Terpenes in cannabis are the “essential oils” of the plant. Terpenes help give the plant its aroma or smell, its flavor, and they help contribute to its therapeutic effects. The cannabis plant contains over 100 terpenes, sometimes all in one plant. Myrcene (also known as alpha-myrcene or beta-myrcene) is one of the most abundant terpenes in the cannabis plant. When looking at the terpene profile of cannabis, you will likely find Myrcene in the highest concentration.
The Science Behind Myrcene
Myrcene is a common terpene found in all varieties of cannabis. It is known as a hydrocarbon and an alkene, as it is composed of only carbon and hydrogen atoms and contains carbon – carbon double bonds. However, more specifically; it is a monoterpene due to its two repeating units of C 5 H 8 , which is known as an isoprene (a fundamental building block of ALL terpenes).
In fact, all terpenes are made in cannabis from one single “god” terpene called geraniol; this chemical is modified by enzymes like geranyl pyrophosphate to create terpenes like myrcene. Additionally, myrcene can also be created by the thermal decomposition of beta-pinene, another common terpene found in cannabis. In a cultivation center, this can be obtained by increasing curing lengths. However, exposing myrcene to air for extended periods of time actually allows myrcene to oxidize and thus polymerize, creating larger, longer hydrocarbons that can be dangerous to consume. For this reason, the State of California added myrcene to its Prop 65 Warning, labeling myrcene as a potential carcinogen.
Where Myrcene can be Found
Outside of cannabis, myrcene is commonly found in beer, as it is also found in hops. Actually, it is usually more highly concentrated in hops than in cannabis, thus myrcene terpenes botanically sourced then added to cannabis products are typically isolated from hops. Myrcene can also be found in bay leaves, myrcia (plant), lemongrass, pine, juniper, thyme, basil, eucalyptus, ylang-ylang, and mangoes (it is said if you eat a mango 30 minutes prior to using cannabis, you will intensify your effects).
Myrcene is often described as smelling musky, earthy, fruity, and clove-like. Many, many strains of cannabis contain myrcene, but the following strains are known for their very high levels of myrcene: Ray Charles, OG Kush, Grape Ape, Granddaddy Purple, Harlequin, White Widow…
Potential Benefits & Effects of Myrcene
Through the entourage effect, myrcene is most widely known to exacerbate the sedating or relaxing effects of THC (sometimes known as “couch-lock”). However, this specific process is still unknown. Medical cannabis strains high in myrcene are recommended to patients with insomnia and sleep disorders. Research even suggests that when combined with sleep-inducing medicines, myrcene can increase the duration of a patient’s sleep.
Myrcene is known to kill bacteria and fungi in high doses and additionally, can mitigate the cancer risk associated with the ingestion of aflatoxins which are commonly transmitted from fungi to foods and then consumed. It also has potential muscle-relaxing effects, as well as reducing pain and inflammation. Additionally, myrcene is said to help people calm their anxiety.
When choosing your cannabis strain, always ask for the terpene profile as well as the cannabinoid profile so you can better choose a strain that will have the benefits you are seeking. You can often find the terpene profiles of products on our menu.
Common Name: MYRCENE
IUPAC Name: 7-METHYL-3-METHYLENE-OCTA-1,6-DIENE
Formula: C 10 H 16
Boiling Point: 331 F – 334 F (166 C – 168 C)
Written by: Paul Walter & Melissa Beatty