There are many examples in the natural world of substances complementing each other. The two substances, when singular, serve their unique purpose. But when combined they create something much better.

Take hydrogen and oxygen for example. When separate they exist as gases. Combined they create H2O, the most important substance for life on the planet. Symbiosis is a similar concept. Two organisms work together to develop a superior environment for one another.

A third example is the entourage effect. This is the unique relationship between terpenes (like myrcene) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). To learn how they complement each other let's first discuss the individual substances.

THC is the primary cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It is the main psychoactive, or mind-altering, component. It produces the euphoric high associated with marijuana.
Many people don't realize that it is one of 400 compounds present in cannabis plants. The amount of THC in a plant is what determines the potency of each individual strain.

Myrcene and THC

Also called terpenoids, terpenes are another type of organic compound found in cannabis plants. Terpenes are responsible for the distinct aromas and various flavours you smell and taste in different strains of cannabis. Production of terpenes occurs in the cells of the hair-like structures called trichomes. Trichomes are located on the leaf and stem surfaces of marijuana plants. Each strain of cannabis has a unique combination (or profile) of terpene oils. The flavour and aroma of individual strains depend on the combination of terpenes and their concentrations.

Currently, the number of terpenes isolated using methods like supercritical CO2 extraction stands at more than 200. Out of the 200, there are about 10 that occur more frequently and in higher concentrations than the rest. These are the primary terpenes. The top 5 include:


With a lemony aroma, this terpene is also found in citrus fruit rinds, peppermint, and juniper. It has a mood elevation and stress relief effect. Limonene is also used to treat depression and anxiety.


Identifiable by a strong pine scent it is one of the most common terpenes. It is present in pine needles as well as certain herbs like parsley, basil, and rosemary. Known to enhance memory, alertness, and creativity it is also used to ease asthma.


A delicate sweet floral scent is the signature aroma of this terpene. Linalool is the compound extracted from lavender. Uses include aromatherapy and other pharmaceutical applications. Its sedative properties encourage relaxation and give it an anti-anxiety effect. It has also been used to counteract convulsions during epileptic seizures.


The spicy notes of this terpene give black pepper its strong flavour. it's also responsible for the woody flavour found in cloves. Caryophyllene is best known for inhibiting pain and inflammation. it makes an excellent analgesic and anti-inflammatory.


Responsible for the earthy, musk-like aroma found in many cannabis strains. Myrcene is the most common type of terpene and also has a tropical taste to it. it's found in very high concentrations in mangoes. it also provides the signature flavour of hops, thyme, and lemongrass. Myrcene is quite unique compared to other terpenes. Because it's so prevalent in cannabis plants, the concentration of myrcene helps determine whether a plant is an Indica or Sativa. If present in concentrations above 0.5%, myrcene has the standard sedative effect of an Indica. If the myrcene content is less than 0.5% it gives the opposite energizing, joyful Sativa-like experience. Being the most common type of terpene, myrcene plays a major role in the entourage effect.


The entourage effect is the phenomenon when a group of compounds work in unison to produce a synergy of sorts. The substances alone produce no noticeable benefits. But when combined they provide medicinal, health, and euphoric benefits. The entourage effect specifically defines the relationship between THC and terpenes.

Being the most abundant of all terpenes, many scientific studies focus on the myrcene-cannabinoid reaction.


The isolation of terpene oils is a growing field of interest in cannabis research and extraction. Studies found that myrcene increases blood-barrier penetration. This enhances the results gained from specific strains by increasing potency. This is one reason why cannabis containing large amounts of myrcene tends to have a very strong "couch-lock" effect. So what do mangoes have to do with all this?

Mangoes have high concentrations of myrcene. As the myth goes, if a person eats a mango before smoking, THC effects are increased. The large quantities of the tropical terpene work synergistically with THC. It is said that not only does the psychoactive effect increase but the cannabis high lasts longer.

As it turns out, it is not a myth after all. Eating fresh mango before smoking marijuana makes a difference. People experience a faster psychoactivity onset and increased intensity.


Extensive research on terpenes conducted in 2011 systematically observed what lead researcher, Dr. Ethan Russo, called "phytocannabinoid-terpenoid synergy." The detailed study, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology was titled "Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-terpenoid Entourage Effects."

Russo's research concluded that myrcene interacts with certain cannabinoids, producing therapeutic benefits. Specifically, they found the following targeted effects in their clinical studies:

  • Myrcene in combination with CBD: reduced patient pain, decreased inflammation and showed promise for fighting cancer
  • Myrcene in combination with THC: reduced pain, acted as an effective muscle relaxant, and exhibited sedative properties
  • Myrcene in combination with CBG: showed potential to relieve the effects of cancer
  • They also corroborated earlier research of the analgesic and sleep aid effects.


Research on cannabis is a growing field of study. This is due to technological advances in the processes used for extraction. By isolating specific components of the plant researchers can experiment with terpenes. Harnessing the powerful properties holds promise. This is true for research pain control, disease prevention, and healing.

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