Myrcene: The Surprising Pain-Fighting Terpene

There’s more to cannabis than meets the eye (or the nose!). Since the discovery of the cannabinoids by Israeli researcher Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, we’ve focused much of our attention on these powerful plant-based compounds. But while cannabinoids such as THC and CBD have fascinating healing effects on our bodies, they’re not the only game in town.

We’ve already introduced the concept of terpenes in a previous blog. Today we’re going to drill down even further by focusing on myrcene, the most abundant terpene in cannabis. In addition to engaging in a wide range of powerful interactions on our bodies—fighting pain and easing inflammation, for a start—a given cannabis plant’s myrcene content is so important that it determines whether it falls into the indica or sativa families.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s start by describing this incredibly potent plant compound.

What Does Myrcene Smell and Taste Like?

Because myrcene is the most prevalent of the cannabis plant’s roughly 200 known terpenes, it can be hard to separate it from all the other aromatic elements. But if you’ve ever detected an earthy scent in cannabis that reminds you of lemongrass, basil, bay laurel or—most distinctively—fresh mangoes, you’re probably sensing myrcene. While myrcene is only a single terpene, it’s the chemical precursor to many others, making it perhaps the single most important member of the terpene family.

myrcene in mangoes

As we hinted earlier, the myrcene content of a given cannabis plant is so important that it determines whether or not it will have an energizing, sativa-like effect or a sedative, indica-like effect. Let’s take a closer look at some of those effects and learn how this terpene interacts with our bodies.

What Does Myrcene Do For Us?

The fact that a cannabis plant’s myrcene content determines whether or not it's sedative is a powerful hint. Cannabis strains containing over o.5% myrcene content are believed to have broadly sedative effects, and this may aid in pain relief. Why? Well, in studies on rodents, myrcene has been shown to reduce the perception of pain by helping to stimulate opioid receptors. Studies on humans back this up, as does a wealth of anecdotal evidence. (Though we need more research into whether the myrcene in cannabis works in precisely the same way.)

myrcene in cannabis oil

Like many of the other terpenes we’ll be introducing you to, myrcene plays a role in reducing inflammation, as a 2015 study on osteoarthritis found. (Good reason to stock up on topicals, hint hint.)

How to Find it in Cannabis

Many cannabis strains are already naturally high in myrcene, so it’s not hard to come across. Here are a few of our current favorites.

myrcene in cannabis

Blue Dream is a popular and readily available strain, characterized by sweet berry aromas and gentle cerebral effects. Its high myrcene content provides anti-inflammatory and analgesic qualities.

Grape Ape is, a dense, dank, high-THC indica. With a pronounced grape flavor from Mendocino Purps, the calming body high of a classic Afghani and the pungent scent of Skunk #1, this strain delivers a powerful and lasting full-body high.

OG Kush is a potent high-THC strain, and its piney, peppery and earthy aromas lead many fans to label it the ultimate “dank” weed. Its pleasurable effects include strong euphoria and general uplift, but be forewarned: It can exhibit powerful “couch lock”!

Want to stock up on your favorite myrcene-rich strains? Stop by Clear Choice in Bremerton or Tacoma today!

Terpenes and Cannabinoids: What They Are and Why You Want Them Both

A few years into the cannabis revolution, it’s a safe bet that—like most savvy cannasseurs—you’re familiar with the idea of cannabinoids. A collection of fascinating compounds which includes THC and CBD, cannabinoids are often described as the “active ingredients” in cannabis.

That’s a pretty decent way to put it, all things considered. THC, after all, is the cannabinoid responsible for the delightful euphoria we know as “being high,” as well as a host of other, equally fascinating effects in our bodies and minds.

And CBD—seemingly the hot new cannabinoid of the season—is responsible for a wide and growing list of effects on our bodies. Preliminary studies suggest it’s a powerful medicine for pain, anxiety, certain types of seizures, and potentially even cancer (though that particular goal is still a long ways away).

But that definition of cannabinoids falls short in one crucial measure. Increasingly, it’s becoming clear that they’re not the only “active ingredients” in cannabis. Welcome to the world of terpenes!

Terpenes and Cannabinoids: How They’re Different

Terpenes and Cannabinoids flower next to oils

Cannabinoids are responsible for the most obvious effects of cannabis ingestion, including its euphoric and highly relaxing qualities. So far, over 100 of them have been identified, and it’s becoming clear is that no single one is responsible for all the plant’s effects in the body. Instead, it appears they work in conjunction with one another, which is one reason many cannabis advocates prefer “whole plant” as opposed to extracted medicines.

But there’s an entirely different class of natural compounds in cannabis called terpenes. Sometimes they’re called “terpenoids." Even though the two words have slightly different technical meanings, they’re often used interchangeably.

Even if you’ve never heard of terpenes or terpenoids, you’ve sensed them. The spicy, peppery aroma and flavor you’re picking up on? That’s most likely myrcene, the most abundant of the roughly 200 thus identified in the cannabis plant. The bright citrus notes behind the pungent smell of Sour Diesel? It’s probably limonene, another common terpene.

Popular Terpenes

Terpenes are a category of fragrant hydrocarbons—that’s “essential oils” to you and me—that give different strains of cannabis, as well as countless other plants and natural substances, their distinctive aromas and flavors. So far as we currently know, terpenes don’t play as prominent a role as do cannabinoids in determining a particular cannabis strain’s characteristics, but that’s not to say they’re not important. Research has already revealed some startling facts—and intriguing possibilities—about how terpenes interact with our bodies. For instance:

Cannabinoids and Terpenes, Myrcene under magnifying glass

Myrcene has powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-fighting) qualities. Its been shown to reduce the perception of pain by helping stimulate opioid receptors in animal-based studies. Studies on humans—as well as anecdotal evidence—suggest our bodies respond the same way as well.

And the myrcene content of a cannabis plant is so important that it dictates whether or not the cannabis will exhibit a sativa-like energizing effect or an indica-like sedative effect.

Limonene: Limonene may have a role to play in medicine’s holy grail: Fighting cancer. Studies published by the University of Arizona suggest that this terpene not only helps regulate our immune system but may also play a direct role in controlling the spread of certain cancers themselves.

Eucalyptol: This pleasantly cooling terpene exhibits powerful anti-bacterial effects, and it’s effective against such nasty bugs as E. coli, Enterobacter, and Staphylococcus. Without any doubt, having cannabis certainly beats having food poisoning.

If you’d like to learn more about terpenes and cannabinoids, we’re always happy to share our knowledge. Stop by our Tacoma or Bremerton locations or drop us a line. We’d love to get to know you better!

Can Cannabis Cure Insomnia & Sleep Deprivation?

There’s not much better than a great night’s sleep. There’ nothing much worse than tossing and turning, counting sheep, and laying awake until the sun comes up.

The importance of sleep can’t be understated. It helps your body process memories from the day, protects your immune system, and restores the body. Lack of sleep can literally drive you crazy.

Fortunately, cannabis can be a powerful sleep aid. It’s no surprise that one of the top self-reported reasons for using cannabis is because it can help you sleep.

Why can cannabis help you sleep?

The endocannabinoid system — the body’s own cannabinoid system — is one of the body’s most important physiological systems. It’s involved in virtually every aspect of one’s physical and emotional health. So it should be no surprise, that the endocannabinoid mediates most the body’s rhythmic processes and can exert powerful influence over sleep.

How can cannabis help?

Cannabis can be helpful in a number of ways, from making it easier to fall asleep to helping you stay asleep once you've fallen asleep:

Cannabis may make falling asleep easier

Most sleep medications only have a nominal effect on the time it takes you to fall asleep. An National Institutes of Health study found that popular sleep medications accelerate sleep by a mere 12.8 minutes. Studies, on the other hand, have shown that a moderate amount of THC can help the insomnia-prone fall asleep up to an hour faster.

Cannabis may help you sleep more soundly during the night

Studies have demonstrated that cannabis can also help you sleep better at night, staying asleep longer without interruption. However, consume too much cannabis and you might feel drowsy the next day — a sort of cannabis “hangover.”

Cannabis may help you breathe better

Remarkably, 9% of women and 17% of men have what’s termed “sleep apnea” — problems breathing when they sleep. A 2013 study by researchers at the University of Illinois published a study in the Frontiers in Psychology journal that provides evidence THC may open breathing pathways, thus making breathing easier.

CBD may help you sleep better (or keep you awake)

Anecdotally, through patients and clinicians, we hear CBD or strains rich in CBD work great for sleep. However, studies have demonstrated contradictory findings. Some studies have shown CBD can be a “wake-inducing” agent, meaning it would keep you alert and awake. Other studies suggest patients experience more restful sleep when administering CBD an hour or two before bed.

The reason for the disparity may likely be dose-dependent. Most drugs exert biphasic (or multiphasic) effects, meaning low and high doses affect people differently. CBD may be a wake inducing agent at lower doses and sleep inducing at slightly higher doses. For patients, finding the right dose can take a bit of trial and error.

It’s also possible that environment influences the effects of CBD. One animal study tested this hypothesis by administering CBD to rats with the lights on and the lights off. Interestingly, when the lights were on, CBD promoted wakefulness with the lights on and sleep with the lights off. The findings led researchers to conclude CBD may be helpful to treat patients suffering from somnolence (excessive daytime sleepiness).

Indica-dominant strains are generally better for sleep than sativa-dominant strains

Sativa-dominant strains are more likely to produce a stimulating head high, while indica-dominant strains are known for producing more sedative effects. Why? Most people think it has to do with THC. People incorrectly believe indica-dominant strains have more THC, so they are more sedative. This is actually incorrect. There are low THC indica-dominant strains, and high THC sativa-dominant strains (check out Durban Poison).

The reason indica-dominant strains produce a greater sedative effect is that they contain higher levels of a terpene called “myrcene.” Myrcene influences the permeability of cell membranes, and in fact, helps THC cross the blood-brain barrier more easily. Sativa-dominant strains have less than .5% myrcene, while indica-dominant strains often have between 1 and 3%.

Some popular indica-dominant strains for sleep are Granddaddy Purple, Bubba Kush, Northern Lights, Blue Cheese, Afghan Kush.

CBN may prove to be the ultimate insomnia-fighting cannabinoid

Everyone knows THC. More and more people are becoming familiar with CBD. But, CBN, another cannabinoid is generating interest for its potential as a sleep-inducing agent. Some are calling CBN, “the cannabinoid that helps you sleep.” While research is still lacking, many people report positive outcomes with CBN-rich strains. However, many strains are not particularly rich in CBN, as THC produces CBN when it degrades (after being exposed to light and oxygen — a process called oxidation. Over time, CBN levels in stored cannabis flower will increase. And, the poorer the storage method, the better — at least if you’re looking to increase CBN content.

Clearly, cannabis can be an effective sleep aid. However, cannabis (and all sleep medications) should be only be used as a temporary fix. It's important to also integrate lifestyle changes including more exercise (which helps boost vital cannabinoids in the body), better diet, relaxation techniques, meditation, and other effective methods that don’t pose any risks long-term. Likewise, everyone's body reacts differently to various cannabis strains. So keep in mind, it may take a bit of trial and error to find the strain that works the best.

 

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