In other articles, we have discussed how terpenes affect your body, one of the most important of which is a terpene known as myrcene. Myrcene is found in high abundance in many foods and herbs, including the cannabis plant. It has been found to be safe and non-toxic and is commonly used in many food flavoring and additives. It is also believed to have many health and medicinal benefits, claims which have been supported by a growing mountain of science in the last few years.
Myrcene is an important part of the “entourage” compounds that affect the body alongside THC in cannabis and affects many of the same pathways in the body. Myrcene also seems to mimic or enhance many of the same properties which CBD holds, regarding health benefits. Indeed, it has been shown to act upon the CB-2 receptors in the body in much the same way. As such, it is an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and also helpful in the fight against cancer by promoting cell apoptosis. Myrcene is also a mild sedative and works synergistically with THC to provide a relaxing and comfortable feeling of smoking marijuana. Eating foods high in myrcene, such as mangos, lemongrass, bay leaves, and hops an hour before consuming cannabis is thought to enhance the high derived from THC and also aid in healthy sleep.
What evidence is there for the benefits of myrcene
Still, only a limited number of studies have been done on the effectiveness and health benefits of myrcene, but many of them are showing promise. Some of the early studies, such as one from 1990 found it to have ‘significant’ inhibition of nociception, in other words, it decreases the detection of pain in the body by stimulating the release of endogenous opioids. A study on rats the following year found that a lemongrass infusion (high in myrcene) had both pain-relieving and sedative effects, which were similar to, but through a different mechanism then, aspirin.
Similar results were found in a 2012 study that looked at citral, which contained a mix of the terpenes limonene and myrcene. It found the mixture to have both pain-relieving and sedative effects in mice, although it should be mentioned that they also noticed a slight increase in anxiety levels of the mice.
Myrcene has also been promoted for its anti-oxidant properties, such as in a 2011 study where it was compared alongside curcumin and showed a strong correlation with a decrease in oxidative stresses in rats.
Similar to the terpene Limonene (found in citrus fruits and cannabis), Myrcene has been shown to play a role in the production of protective mucous which lines the Gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The mucus layer of the GI tract is both a chemical and physical barrier which protects the surface cells of the stomach and gut. When this is compromised, it can lead to indigestion, acid reflux, infections, ulcers, and leaky gut syndrome. A 2014 study found that Myrcene contributed to the production and maintenance of this mucus layer of the gut, and furthermore showed positive action in the treatment of gastric ulcers. When rats where given ethanol or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), lesions in the stomachs were much less in the group treated with Myrcene then the control group. This has also been shown in several studies regarding the closely related limonene, and it may be that the two work in concert together to maintain digestive health.
Myrcene and cancer treatment
Many studies and reviews have implicated Myrcene for its analgesic, sedative, anti-oxidative, and anti-inflammatory effects, all of which are important considerations in the treatment of cancer. The evidence is still thin, but multiple studies concerning multiple lines of treatment indicated that Myrcene might be complementary to traditional cancer therapies by both reducing negative side effects, and improving the effectiveness of conventional treatments. In the above study, it was even found that Myrcene can assist medications in passing through the blood-brain barrier, which is instrumental in the treatment of many conditions, including often fatal Aspergillus fungal infections experienced by Leukemia and lymphoma patients who undergo stem cell transplants.
Another application of myrcene may be in the treatment of the Candida fungus. The Candida fungus exists in all humans but is controlled by the body’s immune system. However, the prevalence of disease caused by the fungus is growing worldwide as more people are being treated for cancer or for other conditions which require immunosuppressant drugs (transplant patients, cancer patients, HIV patients, etc.) Furthermore, the fungus is becoming more resistant to anti-fungal drugs due to their widespread use.
The majority of cancer patients have to battle this fungus at some point as when patients undergo chemotherapy the immune system is suppressed or compromised. When the body can no longer control the fungus, Candida can grow out of control, generally leading to mucositis and other issues in the mouth, esophagus, and GI Tract. Lemongrass has long been used in folk remedy to treat outbreaks of the Candida fungus, and the reason is for its high concentration of Myrcene.
A 2012 study looked at the role lemongrass played in the treatment of candida fungus and found that it both prevented the fungus from adhering to the mucous membranes of the mouth, but also prevented its growth, with an 80% reduction.
So, although Myrcene has not been shown conclusively to treat cancers, it can alleviate some of the side effects, improve the efficacy of traditional treatments, and improve the quality of life for patients undergoing cancer treatment.
Where to find Myrcene?
Myrcene is one of the 10 most abundant terpenes found in cannabis but is a phytocannabinoid that exists in high proportion in many other plants as well. As discussed above, a major source includes lemongrass, as well as hops, bay leaves, thyme, and basil. Consuming these foods may help to maintain healthy levels of myrcene in the body, however, if you are trying to use it for medical purposes it may be more advantageous to purchasing extracts or essential oils high in the compound. As discussed in other articles on our site, Mangoes are a good source of myrcene and are promoted as a complement to the consumption of cannabis in enhancing the high and aiding in sleep.