Why Marijuana Causes the Munchies

Why Marijuana Causes the Munchies

Why Marijuana Gives Munchies

Everyone’s heard of “the munchies.” Even the word alone creates a familiar image of a Shaggy-like character making late-night fast food runs. But comical stereotypes aside, cannabis has proven to be a powerful tool for appetite stimulation in medical patients. For those that struggle with weight, disordered eating, or nausea, cannabis is helpful in encouraging eating and maintaining proper nutrition. 

So, why does weed make you hungry? 

To put it simply, marijuana gives you munchies because it convinces your brain you’re hungry. It does this by setting off a few key components in our endocannabinoid system. This system is responsible for many parts of ourselves including mood, metabolism, pain, and more. Marijuana contains high levels of cannabinoids, which are incredibly similar to our bodies’ natural transmitters. When we smoke or ingest cannabis, cannabinoids (transmitters) and receptors in our endocannabinoid system bind together, creating various effects in the body. THC, the chemical responsible for getting us “high,” in particular binds with these receptors. And one of those effects is heightening our sense of smell. With scent and taste being so closely related, it’s believed that this allows us to taste food better and encourages us to eat more. 

But smell and taste aren’t the only factors at play. Research also shows that cannabis increases the amount of ghrelin released in our bodies. Ghrelin, which is found in the stomach, is known as the “hunger hormone” because it signals to the brain when it’s empty. Hormones are also regulated by the endocannabinoid system, which is why it makes sense that ghrelin would be affected after ingesting cannabis. 

Another layer to this is the terpenes found naturally in marijuana. These are what give strains their individual aromas, but they can also create effects in the body similar to cannabinoids. Terpenes are not unique to cannabis and can be found naturally in many plants, including teas, pine, sage, and citrus fruits. Some popular terpenes known for promoting hunger are limonene, myrcene, and ​​beta-caryophyllene. You can learn more about Cannabis Terpenes here.

Using Cannabis to Stimulate Appetite

The munchies can be a desired effect for those suffering from serious illnesses. It is common among cancer, HIV, and chronic pain patients to have extremely low appetite. Medical marijuana has been used for years as a way to help stimulate hunger and encourage patients to eat. Another benefit to cannabis is its anti-nausea effects on the body. When we’re not nauseated, it’s much more likely that we’ll eat. 

On top of this, THC increases the dopamine or the “feel-good” chemicals in your brain. Dopamine is responsible for how we feel pleasure, so when we smoke and then eat, we feel much more enjoyment out of it. This, coupled with the fact it makes food smell and taste better, can help boost a patient’s appetite and help them enjoy food once again. 

But, will weed make you gain weight? 

Surprisingly, no. Of course, if you use having the munchies as a free-for-all for enjoying all your favorite junk food, then yes it could make you gain weight. However, one study linked marijuana use to lower body mass indexes (BMIs). Even more so, a study in The American Journal of Medicine found that marijuana users had lower fasting insulin levels. This is a measure of prediabetes risk and smaller waist circumferences. Some scientists theorize that this is because food and drugs fight for the same dopamine reward system. Others believe that the cannabinoids create a better metabolic profile in users.

Does CBD give you the munchies? 

Also no. CBD is popular for treating many health ailments, similar to THC, such as pain, nausea, depression, and more. But unlike THC, it does not give you the munchies. This is because it does not have the same effect on our hormones or senses, because it is nonpsychoactive. In fact, CBD can act as an inhibitor of THC – which can be useful if you ingest too much.

The Bottom Line

Cannabis can be a useful tool for anyone struggling with appetite, or for anyone looking to enjoy their next meal a little more. The THC found naturally in marijuana binds with receptors in our system that not only tell us we’re hungry, but enhance the smell and taste, as well as make eating more rewarding to our brain. With all things considered, it’s no surprise that after a joint we’re quick to grab the nearest snack. 

Need help finding a product? Our online menu contains terpene profiles on each product so you can find your perfect match depending on the desired effects. If you have any additional questions, you can also contact us here.