Cannabis has been known for its ability to induce hunger for as long as it has been consumed. Those within the recreational market, or who consume cannabis casually refer to this effect as the “munchies”. Within the medical cannabis landscape, this ability to increase appetite has proved incredibly useful in the treatment of ailments and symptoms of Cancer-associated cachexia (cancer wasting), Anorexia Nervosa and HIV-associated wasting syndrome.
How cannabis affects appetite
The science behind increased appetite is based on the relationship between our bodies CB1 receptors, one of two receptors that make up our bodies endocannabinoid system, and the cannabinoid THC. THC activates CB1 receptors that are located throughout our bodies regulatory systems that control things like appetite and sleep. When this receptor is triggered it “tricks” our bodies into believing that we are hungry, when we actually may not be. For many patients undergoing harsh treatments, the option to use a natural, plant-based medicine to help facilitate some of the symptoms, or work on the ailment itself is a much-needed reprieve from invasive treatments.
This “tricking” of our bodies regulating endocannabinoid system has proven to assist in many ailments that cause a lack of appetite, or in the treatment of symptoms caused by medications, or treatments like radiation. As you may imagine, an increase in appetite is usually accompanied by weight gain, which is the exact reason that cannabis has begun to be used in the treatment of the previously listed ailments.
Cancer has been a focus in the medicinal cannabis industry for many reasons; one of the most prevalent is cannabis’ ability to help alleviate the harsh symptoms of chemotherapy, the most common treatment for cancer. Cancer wasting is the loss of muscle that occurs due to chemotherapy, and cancer itself. Stimulating the appetite helps instill a desire to eat for patients who have forgotten what it feels like to want food. The simple act of nourishing the body with food is enough in some cases to drastically alleviate some of the worst symptoms.
Another case in which cannabis stimulating appetite has proven to be an asset is HIV-associated wasting syndrome. There is a quick, steady loss of weight in patients that suffer from HIV, that is referred to as HIV wasting (very similar to cancer wasting described above). When cannabis is consumed to stimulate appetite, studies show that the level of THC needed is quite high in order to be effective. To do this with the least amount of harm to the body, edibles (tinctures) are the recommended method. Like most areas of study around cannabis, the tests on wasting syndromes need to be continued and more science is needed in order to establish dosing recommendations and frequency. For now, many patients and prescribing doctors have found the anecdotal evidence surrounding cannabis’s stimulation of appetite sufficient to prompt use.
The last example of cannabis assisting in appetite stimulation is anorexia nervosa. Anorexia Nervosa has two descriptions, the first being a lack of appetite to the extreme of it being considered a medical condition, and the second referring to an emotional disorder which is characterized by an obsession to lose weight, or refuse food. Both descriptions of this disorder benefit from appetite stimulation. As well as increased enjoyment of food, having significant psychological effects for people suffering from Anorexia Nervosa.
Quality of life is a large factor that often gets overlooked in conventional medicine, allowing someone the simple pleasure of eating and nourishing their bodies, allows many perks, even if it’s as simple as enjoying a tasty treat. The ability of Cannabis to stimulate appetite is adaptable to many different ailments. Unfortunately, many conventional treatments for ailments have intense, negative side effects. While more evidence is needed to see the connection between cannabis affecting the ailment itself, it’s easy to see that many people turn to cannabis to provide relief from the symptoms that some treatments induce.