The Ultimate Guide to the Munchies, the Science Behind It, and Best Strains to Promote or Curb Your Appetite

The Ultimate Guide to the Munchies, the Science Behind It, and Best Strains to Promote or Curb Your Appetite

March 30, 2021

By Michael Davies

We've all experienced it. The delightful euphoria of demolishing an entire wedding cake. Subtle and salty overtones crinkling at the bottom of the recently finished "family" size bag of chips. Three empty Oreo containers with deflated syrup bottles and whipped cream precariously piled on top of the trash can.

This phenomenon is known as the munchies.

For some, it is rather dangerous, especially to the waistline. To others, it is a life-saving boon that directly helps appetite. It is a colorful and pleasant experience to be consumed by consuming life's tastiest treats for everyone.

In this piece, I will touch on the following issues: 

  1. I’ve Heard of Cannabis, What are Canniboids?

  2. Why Do We Get Munchies After Smoking Weed?

  3. How to Stop Weed Munchies? 7 Helpful Ways to Avoid Unhealthy Munchies!

  4. How Can Cannabis Reduce Nausea and Combat Appetite Loss? 4 Ways to Leverage Your Munchies for Healthy Weight Gain

  5. 5 Cannabis Strains to Increase Appetite

  6. 5 Cannabis Strains to Curb the Munchies

  7. 10 Healthy Munchies for Your High

 

I’ve Heard of Cannabis. What are Cannabinoids?

marijuana-munchies

The heightened sense of taste and smell known as the munchies has been documented as far back as 300 AD when cannabis was in regular circulation around the Roman Empire. Anecdotal accounts have arisen since then, but it wasn't until recently that research could back up this well-known claim.

Whenever we ingest cannabis, cannabinoids (the molecular form of the fantastic effect) such as THC and CBD bind with cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are little drop boxes outside the cell that cannabinoids bind to and stimulate the euphoric effects of cannabis. Our body also produces endocannabinoids such as Anandamide (from Sanskrit Ananda, meaning "internal bliss") that bind to these same receptors.

These receptors are classified as CB1 and CB2. The main difference between these is that CB1 receptors exist primarily in the brain’s neural cells, the spinal cord, and the stomach. At the same time, CB2 receptors are dominant in the peripheral cells of bodily tissues. One way to generalize this is to think of THC and its mind-altering effects as acting on CB1 and CBD with its physical bliss acting on CB2.

As if matters weren't complicated enough, we will introduce the third cannabinoid gaining fame and research known as THCV. This molecule promotes completely different effects from THC and CBD by blocking CB1&2 receptors.

Terpenes work similarly to THCV and compete for cannabinoid receptors. These fragrant and sublime compounds have a multitude of effects that boost several bodily functions. Different terpenes have different effects and can boost or suppress appetite. 

The main takeaway is that cannabis plants are full of many molecules with subtly different effects on our biochemistry. Through different strains, breeders can influence the ratios of these potent molecules to produce the desired results.

Why Do We Get the Munchies?

Pot takes you back, in a certain sense, and enhances experience. It takes you into your soul and mind, into the present, the future, and the past. It pushes your consciousness in absolutely every type of direction, and that includes craving your favorite snacks.

Scientists believe that the psychoactive component of marijuana, THC, causes the 'munchies' cravings. THC is a natural chemical that interacts with cannabinoids, specifically CB1. In a nutshell, CB1 is the psychoactive receptor in your brain. 

The chemical THC only responds with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in your brain. CBD seems to have a neutral effect on these receptors, and THCV a suppressive effect. For more info, check our blog post about THC and CBD, and the Entourage Effect

These receptors are known to influence the central nervous system and related organs, which is why you feel specific effects from certain strains. It also lowers your blood sugar levels, so you generally go for sugary treats.

To sum up, the purported effects of increases in hunger come from the amount of THC within a strain of cannabis, and they have four main mechanisms based on the location of CB1 receptors in the body:

1. Limbic Forebrain: Enhanced Senses: THC directly influences neurons in the limbic system, the part of the brain wired for survival and fight or flight. The primary role is to promote the olfactory bulb, leading to heightened senses of smell and taste.

Usually, when we are around a smell for long enough, we become habituated to it. The powerful effects wear off so we can focus our attention on other matters. When THC activates the limbic system, we have heightened senses of smell and taste, which last far longer than is typically required for survival.

2. Basal Ganglia: Dopamine Production: We have all heard of dopamine, the magical molecule. From goal-directed behavior such as exploring and creating to increasing joy and jubilation, dopamine is a potent motivator for human activity. It is made primarily in the basal ganglia (BG), the part of the brain that sounds like an exotic cocktail. The BG works with a variety of brain systems to integrate motor control and decision-making.

The brain already rewards us for discovering foods, especially highly palatable foods that will ensure continued survival. By stimulating extra dopamine in the basal ganglia, the already joyful experience of eating becomes jubilant.

3. Hypothalamus: Downregulate Satiety: When THC binds to the hypothalamus, it directly impacts feelings of satiety. The hypothalamus handles coordinating hormones in the body.

When we consume a rich and bountiful meal, the hypothalamus lines up neurons known as POMCs. These act like cheerleaders enthusiastically congratulating you on a steak well done. When CB1 receptors are activated, the POMCs become scrambled and disorganized, removing feelings of satiety.

This system works directly with the stomach and digestive tract to promote ghrelin.

4. Stomach: Promote Ghrelin: Ghrelin, a hormone reminiscent of gremlins, is a sneaky little substance that actively works against weight loss attempts. Alternatively, it is a fantastic hormone to promote weight gain and appetite.

THC, when bound in the hypothalamus and stomach, starts a conversation between the two. The body receives messages telling it that it has not addressed its need for food and produces ghrelin as a result. Ghrelin acts on the digestive system to promote appetite and decrease feelings of satiety.

Four Terpenes that Will Affect Your Appetite

In addition to THC, CBD and THCV terpenes have a significant impact on the effects of a given strain. While these are subtler, the whole flower’s synergistic properties influence the effect cannabis has on us. The combined effect of cannabinoids and terpenes can have a significant impact on appetite.

  • 2 Terpenes to Increase Appetite: Primary terpenes that boost appetite are myrcene and b-caryophyllene. Myrcene has the savory-citrus flavor found in hops, bay leaves, and thyme and aids digestion while promoting hunger. Sharp and spicy notes define the scent of b-caryophyllene. Found in black pepper, cloves, and basil, it promotes anti-inflammation.

Related Article: What is Myrcene & What Does This Cannabis Terpene Do?

  • 2 Terpenes to Reduce Appetite: For reducing appetite, limonene and humulene are salient terpenes. The most popular of these is limonene which gives off a nostalgic citrusy-sour aroma. Additionally, limonene has anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties to keep the body and mind healthy. Humulene works similarly to THCV to directly inhibit the appetite-inducing effects of THC. 

Related Article: What is Limonene & What Does This Cannabis Terpene Do?

How to Stop Weed Munchies? 7 Helpful Ways to Avoid Unhealthy Munchies!

How to avoid munchies while high? How to stop the munchies? I've had this problem before, every time I stop at the grocery store, I know I want to get prepared for the munchies, and I end up getting Froot Loops. They used to be my favorite munchies, they still are, but I simply stopped buying them. 

The most guaranteed way of keeping a distance from your favorite junk foods high in empty calories is not to buy them. But there still no guarantees that you will stay away from them. Especially if stoned. Oh, The stoner life!

Don't get me wrong, munching on some scrumptious delights is always tempting. Sometimes, I even save my appetite until I get high so I can enjoy food more intensely. But if you were, like me, self-conscious about your weight and you want to make sure that your marijuana lifestyle won't negatively affect you, you’d want to do something about it. Smoking weed regularly can be destructive if you don't use it responsibly, and the munchies are one of the side effects of smoking weed that you need to be mindful about.

Well, my stoner friend, there are few tricks you can implement so you'd be able to avoid overeating. Implementing these tips and tricks into your daily life will require both dedication and patience for better well-being.

1. Organize your meals, snacks, and the portions: Avoid munchies while high. Be conscious about when and what you eat. Also, don't eat on an empty stomach; it will increase your chances of indulging. Additionally, snacking throughout the day is better for you than constricting your eating to three meals a day. Healthy snacking improves overall hunger satisfaction throughout the day.

munchies for marijuana 

2. Make sure to pre-plan your activities: Before you start your smoking session, know your passion. Whether it's going for a hike, hanging out with friends, watching TV, or even daydreaming. Find the activity you enjoy while you’re high (and trust me, you will enjoy any activity when you're high) - But don't smoke, and then you're like "now what" - because the first thing you will do is going to your fridge and look into your roommate's junk food. (I've been there, done that).

how to avoid munchies when smoking weed

Also, it's a good idea to try to train your brain away from the trend of eating when you are bored or when there is nothing else to do. See, the beauty of getting high is that you can be pretty focused on one thing and only one thing. You are still capable of switching your focus on something else. It’s a bit difficult, but it’s doable. Once you do that, you're on the right path to a healthier stoner lifestyle. You will find yourself rather enjoying a creative or athletic hobby and forgetting your cravings for potato chips or ice cream.

Let me elaborate a little bit because this is important to be aware of. When you're high, you will have a limited short-term memory capacity. It may sound like a negative thing, but you can use this for your benefit. First off, it can be great for focusing (increased attention span) because you will simply get engrossed in something and do it for a while without realizing how long you've been doing it, thus keeping you away from the thoughts of deliciously junk foods. 

3. Try to take the taste out of your mouth: Have you brushed your teeth when you're high? It has this satisfying feeling, and it will take your mind away from your munchies’ dream. After brushing your teeth or using a mouthwash, the feel of freshness in your mouth will prevent you from wanting anything that may ruin the excellent feeling. The mintiness of the toothpaste has also proven to curve your overall appetite.

how to avoid munchies when smoking marijuana

4. Make sure not to have unhealthy munchies around: Avoid buying and keeping any type of junk food at your place. Between McDonald's and Subway, choose Subway. Buy fruits and vegetables. They can be good munchies, and when you're high, trust me, you will appreciate everything the same way, even it was carrots or lettuce. Think of your favorite food; mine is ice cream. Dairy products from cattle are not meant for human consumption. Thus, 'lactose intolerance' is becoming and growing condition. I could never survive without ice cream, so I replaced it with a healthier version made from coconut milk.

Healthy munchies when smoking weed

Related article: Healthy munchies for stoners.

Apply that process to all of your favorite foods that you just simply cannot do without. Tea, coffee, soda water (flavored or unflavored), or a Zero-carb protein shake can be a great replacement. Keeping yourself hydrated will help to decrease your appetite as well.

5. Different strains may give you different experiences: Ask your budtender. At your local medical or recreational dispensaries, they usually have a list of all the effects each strain may give you, including "increasing appetite" or the craving for munchies - or you can look at any strain you're interested in online. You can find a list of the best strains here: Can Cannabis Help You Lose Weight and Stay Healthy.

Healthy munchies when smoking weed

It's also fun to try different strains and discover different high experiences. Just be adventurous. There are no limitations when referring to Marijuana, and you can be as mellow as you want or as wild as you wish.

6. EXERCISE: Exercise so you won't feel the guilt and shame of sitting on your couch, smoking weed, and eating the leftover pizza from last night. Do it so you can justify your beloved lifestyle. Have you worked out high, damn it's the best feeling ever!

munchies for marijuana

It is the 21st Century, and exercising methods have evolved to be more enjoyable while burning just as many if not more calories than at the gym.

You are not required to put in a lot of effort either, we know the main reason people smoke Marijuana is to relax and unwind, but that doesn't necessarily mean being lazy. Do simple, productive tasks like cleaning the house, taking your dog for a walk, leisurely swimming in the pool are a few of the much relaxing yet productive for your overall well-being.

7. Finally, use chopsticks! If you're a fast eater, like me, especially when it comes to munchies, try to use chopsticks.

marijuana-munchies-best-munchies-tip-smoke-weed_large

It will slow down your munchies’ eating process, and eventually, you will be a professional chopstick-champion. Eating with chopsticks allows you to: 

  • Enjoy the look of your food.
  • Properly chew and enjoy the meal.
  • Become an expert in using chopsticks.
  • Lastly, not munchies related, you can use chopsticks to align the weed in your joints/spliffs/blunts, etc., for a neatly packed finish.

How Can Cannabis Reduce Nausea and Combat Appetite Loss? 4 Ways to Leverage Your Munchies for Healthy Weight Gain

While most people smoking cannabis want to combat the intense and luscious sensation of drowning in a tub of ice cream, many individuals deal with appetite loss and severe pain due to cancer, aids-treatment, or other debilitating conditions. Cachexia, or wasting syndrome, can be combatted with cannabis

For those with issues eating due to treatment, stress, and pain, the suitable strains can help promote appetite while alleviating pain for those who need it. 

Here are four ways to use cannabis to your advantage when stimulating your appetite.

1. Smoke Right Before You Eat: If appetite is a chronic issue, then smoke some chronic before an ensuing meal. I like to intermittent fast, going about 20 hours between meals and having a huge dinner. Part of my ritual is smoking a massive bowl or blunt before I load in the calories. 

When you smoke right before you eat, you capitalize on the sensations of the munchies, allowing you to consume more than you thought possible. The food tastes better, feels better, and goes down a lot easier. 

2. Eat Calorie Dense, Nutritious Meals: While everyone loves the oreo cheesecake dessert pizza for dinner, the source of calories matters. Those who struggle to get enough sustenance should try to focus on rich, calorie and nutrition-dense meals. 

That’s right, calorie-dense foods can be nutritious too. Think about fatty fish, cashews, peanut butter, or yogurt. While fat has been demonized in the past, healthy fats are a great source of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), protein, and fiber. Yogurts, cheeses, and other fermented foods have tons of great probiotics to improve gut health. 

3. Do Some Light Exercise Before You Smoke: I’m not a doctor, and some individuals may have restrictions on what kind of physical activity they can do when they have issues gaining weight. I can recommend doing some light exercise; this can be as simple as standing and walking around or cleaning the house before you smoke. 

Very low-level cardiovascular activity (think as simple as standing up instead of sitting while watching tv) can help improve blood flow, increase energy, and help the body recover better. This activity is known as active recovery and involves doing low enough stress activity to feel more energized than before. A bonus is the endorphins released from exercise will help reduce pain and increase euphoria. 

4. Stay on Schedule: I’ve framed these tips in order so that you can implement them as a daily practice. This practice helps to build habits and stay on course. If maintaining regular meals is difficult for you, try scheduling your meals and sticking to the schedule. Each time you need to eat, do some light exercise, smoke a bowl, then chow down on a delicious and healthy meal. 

After a couple of weeks of staying on schedule, you’ll start to develop healthy habits for months to come. 

5 Strains to Increase Appetite

These strains have a higher THC content and are typically Indica-dominant. For individuals who struggle with appetite due to chemotherapy, nausea, or stress, the strains listed can be a perfect complement to your diet.

1. Girl Scout Cookies

  • THC: ~19%

  • Strain Type: Indica-Dominant Hybrid

GSC, as it is popularly known, is sure to have you rummaging through the cupboard looking for anything sweet. It boasts a potent THC ratio in an Indica dominant blend that is sure to knock you out after tearing through 10 boxes of thin mints. Learn more about this strain here

2. Tahoe OG Kush

  • THC: ~18%

  • Strain Type: Pure Hybrid 

Perfect for your midnight snack, Tahoe OG is a strain of the archetypal kush that includes the parent's citrusy and earthy notes with a powerful hypnotic effect. With almost no CBD, the decisive boost to your appetite and comfort will have you on the couch with a food coma in no time. Learn more about this strain here.

3. Blue Dream

  • THC: ~18%

  • Strain Type: Sativa Dominant Hybrid

This strain is a perfect hybrid with high THC to stimulate appetite and energy simultaneously. If it's a rainy day and you're feeling blue, smoke the stress away. Blue Dream will ease you down, relieve that pain and nausea and allow you to raid your neighbor’s cookie jar. Learn more about this strain here.

4. Somango

  • THC: ~18%

  • Strain Type: Indica 

Named for its intense acidity and sweet tropical flavor Somango XL will whet your appetite and have you craving for more. While a powerful sedative perfect for pain management, the effects will be enough to stimulate creativity without bogging you down. Learn more about this strain here.

5. Critical Kush

  • THC: ~18%

  • Strain Type: Indica  

This strain is well-balanced and will offer energy, a clear mind, and a rumbling tummy. Perfect for on the go or cleaning the house, Critical has earthy undertones and a sharp sweetness that will ease you into a functioning high. Learn more about this strain here.

5 Strains to Reduce Your Appetite

While munchies are a boon to some, for others, the sensation can be overwhelming, primarily to the waistline. Strains bred with a higher THCV content will curb the effects of munchies by competing for the same receptors as THC and CBD. You will still experience an incredible high without finding yourself knee-deep in a tub of ice cream.

1. Durban Poison

  • THC: ~17%

  • Strain Type: Sativa 

Originating in the South African Port of Durban, this strain promotes high THCV levels to keep you clear-headed and euphoric. Its sweet and spicy flavor profile is the medicine you've been looking for. Learn more about this strain here.

2. Jack the Ripper

  • THC: ~17%

  • Strain Type: Sativa 

With an intense and stimulating effect, Jack the Ripper will have you energized on lemon-pine notes. Boasting one of the highest THCV contents of any strain, The Ripper will curb your appetite while blasting you into a friendly and pleasant mood. Learn more about this strain here.

3. Red Congolese

  • THC: ~23%

  • Strain Type: Sativa 

This African-based strain features fiery trichomes weaved around bulbous leaves, a famous panacea for nausea, anxiety, and chronic pain. Offering long-lasting energy, clarity, and calm, this is the perfect strain for all those errands you've been putting off. Learn more about this strain here.

4. Doug's Varin

  • THC: ~19-24%

  • Strain Type: Sativa

A rare strain explicitly bred for its THCV content, this energizing and euphoric strain will boost your productivity without contributing to your clothing size. Citrusy and down-to-earth flavors offer subtle notes for a long-lasting high. Learn more about this strain here.

5. Power Plant

  • THC: ~15%

  • Strain Type: Sativa 

A potent strain with peppery and woody flavors, make sure to smoke this early in the day to reap the full benefits of its electrifying effect. Learn more about this strain here.

10 Healthy Munchies for Your High

Here are few ideas for you: 

  1. Water, it's not a "munchie" per se, but it can kill your cravings.

  2. Soup, the water will fill you up, and you can add anything from the fridge (veggies, chicken, stale tortilla chips) for a wholesome meal. 

  3. Make your own cereal, trail mix of type of nuts you like, granola, and milk. If you want to sweeten it up, add some raisins (don't add any sugar). 

  4. Carrots and hummus

  5. Cucumbers and tomatoes cut up with just salt and pepper.

  6. Jajeek! Yogurt + cut-up cucumbers and garlic. 

  7. Granola + yogurt + fruit

  8. Pickles; cheap, briny, watery, vinegary, crunchy, low-calorie, a universe of flavor and texture in every bite.

  9. Pistachios, shells on. Many nuts have the domino effect: they are healthy in small doses, but if you consume a pound in one sitting, there are 1000+ calories down the drain… Nuts with shells slow down eating time and are fun to crack open too!

  10. Fruits, in general, can be great munchies. I know it doesn't sound as appealing as donuts or tacos, but once you get yourself into eating a peach or an orange, you will feel so satisfied. My favorites are: 

    • Peaches, obviously.
    • Grapes or frozen grapes
    • Citrus
    • Strawberries
    • Watermelon

Conclusion

When we ingest Cannabis in any form, all these systems are activated simultaneously. The entire body works synergistically to produce the exhilaration known as the munchies.

Feelings of euphoria increased sensory awareness, and appetite promotion all influence the way we eat while high.

For many of us, the munchies are an exuberant experience. For others, they can be a severe drawback to our diets and waste lines, while some individuals are entirely reliant on these effects.

Whether you're an avid smoker trying to lose weight or someone struggling with appetite, choosing the right strain for you is imperative. Sometimes it can be challenging to assess the effects of a given strain. Still, with resources and information for the cannabis industry growing every day, it's becoming more accessible than ever.

As a guideline, strains that promote sleepiness, calm, and pain reduction will typically activate the same receptors that promote munchies. In the same way, strains that boost energy, clarity, and mental acuity will generally curb appetite.

Choose the strains that align with your goals and enjoy!

About the Author

Michael Davies is a creative writer interested in the intersection between art, science, philosophy, growth, and the human experience. He has a voracious appetite for learning and loves to create. 

He has always been passionately interested in all mediums of fiction and nonfiction, and especially providing a clear and concise presentation of complex topics to all audiences. Linkedin - Portfolio