A Guide to Myrcene, a Dominant Terpene in Hemp and Cannabis Strains
Terpenes, the organic, highly fragrant chemical compounds found in the essential oils of many plants and flowers, are what give various cannabis strains their unique flavor and scent profiles. Ever wonder what gives cannabis its earthy, musky smell? It’s myrcene (pronounced MUR-seen), one of the most common terpenes found in cannabis.
What is Myrcene?
Myrcene is a monoterpene, a significant compound found in the essential oils of many plants, including fruits, vegetables, and spices.
In addition to cannabis, myrcene is abundant in herbs, like parsley, bay, and thyme, and in mangoes and hops. It also appears in lemongrass, a popular ingredient in traditional folk medicine for centuries. It is responsible for your favorite beer’s freshly herbaceous and distinctively “hoppy” aroma.
Health Benefits of Myrcene
Like other terpenes, myrcene has numerous health benefits. Myrcene comes from the Mycia sphaerocarpa, a medicinal shrub native to Brazil. Traditional uses for the plant include managing various health conditions, like hypertension, dysentery, and diabetes.
Modern myrcene research indicates this term is:
- Antimicrobial: A 2001 study revealed that myrcene and other cannabis terpenes have antimicrobial properties, which can fight bacteria and disease.
- Anti-inflammatory: Studies show myrcene has anti-inflammatory properties. It helps pain relief by reducing inflammation in cells surrounding nerve endings, which addresses the root cause of chronic pain.
- Antioxidant: As an antioxidant, myrcene can help reverse aging effects and reduce oxidative stress in a study on rats.
Physiological Effects of Myrcene
Myrcene has calming and soothing effects on the body and mind. Myrcene is also known to promote euphoria and mood elevation. Lemongrass tea, which is strong in myrcene, has long been used in holistic medicine as a sedative compound and muscle relaxer.
Some positive effects of myrcene include:
- Sleep improvement
- Pain reduction
- Mood enhancement
- Anxiety and stress relief
Myrcene Potency in Cannabis Strains
Myrcene brings relaxing effects to many well-known cannabis strains. (More aptly named “cultivars,” cannabis strains are varieties harvested to contain specific cannabinoid and terpene concentrations).
Myrcene is the most abundant terpene found in modern cannabis cultivars, serving as the dominant one in almost 50% of strain profiles. Because it’s so prevalent, myrcene synergizes with cannabinoids and terpenes to amplify the plant’s health benefits and determine its psychoactive profile. This phenomenon is known as the “Entourage Effect.”
High myrcene strains are typically associated with a quick and powerful high due to myrcene’s role in enhancing transdermal absorption, which facilitates the transport of cannabinoids to the brain. The amount of myrcene in a strain can also help determine its effects:
- Cultivars high in myrcene (usually 0.5% or greater) typically have a more soothing, calming effect. Because myrcene is known for causing whole-body relaxation, the intense body high can sometimes cause physical sedation called couch lock.
- Myrcene-dominant strains can also have mood-boosting effects. Sometimes this can lead to people feeling mentally stimulated and more focused.
How to Find Myrcene-Dominant Strains
Consumers often face a challenge when looking for cultivars with specific terpene profiles. Most cannabis product labels don’t advertise terpene concentrations. Instead, brands focus on THC potency, and market products as “Indica” (for calming) or “Sativa” (for energizing).
However, this labeling strategy is seriously flawed. A study of Indica and Sativa products revealed those terms lack scientific meaning and can’t accurately describe strains’ cannabinoid and terpene profile or overall effects. Understanding a product’s complete chemical profile, also known as its chemovar, is the only way to pick the right product.
So consumers looking for high-myrcene strains must ask budtenders for help or learn to read products’ Certificates of Analysis (COA) (available from product QR codes) to find out. Brands that work with third-party laboratories to obtain a full-panel chemical analysis will have a COA containing a complete list of terpene concentrations.
Top 5 Myrcene-Dominant Strains and Effects
The only way to know exactly how much myrcene each strain (or cultivar) contains is to look at the COA results from a qualified third-party laboratory. However, the popular strains are a great place to start.
1. Blue Dream
- Myrcene average: 0.8%
- Energizing or sedative, depending on dosage
Fruity and sweet like a batch of freshly picked blueberries, Blue Dream delivers an intense high that provides opposite effects depending on the dosage. A relatively small amount can energize people like a cup of coffee, whereas higher doses provide strong sedative effects and “couch lock” qualities. The Blue Dream cultivar is popular with medical patients looking to manage symptoms of pain, stress, and anxiety or those seeking feelings of well-being and intense mental stimulation.
2. OG Kush
- Myrcene average: 0.7%
- Uplifting and relaxing
Possibly the most famous cultivar of the past few decades, OG Kush packs a punch with its THC content usually exceeding 20% and regularly approaching the high 20s. The strain is versatile, making users feel uplifted, happy, and relaxed. It’s perfect for those who want to kick back after a long day.
The intense effects make it a go-to variety for medical users coping with chronic pain and insomnia or looking to stimulate their appetite and alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.
- Myrcene average: 0.7%
- Clear-headedness and focus
Harlequin has a high-CBD chemovar with a reliable CBD to THC ratio of about 5 to 2. Most users find it mildly intoxicating, if at all. Medical patients turn to this cultivar to manage chronic pain and inflammation, such as due to fibromyalgia, or to help relieve anxiety without the fogginess and heavy feeling associated with getting too high. Many users love it for the relative clear-headedness and focus it imparts.
4. Purple Urkle
- Myrcene average: 0.4%
- Relaxing and sleepy
Tasting like grapes and sweet berries, Purple Urkle delivers powerfully relaxing effects that leave users feeling warm and cozy. Its intense physical relaxation is ideal for alleviating muscle spasms, anxiety, and nausea symptoms.
It’s also a perfect bedtime strain for those fighting insomnia. This cannabis cultivar is right for people looking to sleep better, not to help get chores done.
5. Granddaddy Purple
- Myrcene average: 0.3%
- Natural sedative and euphoric
Granddaddy Purple is a West Coast favorite known for its stunning purple color, bold effects, and tasting like grapes, berries, and candy. It delivers intense feelings of euphoria and relaxation and helps with pain, anxiety, and depression. It acts as a natural sedative and is best to take at night. Users can expect to get the munchies before locking into a cozy couch slumber.
How to Get the Most Myrcene From Cannabis and Nature
Many options are available for consuming cannabis, from smoking and vaping to oils and beverages. But what is the best way to get the most myrcene in your system?
Smoking vs. Vaping
Historically, inhalation is the most common way to consume cannabis and its terpenes. However, heat degrades all terpenes, and high-heat applications like smoking can burn off some of the more fragile terpenes before their effects kick in. Smoking also diminishes the flavor and aroma.
Many consider vaping, which occurs at lower temperatures, better suited for inhaling terpenes. Vaping allows for a cleaner taste that respects the aromatic profile of each cultivar because it doesn’t mix in other flavors, such as from paper, smoke, or tobacco.
Water-soluble terpenes are readily available and easy to use, with just one to four drops usually sufficient per 8 ounces of water. Green tea, mango tea, and citrus energy drinks are good bases for adding drops of myrcene oils and extracts to increase terpene levels. Consumers can also find terpene “shots” featuring top compounds like myrcene, linalool, and limonene in flavorful, nutrient-rich blends.
Edibles are not the best myrcene source because the cooking and digestive processes typically leave the body without much to absorb. According to MG Magazine, people would need to eat edibles in massive doses of 1,200 mg to 12,000 mg to feel the effects of terpenes. Even the most potent, full-spectrum concoction (which is 40% terpenes) still provides a terpene dose 200 times less than what’s needed to feel the effects.
Tinctures are one of the most effective ways to consume terpenes like myrcene because they contain highly concentrated extracts. Plus, this alcohol-based elixir can easily absorb and enter the bloodstream by placing it under the tongue, where it kicks in much faster than edibles. We recommend terpene tinctures for maximum myrcene absorption and concentration.
The Bottom Line
Myrcene is a powerful terpene that dominates the terpene profiles in many cannabis cultivars today. Finding cannabis products high in myrcene requires speaking with budtenders or looking for brands that thoroughly test their products.
Most brands test for cannabinoid potency only, but the best ones also quantify terpene levels. Consumers should scan products’ QR codes and review the COA to find out.
At ACS Laboratory, the most trusted cannabis testing facility, we work with brands nationwide to provide accurate cannabinoid and terpene analyses, testing for 38 terpenes, including myrcene. Contact us today to determine your product’s complete chemical profile.