Close your eyes and open the secret door to a brightly lit garden, where your senses adapt to the ambient light penetrating through your closed eye lids and the noise coming from the fans. Now as you inhale the air slowly, odor molecules enter your nostrils and penetrate your brain, causing an image of a fruit to emerge. It smells sweet, citrusy, and complex and is intertwined with the other odor molecules. The complex aromas emanating from cannabis flowers make you think and perhaps instantly affect your mood. Inhale…exhale… keep smelling… a minute or so later different scents can be visualized. Woodsier, piney smells emerge and linger longer in our nostrils.
The smell filling your nostrils comes from terpenes, a vital component of cannabis essential oils. Terpenes are only one of the various chemicals inside cannabis. Do not be fooled and believe that terpenes are benign chemicals that only exist to give plants their tastes and smells. Terpenes are one of the largest groups of naturally occurring chemicals, and can be made/used by almost all forms of life (plants, protists, bacteria, and animals). Each terpene is unique and can differ widely from another in its chemical structure, smell, therapeutic effect, toxicity, and potency. One of the few things that these nearly ubiquitous chemicals have in common is that they are made from the same building blocks DMAPP (dimethylallyl pyrophosphate) and IPP (isopentenyl pyrophosphate).
Terpenes are widespread in nature and have different functions and cause different biological effects. Terpenes are classified in order of increasing size: hemiterpenes, monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, sesterpenes, triterpenes, and tetraterpenes. The smaller terpenes have fewer carbon molecules and tend to make up more of the yield of most cannabis plants (92% yield compared to 7% large terpenes). Smaller chemicals are not as heavy as the larger ones so they are more volatile and can easily drift through the air, reaching one’s nostrils. As a result, small terpenes can be lost during the drying and extraction of cannabis flower. Furthermore, terpene structure alone is not sufficient to predict its smell or biological function. Even structurally similar chemicals can have distinct smells or even an opposite biological effect.
OF CANNABIS AND MANGO
Some cannabis strains have names inspired by mango, such as Mango Kush, Mango Haze, and Mango Tango. An urban myth event exists that claims eating mango before ingesting cannabis with THC, can get the user higher than otherwise possible and cause a ‘couch-lock effect”. Surprisingly, evidence exists to at least partially support this.
Mango and cannabis both contain a monoterpene called myrcene (mur-scene). Myrcene can also be found in lemongrass, hops, and bay leaves. It is said to have a musky, earthy smell and taste, like cloves. This monoterpene is a common component of popular essential oils and is used as an ingredient in shampoo, soap, and detergents.
We searched the Analytical 360 laboratories test results and found that the cannabis flower of strains such as Gas Mask/ Animal Cookies, Tri Daddy Green, Sapphire Scout, & Jeffry Stonehill contained considerably high levels of myrcene (~1% in total weight of the flower). Surprisingly, some strains with mango inspired names, like Mango Haze, did not have substantial amounts of myrcene. Thus, this highlights the importance of knowing the actual cannabinoid and terpene concentrations, rather than assuming that cannabis strains named after mango will actually contain myrcene.
HOW DOES MYRCENE WORK?
Myrcene has an impressive amount of useful therapeutic effects. For example, it has been shown to protect stomach and duodenal mucosal tissue (duodenal), which is a valuable tool in treating patients with stomach ulcers caused by stress, smoking cigarettes, long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and bacterial infections. If untreated stomach ulcers can result in internal bleeding, severe blood loss, bloody stools and vomit, and can require hospitalization and a blood transfusion. Myrcene treats the irritation by stimulating antioxidant mechanisms that stop the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals that damage the DNA and proteins of cells, a type of damage known as oxidative stress. Oral administration of myrcene in (7.5 mg/kg) experimental models showed anti-ulcer activity with significantly decreased gastric and duodenal lesions and increased gastric mucus production, which protects the mucosal tissue.
One striking feature of myrcene that should not go unexamined is its ability to serve as a neuroprotectant. Myrcene can act on a brain that has experienced damage to large portions of the cerebrum from lack of oxygen (global cerebral ischemic damage). The neuronal cell and tissue death associated with stroke is caused by the accumulation of free radicals and lipid peroxidation, which causes a decrease in antioxidants. Patients experience a decrease in their endogenous antioxidants such as GSH, catalase (CAT), superoxide dismutase (SOD), and gluthatione peroxidase (GPx) levels with an increase in their thiobarbituric acid reactive species (TBARS) levels. Thankfully, myrcene stops oxidative stress in the brain similarly to how it does so in the stomach and duodenum, and increases the levels of antioxidants. In mice experiments, myrcene increased all antioxidants (except CAT) when given in healthy and stroke injury subjects. The evidence suggests that myrcene could be an effective tool in helping strengthen one’s own natural defenses against damage from strokes.
Myrcene likely participates in the cannabis entourage effect, whereby terpenes and cannabinoids (with their own biological effects) enhance, change, or inhibit the therapeutic effects of one another. Myrcene potentiates the sedative, muscle relaxing, and hypnotic effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)7 . In other words, cannabis strains with THC and myrcene may interact to produce what is described as a ‘couch-lock effect’, which in effect is sedative and muscle relaxing effects. Interestingly, myrcene also interacts with cannabidiol (CBD) to treat inflammation and THC and CBD for pain relief.
MYRCENE IN A TOXIC WORLD
Open your eyes, open the garden door, and exit from the enticing, pungent scents of cannabis flowers back to the real world. No matter where in the world you are right now, your land has been or is currently being negatively impacted by pollution. The debris sprinkled along roads, drinking water made un-potable by manufacturing, and the pungent stench of mountains of trash remind us that humans are undoubtedly harming the earth. The storage and destruction of commercial and manufacturing waste is not the only concern. Gasoline car function and the manufacturing process itself can cause toxic chemical by- products. One particularly dangerous compound is tetracholordibenzodioxin (TCDD). It is an emission of steel foundries and motor vehicles and is formed when making paper. TCDD can cause, among other diseases, liver cancer in animals exposed to a small amount over an extended period of time. Even worse, this pollutant can have a long-lasting effect on natural environments because it accumulates over time. As a consequence, it causes cancer by promoting an increase in an organism’s liver TBARS levels and a decrease in its liver antioxidants GSH, CAT, SOD, and GPx8. If given, myrcene stops the progression of free radicals and can be used to treat oxidative stress from pollution. So, the chemical that is thought to cause couch-lock effect, gives cannabis its smell, and enhances mangoes great flavor, may also protect environments susceptible to pollution from motor vehicles, steel mills, and paper factories.
**references listed in printed version