Most people know that one of the most common side effects of consuming cannabis is increased hunger. You may even have a favorite go-to snack for when the munchies hit! But do you know the science behind why people get so hungry after consuming cannabis? Let us enlighten you!
“The munchies” is the common term for the feeling that people get after imbibing in THC-heavy cannabis products, and it’s been known for years that cannabis has this side effect.
The munchies can last anywhere from 2 to 8 hours, depending on how you consume the cannabis. When inhaling cannabis, it only takes about 10 minutes to reach peak levels in the brain, so the increased hunger side effect usually lasts around 2 to 3 hours. When you consume edible marijuana in the form of edible weed candy, edible weed gummies, or edible weed chocolate, it takes a lot longer (up to 2 hours) for the THC to reach your system, so the increased hunger lasts longer, too – around 6 to 8 hours.
Scientifically speaking, cannabis affects your appetite in a few different ways. The main culprit of the munchies is the ever-famous Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When THC enters your system, it binds to CB1 receptors in the body, increasing the brain’s desire for, and positive response to, sweet and fatty foods.
This is because CB1 receptors are found in numerous regions of the brain (including the basal ganglia, limbic forebrain, hypothalamus and rhombencephalon), as well as the stomach and small intestine, which produce the appetite and digestion hormone known as ghrelin. So, when the CB1 receptors are activated, your appetite gets stimulated, your digestion speeds up, and your desire for sweet and fatty foods increases.
Now, not everyone experiences munchies every time they use cannabis. The effect can depend a lot on the specifics of your tolerance and physiological state. But given that it ultimately is THC that is the main cause of the munchies effect, if you’re looking to increase your appetite, you’ll want to try and get cannabis that is high in THC.
However, if you’re looking to avoid the munchies, you can look for a strain or product that is lower in THC and higher in THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin). It is also worth noting that sativa strains tend to be higher in THCV and thus provoke hunger less than indica strains.
If you’ve never heard of it, THCV is a cannabinoid that is known to suppress the appetite and boost energy. Although more research is needed, we do know through preclinical animal studies that THCV can ease symptoms of a variety of diseases and disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, psychosis, bacterial inflammation, acne, fatty liver disease, pain, and epilepsy.
The side effect of increased appetite has proven extremely helpful for certain medical conditions. Loss of appetite is a serious medical problem for people living with conditions like HIV and cancer. Since cannabis decreases nausea as well, cannabis or dronabinol (Marinol – a synthetic form of THC) has been prescribed to many people suffering from appetite loss due to a medical condition.
For most of us, the munchies are just a fact of cannabis-loving life and it is good to be prepared. Make sure to stock your home with nutritious snacks for when the munchies strike, and make sure you’re also drinking a lot of water.
While many people may be fine with the munchies, it is important to remember that balance and moderation are part of a healthy lifestyle and it’s a good idea to consider using a variety of different THC percentage strains or products to avoid getting gluttonous every time you want to enjoy your cannabis.
Let’s recap! Cannabis makes you hungry because of THC interacting with our CB1 receptors. THC can make you feel hungry even if you’ve eaten recently and can make foods taste better. But other cannabinoids like THCV and CBD may actually reduce your appetite. Whether you prefer smoking, vaping, edible weeds in California, edible weeds in Oklahoma, edible weeds in Missouri or edible weeds in Massachusetts, the effect of the munchies can vary depending on how the cannabis is consumed.
Now that you know just a little bit more about the munchies, you can better plan ahead to keep your health and happiness in check. Happy munching!