Cannabis Science

22 April 2020

What is cannabis terpene myrcene, and what are the effects?

Myrcene is the most prevalent terpene found in Cannabis, followed by α-Pinene, Limonene, Linalool, β-Caryophyllene, and Humulene. Myrcene is also known to be responsible for the so-called couch-lock effect, which is the sedative daze-like sensation sometimes reported by cannabis consumer.

The origins and characteristics of Myrcene

β-Myrcene is an acyclic monoterpene found in the essential oils of different plants, including mango, rosemary, hops, citrus, lemongrass, laurel, thyme and, of course, cannabis. It is also found in the Brazilian medicinal plant, Myrcia sphaerocarpa. This plant is traditionally used to treat diabetes, intestinal diseases (such as diarrhoea and dysentery), and hypertension.

It chemically appears as a yellow oily liquid with a pleasant herbal-musky odor with fruity notes (smelling exactly like mangoes) and earthy, clove-like undertones, pungent in higher concentrations.

The medicinal properties of cannabis terpene Myrcene

From the medical point of view, myrcene is involved in a myriad of mechanisms, many of them assisted by the synergistic action of other terpenes and cannabinoids.

Such properties include:

  • Significant analgesic action, through an opioid-related mechanism, potentiated by the entourage effect of THC and CBD (interestingly, the duration of analgesic effect exceeding that of morphine [4 hrs] in mice). This action, however, is blocked by the effect of naloxone (a μ-opioid antagonist).
  • Muscle-relaxant and prolonged barbiturate sleep-time effects in mice;
  • Ability to increase the cannabinoids’ transportation into the brain exploiting the permeability of cell membranes (in particular those of the blood-brain barrier or BBB ); however, regarding brain transport, there is a lack of reliable data in current literature.
  • Potent sedative effect at high doses (comparable to that of phenobarbital), which is further increased by co-administration of citral (or lemonal, a mixture of the geranial + neral terpenoids) and THC.
  • Improving effect on glucose tolerance, analogue to that of metformin, in diabetic rats.
  • Anti-inflammatory effect via prostaglandin E-2 (PGE-2). Such anti-inflammatory effect was also observed in cartilage tissue cells (called chondrocytes), suggesting a potential role of β-myrcene in halting or, at least, slowing down cartilage destruction and osteoarthritis progression.
  • Anti-ulcer effects against in experimental models of peptic ulcers induced by bacteria (Helicobacter pylori), ethanol, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), stress, ischaemia-reperfusion injury (I/R) and cysteamine (a drug used to treat the excretion of cystine (the oxidized form of the amino acid cysteine) or radiation sickness).
  • Synergistic benefits with the neuroprotective antioxidant effects of THC and CBD in the prevention of ischemic/reperfusion oxidative injury.
  • blocking hepatic carcinogenesis by aflatoxin, in synergy with the action of medical cannabinoids CBD and CBG.

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