Cannabis has one of the most varied arrays of fragrances – many unique to individual strains or strain families. Its undeniable skunky odor is more distinguishable than almost any other on earth, and until the recent shift in public perception of cannabis, it was imperative to keep these sensory explosions sealed tightly in glass jars – masking the plant's terpenes.
Terpenes are the aromatic elements of essential plant oils and are found in all spices, fruits and vegetables. They are the most common plant chemicals in nature and serve a significant role in differentiating the effects of various cannabis strains. Terpenes are produced in the same resinous glands that produce cannabinoids like THC and CBD, and are also pharmacologically active and synergistic with these cannabinoids.
Interest in terpenes has been steadily increasing as states continue to legalize cannabis and consumer curiosity and education spread. For many decades, cannabis research almost solely focused on the therapeutic effects of THC and CBD, but as research shifts toward terpenes, we are learning they are much more participatory in the medical effects of cannabis -- potentially serving as a blueprint for a strain's effects. Some terpenes may promote relaxation and sleep, others energy and focus.
There are more than 200 known terpenes in the cannabis plant alone. One of the most commonly researched and sought-after by consumers and medical marijuana patients alike is myrcene. Myrcene is also found in hops, mangos, lemon grass, thyme and many other plants.
Myrcene accounts for 35-50% of all terpene compounds found in cannabis and is often referred to as a “fundamental terpene" due to its dominant presence in cannabis flower. This is because it has one of the simplest chemical structures of any aroma molecule.
Also referred to as the “relaxation terpene," myrcene is widely sought after for its reliably sedating effects. Some of the varieties with the highest myrcene level are Grand Daddy Purple, Harlequin, Girl Scout Cookies, and ACDC.
I can't explore myrcene without addressing the most current cannabis folklore: Does eating a mango before you consume cannabis intensify the high? A simple web search yields a pool of conflicting experiences, but it is widely believed that since myrcene is so prominent in both cannabis and mangos, the combination will interweave and produce a more intense high. I love mangoes and have never experienced this – but the mystery remains among many stoner circles. For now, I'd take it as another fairy tale. Clearly, much more research must be done before the true purpose of terpenes in both wellness and predicting a strains effects before concrete claims can be made. We're getting there!
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