Users and non-users both agree that cannabis (marijuana) has an unmistakable scent. The smell is potent and has a dank, musky odor that many have likened to that of a skunk. Many say it reminds them of a skunk. That distinct smell also carries hints of herbs, florals, or fruits (mainly citrus). The scent varies depending on the strain and the age of the plant but never strays far from its central musky, skunky theme.
What Are Terpenes
Terpenes (pronounced tur-peens) are responsible for the distinct aroma and flavor of cannabis and plants in general. Interest in these compounds has increased following positive research outcomes. Many studies show that these compounds may stimulate neurological functions and even enhance your overall psychological and physical wellbeing.
Over 20,000 different types exist of terpenes exist, and they are typically a component of the plant’s essential oils. These compounds occur naturally, and’ you’ll find them in a plant’s resin glands or hair-like trichomes. The food, perfume, and cosmetic industries use natural and synthetic versions of terpenes extensively.
And, of course, these terpenes are also found in the typical hemp oil formulas you can find just about anywhere these days.
Terpenes consist of a volatile group of repeating units of a 5-carbon molecule called isoprene. These unstable aromatic molecules have varied numbers of isoprene units. Terpenes are grouped by how many of these units they contain.
In addition to providing a plant’s signature scent, terpenes play several crucial biological roles. Some of them give the plants protection from insects, herbivores, bacteria, fungus, and other environmental stresses. Others play a part in photosynthesis and cell membrane stability. Some others also attract the insects necessary for pollination (signaling) and act as source compounds for several plant hormones.
Terpenes In Cannabis
Cannabis is home to more than 150 different types of terpenes. The synthesis and storage of cannabinoids and terpenes occur in the same glandular trichomes. Cannabinoids, however, have a direct effect on the body. Terpenes, on the other hand, modulate the effects of cannabinoids as well give each strain of the plant its characteristic aroma and taste.
Despite there being hundreds of terpenes present in the plant though, many are not present in significant amounts. Terpenes present in substantial quantities include Humulene, Beta-Caryophyllene (Caryophyllene or BCP), Linalool, Limonene, Alpha-Pinene, Ocimene, Terpinolene, and Myrcene are the most common terpenes found in cannabis.
The type and quantity of terpenes present in cannabis can vary a fair amount from one strain to the next. These compounds offer a wide array of medicinal benefits. Some have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and stress-relieving properties. Others offer anti-anxiety, relaxing, sedating, and anti-depressant effects.
You can use cannabinoids and terpenes on their own. However, when combined, the two compounds are capable of working synergistically. This ability enhances their therapeutic potential. Researchers call this the “entourage effect.” Pinene, for example, can reduce cognition and memory impairment brought about by THC. A combination of caryophyllene, myrcene, and pinene can help mitigate and treat anxiety.
In cannabis plants, the highest level of terpenes belongs to myrcene is the most abundant terpene found in cannabis plants. Some studies say it makes up almost half the terpene content found in the plant. The compound gets its name from a Brazilian shrub called Myrcia sphaerocarpa. The roots of this plant contain large amounts of myrcene and have been used widely as part of traditional remedies. Ailments treated with this plant include diabetes, dysentery, diarrhea, and hypertension.
Myrcene is classified as a monoterpene as it consists of two isoprene units. This olefinic natural organic hydrocarbon is also known as alpha-myrcene or beta-myrcene. In terms of aroma, myrcene has a musky, earthy smell. It also comes across as spicy like cardamom, cloves, or like ripe or fermented fruit. The scent is more pungent in higher concentrations.
Cannabis contains the highest levels of myrcene, but the compound is also present in other types of plants, herbs, and fruits. These include hops, lemongrass, chamomile, citrus fruits, bay leaves, eucalyptus, and wild thyme.
Mangos also contain myrcene. Some studies even show that eating a ripe mango before using cannabis heightens the plant’s psychoactive effects.
Many believe that myrcene also plays a crucial role in distinguishing between the two major types of cannabis plants, which are Indica or Sativa. Studies suggest myrcene levels are higher (.05% +) in Indica varieties.
Medical Properties Of Myrcene
Myrcene is highly regarded for its ability to enhance or diminish the effects of cannabinoids. Studies show that it does this by assisting the passage of cannabinoids through the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB is the brain’s semipermeable protective border. Its primary purpose is to keep any toxins or pathogens present in the circulatory system away from the brain.
By reducing how selective this layer is, myrcene increases the absorption of cannabinoids by the brain, which helps boosts their efficacy. Myrcene is also crucial in the production of other terpenes. Studies show that this compound also synergizes the antibiotic potential of other terpenes.
Studies suggest that myrcene has many medicinal properties. The ability to sedate in high doses is the compound’s most major effect. Myrcenealso has anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain reliever), antibiotic, and anti-proliferative/anti-mutagenic (reduces the size of tumors) effects. The compound is also an antispasmodic and can, therefore, act as a natural muscle relaxant.
Researchers have also found that this compound improves glucose tolerance and may be able to help people struggling with type 2 diabetes. When combined with CBD-rich strains, myrcene enhances the cannabinoid’s ability to decrease inflammation and pain as well as fight cancer an depression.
Potential Myrcene Side Effects
Myrcene’s effects are mainly sedative and relaxing. In high doses (higher than 0.5%), however, some users may experience a tired or stoned feeling. This condition inhibits proper function. Cannabis users call it the couch-lock effect.
You can avoid couch-lock by drinking high glucose soft drinks or coffee, tea, or energy drinks. Using only CBD-rich strains is another way to prevent this side effect. CBD blocks CB1 receptors in the brain. This action minimizes the risk of over-sedation.
Buying and Using Myrcene
Myrcene can be isolated and extracted from cannabis in the same manner used to obtain cannabinoids. You can, therefore, add it to your favorite CBD products if the lab report shows it’s not present. Keep the following in mind for a pleasant experience.
- Buy your myrcene extract only from a reputable vendor.
- Store the compound in an airtight container as it is volatile. Also keep it away from heat, open flames, sunlight, combustible materials, and hot surfaces.
- Myrcene comes in highly concentrated solutions. Always dilute it before using it to avoid skin and gastric irritation.