Cannabis has always been associated with giving people the “munchies” – hunger pangs linked with ingesting cannabis. This can be very useful for those who suffer from conditions like cancer, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis (MS), AIDS/HIV and many other conditions where appetite, weight and/or muscle loss (cachexia) are common. Here’s more on why weed can give you the munchies.
What’s in Cannabis That Gives You the Munchies?
The main compound that gives cannabis its hunger-increasing is a chemical compound called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is because THC can pass through to the brain and “turns on” the CB1 receptors (CB1 receptor agonism) which can make the user feel hungry. THC is therefore not only responsible for the sedative and psychoactive effects of cannabis, but also its hunger-increasing properties. Other CB1 receptor agonists like cannabinol (CBN) may also give people the munchies, but to a much lesser extent. This is the same with a less psychoactive version of delta-9 THC, delta-8 THC.
What Part of the Brain is Responsible for THC’s Appetite-Stimulating Properties?
The munchies are caused specifically by THC on receptors in your brain’s olfactory bulb, which is part of how you smell and taste and sense food. This stimulates the release of the hunger-causing hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which makes food smell and taste better. In fact, THC can make food seem more appetising, even if you’ve already eaten!
THC’s ability to increase leptin and ghrelin production is also particularly useful for those suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, as they produce these hormones in a lesser amount.
Will Medicated Edibles Give Me the Munchies?
If an edible contains THC, then it has the potential to give you the munchies. The nutritional content of the edible may satiate you for a little while (especially if you choose to eat a healthy edible), but if you have ingested THC, be prepared to get some hunger pangs around about an hour or two afterwards!
One thing to be careful of at this stage is eating more medicated edibles. Sure, they may taste good and fill your stomach for a short period of time, but it is best to eat something non-medicated. Although you won’t likely suffer from a deadly overdose (there are no reported cases of anyone overdosing from cannabis alone), taking too much THC can be a negative experience for some. Fruit, nuts, very dark chocolate, water, green or white tea, or a healthy meal are some of the better choices to keep you feeling full for longer, and to avoid over-intoxication. Avoid eating too much processed sugar as well.
Is There Any Type of Cannabis or Cannabinoid That Prevents Hunger?
Yes, some cannabinoids have the opposite effect of THC, and can reduce hunger. A small dose of tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is a CB1 receptor antagonist, and can decrease the craving for food. High doses of cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG) can have a similar effect, but perhaps not as pronounced as the hunger-curbing effect THCV gives. There is some suggestion that a mixture of THCV, CBD and CBG can help control weight. Some varieties of cannabis that contain high amounts of THCV include Durban Poison and Doug’s Varin.
Some posit that sustained production of the appetite-promoting hormone, ghrelin, may become blunted over time, leading one to actually reduce their calorie intake.
The Benefits of the Munchies
As stated above, there are many conditions that cause loss of weight, muscle and/or hunger. Being able to eat a full meal and maintain a healthy weight is generally quite helpful for people’s quality of life, as eating well can boost the immune system, give a person the energy to keep active & exercise, and sleep properly. On top of this, there are a number of benefits to a person’s mental and social wellbeing when they are able to eat properly.