The Internet says that you should eat a mango and the myrcene in it will get you extra high. Here is what science says.

The Mango Theory

Some things about cannabis are repeated so often that you think they must be true. One example of this is the “Mango Theory”. The story goes that if you eat a fresh, ripe mango 45 minutes before smoking cannabis, then you will be extra super duper high. You will be so high that you will crap rainbows.

How do we know this really works? Well, because the Internet said it would. Everyone and their mom have written an article about the Mango Theory.  Here’s one example: Mango and Weed – A Match Made In Heaven. You can use Google to find 500 more that all say the exact same thing.

Myrcene: The Alleged Mango Culprit

So what magical compound is there in mango that might have this effect? Everyone cites a molecule called β-myrcene (I’ll just call it myrcene). Myrcene is in the class of molecules called terpenes, which are produced by plants and give off their characteristic odors. Myrcene is also found in hops, basil and lemongrass.

myrcene

The chemical structure of myrcene

How does myrcene work according to the Mango Theory? There are two very specific ways (repeated in a large number of articles) that myrcene allegedly increases your high from cannabis:

  • Myrcene increases permeability of the blood-brain barrier. Myrcene supposedly increases the speed that THC can cross the blood-brain barrier. In fact, many articles say that by eating a mango, you can decrease the time it takes to feel high from 7 seconds to just 4 seconds. I’m really expected to believe that anyone can tell a difference of 3 seconds?
  • Myrcene increases activation of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor by THC. This is not totally implausible since there are molecules that can do this (they are called Positive Allosteric Modulators).

But here’s the problem: These articles were mostly written by 23 year old English majors (and they were probably high).  Not that there’s anything wrong with that…but I doubt that any scientific fact checking went into their research.

[Flickr/ omarsan]

[Flickr/ omarsan]

So what evidence could I find that either of these mechanisms is true?

None. Given the specific nature of these claims, surely there must be a scientific paper describing it? I searched everywhere and I could find nothing to support either of these mechanisms.

[July 2017 update: there is new evidence that terpenes can in fact increase CB1 receptor activation, but details of which terpenes have this property have not yet been released.]

What Does Myrcene Actually Do?

Now that we’ve established that most of what has been written about mango and myrcene is likely garbage, let’s move on to some actual science.

First of all, there is actually strong evidence that myrcene has psychoactive properties and that it is capable of modulating the effects of THC.

In mice, myrcene had sedative and muscle relaxant effects (although only at super high doses). In addition, it increased sleep induced by barbiturates. Another study in mice showed that myrcene had anti-convulsant effects. Lemongrass essential oil (of which myrcene is a major component) had anxiolytic effects in mice.

It is not surprising then that researchers at Steep Hill Labs saw a correlation between the sedative effects of different strains of cannabis and their myrcene content.

A high myrcene level in cannabis (>0.5%) typically results in the well-known ‘couch-lock’ effect of classic Indica strains while a low level of Myrcene (<0.5%) often results in the uplifting and vibrant effects most associated with Sativa strains.

Although not a published scientific study, their analysis involved 100,000 samples over 7 years, so it seems pretty solid.

GABA at the Intersection of THC and Myrcene

So what is this ‘couch-lock’ and what role does myrcene play in it? Couch-lock is when you are so stoned that you feel like you cannot even move (and therefore locked to the couch). There is a test in mice for this type of ‘cataleptic’ state where they place their front paws on a horizontal bar. Normally, this is an unnatural position for a mouse and they will quickly move. However, with a high dose of THC, the mouse will just sit there for an extended period of time.

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Too cute.

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain that acts through two receptors: GABA-A and GABA-B.  GABA enhancers are synergistic with the cataleptic effect of THC in mice. Low doses of drugs with GABA activity (which do nothing by themselves) significantly increase the time the stoned mice are in the experimental ‘couch-lock’.

How is this linked to myrcene? Along with several other terpenes, myrcene enhances the effect of GABA at the GABA-A receptor. Furthermore, the anxiety-reducing effect of lemongrass essential oil (which contains myrcene) is reversed by a drug called flumezenil, which blocks a binding site on the GABA-A receptor.

These results indicate that myrcene, at a low dose that itself has no effect, can synergistically enhance the sedative effects of THC.

Can Mango Really Raise your Myrcene Levels?

So having established that myrcene does have psychoactive effects, let’s return to the issue of the mango. There’s one question I’ve had from the beginning: if cannabis already has so much dang myrcene in it, can eating a mango add that much more?

Myrcene is the primary monoterpene in cannabis and there can be quite a lot of it. Here is a study showing the levels of myrcene in different cannabis strains. Levels varied from 0.04% to 1.9% – almost 50-fold variation.

Like cannabis, different mango varieties also contain different levels of myrcene. One study assessed the myrcene content of 20 varieties of mango. They showed that the myrcene in the mango varieties ranged from 0.09 to 1.29 mg per kg of fruit.

[Flickr/ LAD Photo Libraby]

[Flickr/ LAD Photo Libraby]

Let’s do the math and see how things add up. I’ll assume that 100% of the myrcene is absorbed and that the average person consumes a quarter gram of cannabis at a time and one whole mango (with 150 g of fruit). With average myrcene content, a person will ingest about 2 mg of myrcene from the cannabis and  0.086 mg from the mango. The mango only adds 4% more myrcene!

We can also look at the most extreme case of the cannabis strain with the lowest myrcene content (0.04%) and the mango variety with the highest myrcene content. In this case, the mango can triple the amount of myrcene ingested (to the equivalent of what you would ingest with a strain of cannabis of 0.12% myrcene).

However, Steep Hill Labs has indicated that you only start to see sedative properties when the myrcene content in cannabis goes above 0.5%. So it seems to me that most mangoes cannot add enough additional myrcene to have any effect.

Mango Beyond Myrcene

The myrcene found in cannabis is an important terpene that can act synergistically with THC to produce sedative and anxiolytic effects. However, if you want to maintain high energy, myrcene is not your friend.

This analysis makes it doubtful that the myrcene in mango really has an effect on how high you get. One of three things is possible:

  • The Mango Theory is an Internet myth and anything that people feel with mango is a placebo
  • Mango does have an effect, but only the few rare types that have a very high myrcene content
  • Mango does have an effect, but it is due to another molecule besides myrcene

It’s not clear who originally thought that myrcene explained the effects of mango. There are other terpenes in mango that could also be involved. One example is terpinolene. Terpinolene is present at significantly higher levels than myrcene in most mango varieties and terpinolene has similar sedative properties.

There is only one thing I know for sure…a large portion of what you read about cannabis is based on myth more than it is based on science. That is why I am here to sort things out!

[Featured image credit: Flickr/ Nick Perla]

Last modified: July 3, 2017

9 Responses to " Can The Myrcene in Mango Really Make You Extra High? "

  1. David Watson says:

    I agree I tried many ways to find an effect on Cannabis from eating mangos and could not find any effect at all.
    I did the original research in 2000 that found that some terpenes do have the ability to modulate and potentiate THC, I mentioned this to Ed and the mango THC story was born out of his imagination.
    Do not believe all you read on the internet, while Myrcene does both modulate and potentiate THC when smoked in Cannabis products that have Myrcene in them, eating mangos is not enough Myrcene to have this effect.
    I tried to confirm that mangos could and failed. With smoked cannabis products the effect of Myrcene is profound.

    • Prof of Pot says:

      Was your myrcene research published or otherwise made available? I have been trying to find it, but have not had luck. If it is available, I would appreciate you pointing me in the right direction.

  2. man of mango! says:

    Dear Prof

    Thank you for your erudite article.

    I had also heard of this mango theory and largely dismissed it. Until…. (there’s always an until, right?) Today. I am working. trying to be creative and all that it entails. I have recently been experimenting with microdosing both via a vaporizer and joint. I’m currently working with a strain that feels very sativa-ish and has had praise heaped upon it for its natural anti depressant qualities, however, compared to other strains I’ve grown and tried to objectively assess, it’s fallen down a little. In my test group of 3 strains, it’s consistently third.

    I’ve been microdosing via a joint for the last week or so. – all hits are from the same joint – i will take two at a time, max in an afternoon session being 4 hits and the effect has been the same each time; alertness, loss of fatigue, ability to concentrate better. these generally taper off after a couple of hours. It’s nice but it’s not great. Today, I did the same as i always do. came to the writing space in my loft, worked a little, took a couple of hits, worked away for a couple of hours and then got a drink and continued to work for something like 20 minutes or so and then decided on a couple more hits. So far so good. Then about a half hour later, I started to sense a deep wave of wellbeing that spread across my body in the most perfect way. It really was a new sensation – it felt like more than i’ve ever felt with this strain previously. So much so that I started to think, what have I done differently? why is it having this effect? The only thing I had done differently was to have had a smoothie that was made with strawbery, banana, mango, pineapple and papaya.

    And that’s how i wound up here! I remembered that there was a mango theory and read up on some b/s stuff before i landed here. I absolutely get your skepticism but i can offer no other reason for this beautiful little high that i was lucky enough to experience this afternoon. It’s probably a combination of factors but i have to admit that there’s a tiny bit of me that would love it to be down to the mango! I live in hope. Cheers for the great article.

    Regards from Grey old London!

    • Prof of Pot says:

      I certainly won’t write off the possibility that mango (or other fruits with high terpene content) can increase the effects of THC. We just don’t have any solid proof of it yet.

      Would you mind trying it again for the sake of science? Even better, if you made the smoothie yourself, try it with one piece of fruit at a time to see if any have effects individually.

    • David Watson says:

      Maybe if you can repeat the mango experiment with pure THC with no additional terpenes. Or some extract distillate that is almost only THC? Distillates can be 99% THC with little else, and if you can’t get pure THC it is best to use for testing terpenes.
      If the Cannabis product smoked has terpenes then they will also be effecting the results of the testing. If you try pure THC with mangoes then any difference is from the mangoes for sure, that is what I did and I felt zero difference between 25 mg pure THC alone and 25 mg pure THC with mangoes before, during or after the THC.
      Or you can look up the amounts of myrcene in a mango and maybe understand they are several orders smaller then the amount of myrcene smoked in a myrcene variety of Cannabis, I did the math, have you?

  3. Fealea says:

    I’m starting to suspect that I finally found a marijuana website that is not based on bullshit, but on evidence. I hope I’m right. Thanks for the article.

    • Prof of Pot says:

      You came to the right place. Everything here is based on science. Of course many things are still not adequately studied, but I am up front about it if I am just speculating about something.

  4. Ethgar says:

    The mangoes I eat here in Thailand are considerably larger than 150gm. The mangoes I consume are typically about 1000-1200gm (1.2kg). So presumably there would be a multiplier effect with a larger quantity of mango consumption. Obviously I cannot test the myrcene levels in this variety myself (nam dok mai) or any other terpenes, so I can’t qualify anything with data. I will say that I came across these articles as a direct inquiry to my perception of increased effects following consumption of a joint. This is Thai landrace. Typical brown pressed (Isaan Province). This is my anecdotal experience. I’d never heard about ” the mango effect” until now.

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