Marijuana and the Munchies: Understanding the Science

  • How does marijuana affect appetite?
  • Some cannabinoids actually suppress appetite.
  • Terpenes found in marijuana also affect appetite.
  • What are some marijuana strains that don’t induce the munchies?

Why does marijuana give you “the munchies?” Anyone who has smoked or vaped marijuana has probably experienced this inexplicable desire to gobble an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s and a full bag of chips. Unfortunately, marijuana-induced gluttony can come with some unpleasant side effects such as food coma, cramping, bloating, and excessive weight gain.

In this article, we’ll explore the mechanisms behind the “munchies.” We’ll also discuss how to cope with out-of-control hunger and mention some marijuana strains to avoid if you’re a weight watcher.

How does marijuana affect appetite?

Couple on couch

It’s common knowledge that different regions of the brain control various functions in the body. A phytocannabinoid compound produced in marijuana called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) has the ability to stimulate appetite by exciting primitive areas of the brain responsible for emotions and appetite. 

This potent compound rushes directly to the hunger-stimulating regions of the brain, heightening the responses in both our olfactory system (sense of smell) and taste receptors making the pairing of Rocky Road with Dill Pickle Lays seem like haute cuisine to your fired up taste buds. 

As THC interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the brain, it releases the hormone ghrelin which regulates emotions, pain, and our sense of taste and smell, and induces feelings of hunger.

The need to satiate our palate and stomach with savory and sweet snacks can be powerful and overwhelming. It’s probably advisable to lock up your pantry prior to smoking that Silver Diesel Slamdaddy OG Kush doobie to avoid a gastronomical gag fest. 

While for some marijuana smokers, the munchies might be an unwelcome side-effect. For individuals suffering from a lack of appetite, this hunger-enhancing effect is a boon. Patients suffering from anorexia-nervosa and cachexia (wasting due to cancer or HIV/AIDS)  may benefit greatly from the ingestion of high-THC cannabis and its ability to stimulate appetite.


How to prevent the munchies

The connection between THC and the munchies has been well established. But is there a way to enjoy marijuana while controlling those insatiable urges? For starters, there are some marijuana strains that may have the opposite effect.

There is a cannabinoid known as THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) which is found in some marijuana strains and that has actually been shown to be a powerful appetite suppressant. 

Another cannabinoid called CBD (cannabidiol) might suppress the munchies in some users by blocking the effects of THC. Moreover, used by itself, CBD might actually promote weight loss and boost metabolism by encouraging the “browning” of fat cells. More human studies are required to fully comprehend the appetite-suppressing properties of CBD.

Marijuana products containing THC must be purchased at a dispensary, and most states require buyers to carry a medical marijuana card. However, patients can buy CBD oil online without a medical marijuana card. For those who prefer high-THC strains of marijuana supplementation with CBD oil might help reduce the craving for food. 


Strains that don’t induce the munchies

Here are a few marijuana strains that are less likely to result in a bad case of the munchies:

  • Durban Poison strain has the focusing effects of a pure Sativa. It also produces small concentrations of THCV (about one percent) which, as we mentioned, has been shown to suppress appetite. 
  • Doug’s Varin strain is often used in making tinctures and vape oils. It has about four percent THCV content, making it a wise choice for those wishing to avoid the munchies.
  • Pink Boost Goddess also contains around four percent THCV along with 18.7 percent THC, making it ideal for uplifting mood and suppressing appetite. 
  • Pineapple Purps strain has strong Sativa genetics with a four percent THCV content. It induces energetic, euphoric, and low-anxiety effects and reduces appetite.
  • Jack the Ripper strain has a wide variation in psychoactive potency. It has a five percent THCV content and a THC content ranging from 15 to 20 percent. It’s a powerful and uplifting strain with great appetite-suppressing qualities.

Terpenes for Appetite Control

Terpenes are the aromatic oils that give marijuana its distinctive aromas and flavors. Terpenes color cannabis varieties with flavors like citrus, berry, mint, and pine. Marijuana produces several terpenes and each has its own set of physiological effects. One particularly notable aspect of some terpenes is their appetite suppressing quality. 

Here are some strains containing limonene and humulene, both of which are known to control the hunger response.

  • Limonene is well known for both a zingy lemony flavor and potent appetite suppressing qualities many may be seeking. Some strains containing limonene include Super Lemon Haze and Lemon Skunk.
  • Humulene works in a similar fashion to the cannabinoid THCV by suppressing appetite. Some strains containing humulene include OG Kush, Skywalker OG, Sour Diesel, Chemdawg, and Bubba Kush.

So there you have it. If you’re trying to resist the munchies perhaps one of these strains — or another strain that’s higher in THCV and the terpenes mentioned above — might be the answer. Otherwise, a few drops of CBD oil along with your marijuana might help suppress the munchies.

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