Cannabis Munchies
2 min

Why Does Cannabis Give You The Munchies?

2 min

Cannabis and the munchies go hand in hand, but what is it about our cherished herb that causes it? Well, scientists have done some digging, and come up with some pretty comprehensive theories.

Ever been enjoying a joint only to find you have the sudden craving to go raid the fridge? It is common phenomenon that is lovingly referred to as the “munchies” and until fairly recently, science hasn’t been able to pin down exactly what causes it.

This is for good reason, the scientists haven’t just been sitting on their hands all day, wondering what to do - the munchies are actually the result of a combination of complex interactions between THC and the brain, which takes a lot of studying. What has been found though, is that it all stems from the endocannabinoid system.

How Does The Endocannabinoid System Fit Into All Of This?

How Does The Endocannabinoid System Fit Into All Of This?

The endocannabinoid system is something we all have, and its receptors can be found throughout our body. It plays a part in regulating a myriad of bodily functions, such as pain, emotion, immune response, memory, and most relevantly here, appetite.

The cannabinoids within cannabis bind to the receptors of the endocannabinoid system, causing their various effects. It is when THC binds to certain parts of the endocannabinoid system that we get that irresistible urge to go raid the pantry. The first part we are going to look at is the olfactory bulb within the brain.

Heightening Taste And Smell With The Olfactory Bulb

A team of European scientists have recently found that the olfactory bulb plays a pivotal role in cannabis related cravings. They found, through experimentation on mice, that when THC binds to the olfactory bulb, it increases an animal’s ability to smell and taste food. Rats who were given THC were found to smell food scents for much longer, and eat more food, when compared to a control. They also found that mice who had been genetically engineers to not have any cannabinoid receptors in their olfactory bulb were no more interested in eating or smelling food than the control, even when given THC.

These findings highly suggest that cannabis use makes food smell and taste much more alluring, increasing our drive to indulge.

Stimulating The Hunger

Stimulating The Hunger

It isn’t just the olfactory bulb that increases our propensity to eat. Oh no, it is much more complicated than that! Other research has found that THC stimulation of the endocannabinoid system in the nucleus accumbens increases the release of dopamine, which itself plays a part in appetite control, as well as the enjoyment we get from eating. Another look into the munchies found that THC was having a similar effect on the hypothalamus, stimulating the production of ghrelin, which in turn stimulates hunger. There is even research to suggest that THC momentarily increases preference for fatty and sweet foods – explaining why you reach for the chips instead of a salad!

A Puzzle Falling Into Place

Although these findings give us a good rounded idea as to why enjoying a bit of bud can have you ordering a family sized take-away meal, these are all just pieces of the puzzle that is still being put together. There is still a lot to investigate, and research needs to be carried out on human subjects. But it is all very promising, as not only does this give us an insight into high-time habits, it also opens the door to potential therapeutic applications for marijuana, where appetite needs to be stimulated – such as with eating disorders or chemotherapy.

Luke Sumpter
Luke Sumpter
With a BSc (Hons) degree in Clinical Health Sciences and a passion for growing plants, Luke Sumpter has worked as a professional journalist and writer at the intersection of cannabis and science for the past 7 years.
  • Soria-Gómez, Edgar, Bellocchio, Luigi, Reguero, Leire, Lepousez, Gabriel, Martin, Claire, Bendahmane, Mounir, Ruehle, Sabine, Remmers, Floor, Desprez, Tifany, Matias, Isabelle, Wiesner, Theresa, Cannich, Astrid, Nissant, Antoine, Wadleigh, Aya, Pape, & Hans-. (2014, March). The endocannabinoid system controls food intake via olfactory processes | Nature Neuroscience -
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