You’ve probably heard that cannabis use can lead to ‘the munchies.’ There is no doubt it can affect appetite. Appetite stimulation can be useful for seniors who have lost their desire for food, or for chemo patients needing to quell nausea and induce appetite to regain strength and weight, or for those suffering from anorexia. Can the same mechanism that leads to hunger be controlled and even reversed? How far are we down that path? What are the compounds within cannabis that can help control appetite? Let’s look at the broad stroke science.
Cannabis contains chemical compounds called cannabinoids (like THC) – your body also naturally creates (endo) cannabinoids. (see “Medi-Kait” in Episode 1 of the Cannabis Show). These help control mood, sleep, sense of pain, and appetite in the brain’s hypothalamus. Among many other things, these compounds signal that you are hungry or full. Sudden attacks of the munchies are triggered by a change in the hormone released by neurons in the hypothalamus. In mice exposed to certain strains of cannabis, the brain circuits normally responsible for indicating fullness became hyper-activated and begin indicating hunger instead of satiety. To add to that, and also leading to the likelihood of a drive-through episode (with a designated driver of course) or a path worn to the fridge is the fact that THC contributes to an increased sense of smell (it’s a sensorial enhancer or amplifier) which can lead to an increased appetite.
Despite this, studies are indicating that, overall, cannabis helps lower BMI and reduce obesity. How?
In past blogs, we have discussed cannabis as an antibacterial agent, and that helps bring the body into homeostasis. Another amazing study on mice showed that taking cannabis orally through the digestive system (think Hydropothecary milled de-carbed capsules or any of the other LP’s ingestible oils), altered the gut microbiome in obese mice, transforming it to a microbiome found in healthy lean mice. The other amazing part to this study is that it only worked to alter the biome in obese mice – not in lean mice. This means that cannabis cannot be abused by those looking to lose an unhealthy amount of weight.
The cannabinoid system may prove to be promising in the treatment of obesity. There are known compounds that can aid in this undertaking. A sativa dominant strain with the terpene limonene, for instance, has been found to help promote weight loss. Think Super Lemon Haze, or Jack Herer. Another terpene, Humelene – is found in cannabis and is considered to be an anorectic (appetite suppressor). Some strains that are known to test high in humulene include White Widow, Girl Scout Cookies, Headband, Pink Kush, Sour Diesel and Skywalker OG.
Strains high in the cannabinoid THCV tend to stave off appetite and are more common in Sativa dominant strains. Be on the lookout for Pineapple Purps for a high THCV level. There is another elusive strain called Doug’s Varin which has equal amounts of THCV and THC.
However, should you be medicating with strains which promote appetite, here are a few things to remember!
- Don’t rely on willpower. Don’t bring junk food into the house. As Oscar Wilde put it, “I can resist anything except temptation.”
- Be prepared with healthy options – dill pickles, celery and hummus, lemon water, shelled pistachios, popcorn,…
- Consider creating a dance area your house! Dancing for exercise is good for the mind, body and spirit.
- Before you medicate make a plan for what you’re going to do so you don’t risk the dreaded boredom-fridge-opening.
Cannabis can certainly stimulate many things, appetite included. Play chess and not checkers with your choice of strains! Do your research and order your strains accordingly. Websites like Leafly.com are a great resource for strain info. Also, please drop by our 6:30pm Wednesday night info sessions at our Education Center, 5809 McLeod Trail South, Calgary, or tune in live at that time through www.naturalhealthservices.ca/events and type in your questions!