One of marijuana’s most famous effects, apart from mild euphoria, is that inevitably it has you cleaning out your fridge and cupboards, or running to the nearest store for smacks. The tremendous surge in appetite that cannabis gives us, commonly known as “the munchies,” is actually one of it’s most important medicinal properties. For people on chemo, or struggling with eating disorders, it can literally be a life-saver.
But why is it that smoking weed makes you so hungry?
You probably know that the effects of marijuana are primarily caused by molecules called cannabinoids, especially tetrahydrocannabidol, or THC. These molecules interact with naturally occurring receptors in the brain called the endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate mood, memory, sensitivity to pain, and—you guessed it—appetite.
Smoking marijuana stimulates appetite in multiple ways. A study done last year at the University of Bordeaux found that THC affects the olfactory bulb of lab mice, making them more sensitive to odors. it would seem that smoking pot makes us smell and taste food more intensely, which would naturally tend to make us eat more. But this doesn’t fully explain the intense, ravenous, and seemingly insatiable hunger cannabis can induce.
Back in 2005, a team from the London Medical School published a study showing that cannabinoids stimulate appetite by activating the hypothalamus, and interacting with a compound called ghrelin which acts as a regulator of appetite and metabolism. A study released earlier this year delves even deeper into the mystery…
An international team of scientists led by Tamas Horvath found that cannabis effectively “flips a switch” in the hypothalamus, specifically a cluster of neurons called the POMC. Normally, these POMC neurons are responsible for signaling when we are full, and shutting down the appetite. But when we are high that effect is reversed, and these neurons, when activated, actually stimulate hunger.
Hence the bottomless pit in your stomach that can’t be filled.
Even this is probably just a part of the picture. The chemical cocktail found in the cannabis plant is extremely complex, and the effects that it has on the human brain and body even more so. But one thing is certain: cannabis does stimulate the appetite, especially in those who haven’t built up a tolerance. In fact, it does it so well that no other medication can even compare, and even the radically anti-pot pharmaceutical industry had no choice but to embrace it. The synthetic THC known as Marinol is the go-to appetite booster for chemo patients and others who are wasting away due to loss of appetite.
But why should we pay Big Pharma to synthesize something that we could all grow in our own backyard?
Whether you are a medical patient who needs to restore your lost appetite, or a casual smoker who just wants to take dinner up another notch, cannabis will do the trick. So grab some snacks, light up, and enjoy.
photo from abcnews.com