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By Adam Parsons

One of the stereotypes about cannabis is that it causes a strong increase in appetite. This is not always true, since experienced users usually don’t feel the same cravings they once did—or maybe they just learned how to keep them under control. Moreover, inhaling any kind of smoke actually lowers the hunger sensation, at least for a short time. Finally, longing for sweet and fatty food after smoking might also depend on personal eating habits. Apart from all this—the munchies seem to be a real phenomenon.

While aromatic terpenes contained in cannabis flowers can increase the senses of smell and taste, making them appetite-stimulators of sorts, science is actually telling us that THC is the main culprit—not only for the psychotropic effects, but also the increase in appetite. Taking high enough doses of THC influences our endocannabinoid system to stimulate hunger. Good to know, now what about CBD? Many people want to know if CBD either increases or decreases one’s will to eat. Here’s what science has discovered so far.


THC induces the munchies by activating several biochemical mechanisms. The cannabinoid increases production of the hormone ghrelin, which causes you to feel hungry. This effect is mediated by CB1 receptors located in areas of the brain involved in appetite control. THC also boosts dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in reward-motivated behaviours, such as eating.

These effects don’t automatically translate into fat stoners. In fact, studies indicate that regular, heavy cannabis users tend to be leaner than non-users. High-THC cannabis use is associated with a lower body[1] mass index, and the most interesting thing is that it may help increase weight in people who are low-weight, but not in normal or overweight individuals. That’s cool, but do the non-intoxicating cannabis strains and their derivatives rich in CBD exert similar effects?



The endocannabinoid system interacts with several metabolic functions. Researchers are trying to figure out exactly how cannabis increases appetite, and also if it might be possible to inhibit appetite-modulating CB1 receptors. This could help develop cannabis strains, or most likely novel cannabinoid drugs, able to reduce appetite with few side effects.

As opposed to THC, CBD doesn’t appear to trigger the brain mechanisms that activate the munchies. A 2013 study[2] suggests that CBD acts instead as an antagonist of the CB1 receptor. Although, we should point out that the researchers call for subsequent studies in order to understand "how the laboratory results translate to the types of cannabis that are encountered by real-world recreational users".

Moreover, a 2016 study[3] published in _Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry_ suggests that CBD appears to stimulate the production of substances that increase the body’s breakdown of fat and ability to burn calories. Additionally, the study proposes that cannabidiol seems to reduce the expression of proteins involved in creating fat cells within the body. Needless to say, more research is needed.


Loss of appetite is often a consequence of medical problems, uneasy states of mind, or medications. Chronic conditions that cause appetite loss include chronic pain, cancer pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis. Mental health problems such as chronic stress and anxiety also cause appetite loss by affecting both brain receptors and the digestive system.

According to researchers at the University of São Paulo[4], CBD may have the potential to decrease symptoms of social anxiety disorder associated with public speaking. Using a simulated public speaking test on 24 SAD patients, the study found that “pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alert in their anticipatory speech”.

Could this principle be applied to those suffering from both pain and nausea? A 2008 research paper alludes[5] to the antihyperalgesic potential of cannabis—specifically CBD. Further studies suggest CBD's antiemetic potential[6].

Based on the information available, CBD doesn’t appear to affect hunger in a disadvantageous form. With much still to learn about CBD's impact on our metabolism, burning calories, and increasing appetite, for now, it's difficult to provide a definitive answer.

External Resources:
  1. Marijuana and Body Weight https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  2. Frontiers | Does Cannabidiol Protect Against Adverse Psychological Effects of THC? | Psychiatry https://www.frontiersin.org
  3. Cannabidiol promotes browning in 3T3-L1 adipocytes | SpringerLink https://link.springer.com
  4. Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients - PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  5. Antihyperalgesic Effect of a Cannabis Sativa Extract in a Rat Model of Neuropathic Pain: Mechanisms Involved - PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  6. Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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