When I was in school, there was a persistent rumor going around college campuses that smoking bananas got you pleasantly stoned. Now in those pre-internet days, I’m not sure exactly how rumors like this got around, but get around they did, and dozens—if not thousands—of college kids put banana skins in the microwave, crumbled up the remains and rolled it into a “joint” and smoked it. Meanwhile, everyone claimed to know at least one person who could personally attest to how this little ritual did indeed get you stoned.
A Bunch of Smoking Bananas
Except, of course, it didn’t. All smoking bananas got you was a dorm room full of floating banana ashes and an annoying smell of burnt bananas that you couldn’t get out of the room for weeks.
Fast forward a few decades, plug the Internet into the equation and voilà, we have our very own version of “smoking bananas”: the persistent (and incorrect) rumor that myrcene will get you stoned.
Myrcene, by the way, is a terpene, and we’ll be discussing those a lot in future blogs. For now, just know that terpenes are delightful plant compounds that are found in all varieties of the cannabis plant—including hemp—as well as in fruits like mangos (more on the mango issue in a minute). So if you’re ingesting a full-spectrum oil, you’re likely to be consuming some myrcene.
And to cut to the chase: No, it most certainly doesn’t get you high. And yes, you can find 50 articles on the Internet that will tell you it does. They’re wrong.
Forget the Mango Rumors, Too
The source of the original rumor is actually a bit of incorrect but popular folk wisdom from the days when stoners and potheads were the only ones who talked to each other about cannabis. According to the Internet, it’s a “well-known fact” that if you eat a nice ripe mango about ½ an hour before you smoke, you’ll get even higher and it will come on faster.
(Note: there is not a shred—and I mean shred—of actual scientific evidence that this is true. But the rumor certainly sold a lot of mangos to potheads, just as the rumor about bananas did a generation earlier.)
Once it became accepted “fact” that eating mangos helped marijuana work better, the rumor progression—something like a game of “telephone”—went something like this:
- Eating mangos “turbocharges” the THC in marijuana.
- Mangos contain a high amount of a terpene called myrcene. Forgetting that correlation does not equal causation, people simply assumed it was myrcene responsible for the turbo-charging effect.
Then “Myrcene activates THC”—still an unproven hypothesis, remember—got shortened to “myrcene gets you high.” And that’s what we’re still hearing (and answering questions about) to this day.
So let’s be clear: It doesn’t.
The interesting thing is that even if myrcene actually did turbo-charge THC in some way—which is far from accepted fact—it wouldn’t much matter to people using full-spectrum CBD-hemp oil, because there’s not enough THC in hemp to turbo-charge in the first place.
The Truth About Myrcene
Now let’s be clear: There is some evidence that certain terpenes help certain cannabinoids cross the blood brain barrier. And some evidence that they may stimulate CB-1, one of the two primary receptors in the body for cannabinoids. But which terpenes we’re talking about and which cannabinoids they may “activate” is very far from settled science.
Remember, terpenes are the fragrant oils that are secreted in different strains of cannabis, along with the other cannabinoids (i.e., CBD, THC). They’re what you smell when you smell cannabis, and they have distinctive odors and flavors, as well as different properties. They’re actually extremely important if for no other reason than they interact with other compounds in the cannabis plant, strengthening the effect of some while weakening the effect of others.
We want our terpenes, and all the other wonderful plant compounds found in hemp (like flavonoids and cannabinoids), to play an active, synergistic role in our high-end CBD products, and we hope that they do indeed interact and help each other get the job done—that, after all, is what the entourage effect is all about!
What we don’t want—or need—is more misinformation about what they do and how they behave, and more Internet rumors about them that have no scientific basis.
“Myrcene gets you high” is one of those rumors. Time to put it to bed once and for all.
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS is a board-certified nutritionist and best-selling author. jonnybowden.com