get you high, but higher terpene concentrations in cannabis are associated with stronger psychoactive experiences. Some research studies have shown that consuming myrcene-rich mangoes before using cannabis will result in a more powerful high. 

Is myrcene illegal?

While the FDA has banned synthetic forms of myrcene as food additives, the terpene itself is not illegal. 

How common is myrcene in cannabis?

Myrcene is the most common terpene found in cannabis, comprising up to 65 percent of the terpene content of any given cannabis plant. 

Does myrcene interact with other cannabinoids?

There is a lot of debate surrounding the entourage effect and to what extent terpenes influence the behavior of cannabinoids and the impact they have. Some studies suggest that myrcene may act in synergy with THC and CBD and enhance their effects, while others say that terpenes like myrcene do not affect cannabinoids at all.

How terpenes and cannabinoids interact with the body is complex. The endocannabinoid system contains plenty of different signaling pathways to communicate with, so because terpenes don’t always work on one line of communication doesn’t mean they won’t work on another. There are also plenty of other receptor systems that terpenes can exert upon, such as dopamine and serotonin.

Experience the therapeutic benefits of myrcene and other terpenes with a medical marijuana card. Reach out to the physicians at Leafwell, and we’ll help you quickly apply for your medical cannabis card online. 

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