Can the widely available and so innocent-looking mango actually increase the effects of cannabis? Some sources suggest that a compound in mangoes can intensify the effects of THC. But how exactly does it do that? After a little bit of research, we discovered that it’s a little more complicated than you think!
There are many theories about how to intensify your cannabis high including hitting the gym before a session and taking a tolerance break. However, according to some exciting observations, it may be a lot easier to enjoy a longer lasting high than abstaining from weed for a while. The answer? Mangoes.
Yes, it sounded strange to us, too. But after a little bit of investigation, we found that the mango theory just might have some credibility. Mangoes contain a terpene also commonly found in cannabis that may significantly enhance the cannabis high, making it stronger and longer. In all fairness, the extent to which mangoes can have this effect is all just speculation. It probably varies from person to person. Let’s jump right in and see how this urban myth stacks up!
Mangoes, myrcene and the blood brain barrier (BBB)
Every time you pick up a mango and salivate over its sweet, delicious smell, you are reacting to the most prevalent terpene in mangoes: myrcene. Terpenes are almost always responsible for the aroma of a herb, fruit or vegetable. Even cannabis is packed with a variety of different terpenes. However, terpenes don’t just give off aromas. They cause a myriad of different physiological and psychological effects. Interestingly, terpenes are the active ingredients of essential oils, which are the grounding principle in which aromatherapy is based.
Mangoes have an extremely high concentration of myrcene, the same terpene that is responsible for intensifying the cannabis high. According to Neutraceuticals, myrcene supposedly does this by increasing the permeability of the blood brain barrier (BBB). The BBB is a protective mechanism of the brain, limiting the amount of intoxicants and foreign materials that can make their way to the brain.
By increasing the permeability of the BBB, myrcene allows THC to reach the brain faster, therefore making the effect more rapid and of course, more intense. Before you go running to the local grocery store, it’s worth mentioning that no hard data has been published thus far to support the claim that myrcene increases BBB permeability. While myrcene may have an effect in the way the brain and body process THC, the permeability of the BBB might not be the defining factor.
What does myrcene actually do?
The scientific enquiry into terpenes continues to increase, revealing a world of complexity behind these wonderful compounds. When it comes to myrcene and what it actually does, there seem to be 3 main hypotheses:
- To start with, Ethan Russo reported in his Handbook of Cannabis that one anonymous subject reported that THC mixed with myrcene produced stronger effects than without myrcene. It seems to be a common theme in scientific research, with myrcene medically yielding sedative like effects. With that being said, those observations were made on mice, and researchers don’t know if the sedative effect carries over onto humans.
- Another study showed that, in mice, myrcene produced anti-convulsant effects, supporting the sedative-like abilities of this terpene. This 2011 study might also offer an explanation of how myrcene might increase the THC high. The researchers were testing the effects of lemongrass essential oil, in which myrcene is a huge component. They found that the terpene’s effect on the GABAergic system produces anxiolytic effects (in mice, of course).
- Finally, one of the last suggestions for myrcene’s ability to intensify the cannabis high is that myrcene is a positive allosteric modulator of the human CB receptors. Simply put, the hypothesis means that myrcene might increase the activity of cannabinoid receptors. In March 2019, researchers discovered that in a simulated lab setting, myrcene does not directly activate the CB receptors. This doesn’t mean that the hypothesis is debunked, but that it has become a less likely explanation until more research has been done.
The most plausible explanation for mango theory is GABA
Let’s go back to Ethan Russo’s anonymous subject, who reported myrcene as an enhancer of the effect of THC. The subject described the enhanced effect as more “mellow” and “sleepy”, something like being couch-locked. Combined with the lemongrass research mentioned above, researchers attributed the relaxing effects of myrcene to its intersection with GABAergic systems.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter whose principle role is in keeping neuronal excitability under control. The more of this neurotransmitter that is floating around the brain, the more likely a person is to feel “relaxed” or “mellow”. What does this have to do with myrcene? Well, myrcene, along with pinene and linalool, enhance the activity of GABA. Now, at low doses and on their own, these terpenes probably have no significant effect. But the effect of these GABA enhancers is synergistic with the sleepy effect of THC. This is what may contribute to the couch-locked effect that users report when they consume mangoes in conjunction with THC.
In fact, the GABA system is the most plausible explanation for the mango-THC phenomenon. After all, THC’s effects are often mellow and somewhat sleepy. A person may experience those effects much more strongly with the additional synergistic effect of GABA enhancers such as myrcene. This means that if GABA truly is responsible for the intensified high, then the effect may not be limited to mangoes. Lavender is also a GABA enhancer, and its effects on a cannabis high could be well worth exploring as well.
Mangoes: A delicious, relaxing fruit
It may still be interesting for cannabis users to play around with combining cannabis and mangoes. Anecdotal reports, including those mentioned in Ethan Russo’s book, indicate that eating a fresh mango 60 to 90 minutes before smoking or vaporizing cannabis could lead to a stronger stoned effect. The metabolism of each individual may play a role in how strongly this effect is experienced, although for the time being, this has not been proven in a scientific setting.
The current evidence suggests that myrcene may not increase THC’s psychoactivity. Rather, it increases the sense of relaxation, mellowness or couch-lock. So in addition to being a delicious fruit, mangoes can increase the sense of relaxation that comes with your cannabis high. It can even be added to a cannabis smoothie to increase the effects. Plus, it’s a super healthy alternative to other munchies foods.
Unfortunately, most internet sources describe the mango effect in relation to the blood brain barrier, for which there is no solid scientific evidence to back it up. The more likely explanation is that myrcene affects the GABA system, working synergistically with THC for the couch-lock effect.
So next time you are wondering what to eat for dessert, choose a mango! Then, enjoy a nice long smoking session and bathe in the intensified feelings of couch-lock!
Have you tried the mango technique before? Does it work for you? Please share your experiences in the comments below!
- Disclaimer:This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your doctor or other licensed medical professional. Do not delay seeking medical advice or disregard medical advice due to something you have read on this website.