This is one in a series of articles about terpenes, a set of naturally occurring compounds in cannabis and marijuana. Today’s featured terpene is myrcene.
With the medical and recreational legalization of marijuana making its way through the United States, THC and CBD have become front-and-center of our collective cultural conversations. And rightfully so, as these are the agents that relieve pain and depression and provide the euphoric lift that so many people crave. But there are other compounds in cannabis that deserve equal attention. One of those compounds is terpenes. According to Medical News Today, “Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants. . . and create the characteristic scent. . . such as cannabis, pine, and lavender, as well as fresh orange peel.”
In reality, there are more than just a few terpenes. In fact, weed may contain more than 200 terpenes, as scientists are just beginning to unravel the chemical makeup of marijuana.
In the most fundamental biological sense, terpenes are merely mother nature’s defense mechanism used by plants to keep away, well, things that want to eat them. But terpenes are more than a pleasant, or pungent aroma. These compounds also have a number of health benefits. One of the primary terpenes is myrcene. With a skunky, fruity smell, myrcene has an aroma that is associated with a classic ganja smell. So if your reefer is ripe, it’s like myrcene making its skunky, funky presence known. And there’s good reason for myrcene to take center stage. According to a study conducted by the Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture, myrcene contains 65% of the terpene content in a cannabis plant.
Known technically as Myrcia sphaerocarpa, a medicinal shrub from Brazil traditionally used to treat diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, and hypertension, “myrcene is the active sedating principle of hops and lemongrass.” Research is revealing that “myrcene also showed powerful antiinflammatory and anti-catabolic effects in a human chondrocyte model of osteoarthritis (Rufino et al., 2015).” (Anti-catabolic nutrients inhibit the breakdown of the muscles, so myrcene may keep you fit and healthy, especially when lifting weights. However, I am in no way recommending you smoke a doobie and pump iron!)
Moreover, according to abstraxtech.com, “Studies suggest this primary terpene boasts various medical benefits like improved sleep and muscle relaxation, as well as . . . . antimutagenic effects,” meaning myrcene prevents would-be deleterious substances from jackin’ up your DNA. Myrcene may also be a sleep aid. One study concluded that “myrcene presented sedative as well as motor relaxant effects,” though the jury is still out on that measure.
One of the best things about myrcene may be its contribution to the entourage effect. According to wayofleaf.com, the “‘entourage effect’ has been used to describe the synergistic manner in which the more than 80 cannabinoids and 100+ terpenes work together to produce the healing magic that cannabis is so widely recognized for. Specifically, the entourage effect combines the ability of these various compounds that helps to neutralize and minimize the psychoactive effects of cannabis, which could possibly be too intense in reality to stand alone.”
In this sense, terpenes, such as myrcene, not only expand our highs, but additionally ameliorate the paranoia that comes with overindulgence, or from strains that have particularly high concentrations of THC.
According to Vitalis, a leading manufacturer of scalable CO₂ extraction systems, “Studies found that myrcene increases blood-barrier penetration. This enhances the results gained from specific strains by increasing potency. This is one reason why cannabis containing large amounts of myrcene tends to have a very strong ‘couch-lock’ effect.” In other words, myrcene is a buzz amplifier, helping you ramp up the effects of THC.
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