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Home / Cannabis 101  / The Munchies: Why does cannabis send your appetite into high-gear?

Weed has a reputation for giving people a case of the munchies after consumption, not to mention that mind-bending “high” produced by THC-rich strains. General data indicates how acute cannabis use may trigger feelings of hunger, making weed the ideal tool for individuals who suffer from eating disorders.

Even our ancient ancestors experienced “the munchies”, with historical sources dating the first recorded case of cannabis-causing appetite stimulation as far back as 300 BCE! Despite the fact cannabis can make you feel like you want to raid the refrigerator or sink your teeth into a box of glazed donuts, not every strain of weed will encourage a feed. 

Let’s find out what really happens when someone has “the munchies” and how to stop cravings caused by cannabis consumption. 

Cannabis Amplifies the Production of Dopamine 

Did you know that cannabis’ psychoactive compound, known as tetrahydrocannabinol or “THC”, is capable of tricking the brain into thinking it is hungry?

The mind-bending molecule is an effective relaxant and in high doses, a sedative. THC, when consumed, may enhance a person’s sensitivity to flavors and smells by triggering certain neural networks inside the brain. If we focus on the available preclinical evidence, chronic THC administration may influence the dopamine system on a long-term basis. It is the dopamine system that is stimulated by THC and so, it makes sense that dopamine levels control feelings of hunger. 

Based on research conducted by researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo, individuals who have genetically inherited lower dopamine levels consider food to be more fortifying than individuals with different genotypes. Basically, this means that their motivations to eat are stronger and so, they tend to eat more than the typical person.  

You can read the researcher’s findings in the October issue of Behavioral Neuroscience.  The issue was published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Ghrelin Receptors are Stimulated by Weed

When someone takes a long drag of a weed-stuffed joint and inhales the THC-rich smoke deep into their lungs, the psychoactive cannabinoid activates a receptor known as the cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1). It is this particular cannabinoid that sends the appetite into overdrive. 

Now, let’s talk about the receptor for ghrelin. CB1 is closely linked with this receptor, which is responsible for releasing a very special hormone that causes feelings of hunger. This is why ghrelin has been dubbed the “hunger hormone” and why the stomach chooses to release it when it needs to be filled. Once ghrelin is produced, the brain receives a signal alerting it that the body wants food. Cannabis contributes to an influx of ghrelin production, explaining why cannabis consumers experience the munchies. 

Scientists conducted a study on rodents to ascertain precisely how the brain reacts to ghrelin production promoted by pot consumption. They noticed how cannabis altered the genetic activity of cells inside the brain that respond to ghrelin, which is detected by a small region of the hypothalamus.

Counteracting the Munchies with Cannabinoids

Inexperienced cannabis consumers may feel concerned about overindulging on cakes, cookies and other treats when they are “baked”. The good news is that it is possible to control your appetite when enjoying the green stuff.  

Tetrahydrocannabivarin, better known as THCV, is a cannabinoid that shares a similar molecular structure and psychoactive composition as THC. However, THCV induces a plethora of contrasting effects. The compound has a boiling point of 428 °F (220 °C), meaning that people who usually vape their THC will need to raise the temperature setting on their device. Unlike THC, THCV could actually alleviate feelings of hunger. 

Despite being psychoactive, THCV produces a more clear-headed effect. One study spotlighted THCV as a neutral CB1 antagonist that may contribute to body weight reduction in lean mice; fascinating since cynics claim that weed can make you overeat and put on weight.

Using the Munchies to your Benefit

If you stumble into a state of desire to feast on anything edible within arm’s reach, take this opportunity to chow down on healthy CBD-infused foods. This non-psychoactive cannabinoid is scientifically known as Cannabidiol. It is a potent medicinal compound and THC inhibitor, meaning that it could reverse the munchies-inducing effects caused by its psychoactive cousin cannabinoid.  

Want to completely sidestep the munchies? Seek out companies that sell controlled dose products, such as FLI’s range of weed-infused edibles. By sticking to your recommended dosage, the chances of you signing up for (and probably winning) the neighborhood pie-eating contest are slim.