Appetite And Marijuana

The most simple definition of appetite is the desire to eat food. Appetite is typically increased due to hunger, but can be reinforced when in the presence of foods deemed desirable. Metabolic needs for daily functioning are met through the adequate intake of energy, and appetite serves to regulate this process.  There is a large spectrum of illness’s that can negatively impact appetite, ultimately leading to a host of issues ranging from nutritional to emotional to physical and beyond. Illness’s including, but not limited to; AIDS/HIV, Cancer, Chrohns, Endometriosis, Anxiety, Depression, and IBS. But how does marijuana help  appetite?

Medical Marijuana and Appetite

The feeling of increased appetite after using cannabis has been documented for hundreds of years. It is only recently however, that any scientific research has been conducted to understand why cannabis use has this effect.

The first human study confirming that increased appetite, particularly the craving for sweet food, actually correlated with cannabis use, was conducted in 1971. Other research has been conducted since that time, once again confirming that sweet snacks such as cookies, chocolate bars and cakes are preferable over savoury snacks to cannabis users.

Cannabinoids affect the user by interacting with specific receptors, located within different parts of the central nervous system. Today it is known that we have receptors that respond to cannabis as well as cannabinoid like substances that exist inside us (endogenous cannabinoids).  The CB 1 receptor is also known to produce hunger promoting hormones.

What is a Cannabinoid?

Cannabinoids are a class of diverse chemical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors in cells that repress neurotransmitter release in the brain which include cannabinol and the active constituents of cannabis.

Cannabinoid receptors, located in the brain, are part of the Endocannabinoid system which is involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory.

What is a CB 1 Receptor?

The cannabinoid receptor type 1, often abbreviated as CB1, is a G protein-coupled cannabinoid receptor located primarily in the central and peripheral nervous system.

The appetite stimulating affect of cannabinoids is significant. Clinical research has proven cannabinoid treatment to be effective in increasing appetite in cancer patients.

Traditional Medication

Megace and Orexigenic are two of the most common pharmaceutical prescriptions for stimulating appetite.

Megace Side Effects – Heart failure, nausea and vomiting, edema, breakthrough menstrual bleeding, dyspnea, tumor flare (with or without hypercalcemia), hyperglycemia, glucose intolerance, alopecia, hypertension, carpal tunnel syndrome, mood changes, hot flashes, malaise, asthenia, lethargy, sweating and rash.

Orexigenic Side Effects – Severe mood changes and extreme depression, panic attacks and severe insomnia, nausea, vomiting, constipation, increased heartbeat and chest pain, fatigue, skin-rash, headaches and diarrhea, hallucinations, memory loss, anxiety and nervousness, muscle pain, high blood pressure, difficulty urinating, and seizures, liver diseases and bone pain.

How to Medicate

Smoking, vaporizing, and the oral ingestion of capsules and extracts have all been reported as successful for appetite stimulation.

Vaporizing or Vaping

If you don’t like the idea of smoke there is the option to vaporize. Vaporization does not use combustion to heat the medicine. Unfortunately there is some confusion out there about vaporizers. There are now hundreds of vaporizers to choose from. There are three basic types: pen, hand-help, and tabletop. The differences are in price, portability and size. Some vaporizers claim to be able to vaporize plant matter (flowers), wax and oils. Some can only do concentrates, some only oil. The most important difference is the method used to heat the medicine. There are basically two methods (with hybrids on the way)- conduction and convection.

True Vaporizing is done by convection, where air is heated, and in turn the hot air turns the medicine a to vapor which is then inhaled. Conduction Vaporizing happens when a hot element (metal plate, or bowl) touches the medicine. The medicine is placed directly in a metal or ceramic bowl or chamber that is heated which then heats the medicine and the smoke is inhaled. This is still combustion, and not truly vaporizing. This is closer to dabbing but with a much cooler heating element.


The benefit from smoking as a route of administration is instant action and the ability of the patient to self titrate the dose needed for relief.


Edibles provide ways to eat or drink your medicine. Many medicated edibles and even bottled drinks are readily available at dispensaries. Be aware that most of the edibles at dispensaries are loaded with sugar and carbs. But basically what the edibles and drinks all contain are canna butter and/or canna oil. You can purchase these or easily make them at home to add to your own baked goods, snacks or even meals (especially if you are avoiding sugar or gluten).


Tinctures are not new. Until cannabis was banned in 1937, tinctures were the primary type of cannabis medicines. Tinctures are essentially alcohol extractions of whole cannabis (usually the flowers and trim leaves).

The best way to use tinctures is sublingually (under the tongue). Titration or dose control is easily achieved by the number of drops a patient places under the tongue where the medicine is rapidly absorbed into the arterial system and is quickly transported to the brain and body. All a patient need do with tincture is use a few drops, wait for the desired medical effects, and either use more or stop as the situation indicates. Tinctures can be flavored for better taste.

The Patient

The intersection of appetite and cannabis goes far beyond the stereotypes of the so-called munchies. Given that loss of appetite is one of the most common symptoms of a multitude of diseases, this makes cannabis an efficacious treatment method for a host of medical conditions. Studies have revealed over 50% of patients suffering from HIV/AIDS reporting appetite stimulation from cannabis.

The beneficial effects of the plant on cancer patients suffering from loss of appetite and nausea are due to chemotherapy treatments are profound. A 2011 study in the Annals of Oncology reported the synthetic cannabinoid drobaninol as effective in increasing the “overall appreciation of food” in 73% of participating patients, while 30% reported positive effects with the placebo.

A plethora of anecdotal reports of appetite stimulation via high-THC cannabis in a variety of forms makes cannabinoid treatment of appetite issues one of the most effective, non-toxic methods known.