Less discussed is myrcene’s ability to prevent the metabolism of certain drugs by inhibiting an enzyme. As a bonus, toxins become less effective which prevents adverse reactions from the terpene itself. Myrcene purportedly affects THC potency in more ways than one, though.
In da’ couch with myrcene
Terpenes are a vital asset to any cannabis strain but there are still many mysteries to their mechanisms. Myrcene, for example, is a major monoterpene that more or less dominates Indica cultivars from Afghanistan. Combined with thiols, the terpene produces a pungent skunk odour. Although, myrcene is reminiscent of musky stone fruits by itself.
Sedation is a common effect brought on by myrcene since it agonizes the receptor, α2 adreno. Hypotension and a slow heart rate fall in line with sedation, giving THC a heavier effect. Beyond this, studies suggest that myrcene can further increase the potency of THC by opening the blood-brain barrier. With a more porous entry to the brain, greater quantities of THC can flood into intoxicating receptors. But myrcene has another trick to increase THC’s bioavailability.
Blocking metabolism and THC’s longer welcome
Drugs are often broken down in the liver by isoforms of an enzyme known as CYP450. Tetrahydrocannabinol is no different and myrcene inhibits different isoforms of CYP450. This will prevent smoked THC (any THCa that decarboxylates upon inhalation) from breaking down in the body, increasing potency. Essentially, myrcene allows for a greater potency by preventing the metabolism of THC by allowing more cannabinoids to soak into your receptors.
Peeling back the truth about mangoes and THC
Mangoes contain a little myrcene which manifested a false myth that eating a mango will affect the potency of THC. In reality, mangoes are likely not rich enough in terpenes to achieve the dose required to affect THC potency. Grapefruit, on the other hand, affects the metabolism of drugs by inhibiting CYP450 enzymes.
Although, myrcene and other CYP450 inhibiting drugs will affect edible THC differently than inhaled cannabinoids. THC metabolizes into an active substance known as 11-OH-THC, or 11-hydroxyl-THC. Since myrcene inhibits metabolism, it might decrease an edible’s potency, depending on the edible and individual.
While CYP450 inhibitors can negatively interact with other medications, causing serious problems, they do procure a major benefit. Myrcene is toxic in acute doses according to an in vitro study on human liver cells characterizing hepatoma, a form of cancer. A more recent study conducted by a company that sells myrcene containing beverages provided evidence to refute potential toxicity from myrcene.
The terpene can still produce a toxic effect in doses humans are not normally exposed to, but the toxicity is entirely inhibited by other mechanisms of myrcene. Carcinogens and Aflatoxin B, for example, must be broken down by CYP enzymes in order for the body to absorb the toxins. Thankfully, myrcene prevents toxicity by inhibiting CYP enzymes. The inhibition of CYP enzymes blocks many toxins. Then again, the effect can also increase the toxicity of other processes.
Let us know in the comments how you react to high myrcene strains.
- Surendran, S., Qassadi, F., Surendran, G., Lilley, D., & Heinrich, M. (2021). Myrcene-What Are the Potential Health Benefits of This Flavouring and Aroma Agent?. Frontiers in nutrition, 8, 699666.
- Jansen, C., Shimoda, L., Kawakami, J. K., Ang, L., Bacani, A. J., Baker, J. D., Badowski, C., Speck, M., Stokes, A. J., Small-Howard, A. L., & Turner, H. (2019). Myrcene and terpene regulation of TRPV1. Channels (Austin, Tex.), 13(1), 344–366.
- Orlando, J. B., Silva, B. O., Pires-Cunha, C. L., Hiruma-Lima, C. A., Gaivão, I., & Maistro, E. L. (2019). Genotoxic effects induced by beta-myrcene following metabolism by liver HepG2/C3A human cells. Journal of toxicology and environmental health. Part A, 82(3), 176–185.