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Science Behind the Munchies

Why does cannabis cause us to get the munchies? Here, we break down why we so often get hungry after consuming.

Jason SanderJason Sander · Jul. 1, 2021 · 4 min read
Science Behind the Munchies

Ever wonder how and why cannabis causes us to get the munchies? This article breaks down the science behind the munchies in layman’s terms.

We’ve all been there. We just got finished with a nice session and we’re feeling good. Then it hits. Even if we’ve just finished eating a meal, do we feel hungry? Why? You may have guessed it, it all comes down to our endocannabinoid system. The ECS is connected to our entire bodies and the chemical compounds in cannabis react with it to enhance most of our appetites.

This is commonly referred to as the munchies. Of course, the ECS is also responsible for regulating our sexual function, immune system, metabolism, and food intake. The ECS is basically like a complex, interconnected system of keyholes. THC is like one of the master keys, which turns the ignition to start reactions in our bodies - getting the munchies is just one of them.

Cannabinoids Enhance Our Senses

According to research, cannabinoids interact with a hormone called ghrelin, which is a hormone secreted by the stomach. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, and it is thought that patients who have issues with desiring food lack this hormone - such as cancer patients going through chemo, for instance.

Studying the reason why cannabis can make us hungry is most certainly nothing new. A study on the munchies was published in the journal Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior way back in 1986. The authors of the study concluded that cannabis consumers who smoked two joints or more ate more calories (in the form of snacks) than those that didn’t consume cannabis.

This was a small study in a time that most of such research was aimed at finding reasons to continue the prohibition on cannabis, but the results stand the test of time. We’d be willing to volunteer to participate in another such study, updated for our current knowledge - for science, of course.

What a Great Side Effect it Is

As with most things cannabis, it largely comes down to the individual - age, body type, and personal ECS, tolerance, and so on. Getting the munchies is just one of the many aspects of what happens when we consume cannabis. Some scientists and medical professionals would call the munchies a side effect, which is a pretty good side effect if you ask us.

"Some scientists and medical professionals would call the munchies a side effect, which is a pretty good side effect if you ask us."

Here are some more interesting side effects when it comes to cannabis and food. A May 2013 study published in The American Journal of Medicine found that people who consume the plant have levels of fasting insulin that is lower than those who do not. This is significant because fasting insulin levels are used as a main indicator of prediabetes risk. The study also found that cannabis consumers have smaller waist circumferences than those who don’t consume. The findings of the research could just mean that those of us who consume cannabis happen to be generally healthier overall, but it’s notable nonetheless.

Science Studies Cannabis and the Senses

One of the other reasons why cannabis makes food taste and smell better, thus increasing our appetite is caused by a phenomenon known as olfactory habituation. In this particular study, mice were dosed with THC. The mice who were not interested in THC lost interest in items with interesting scents and went on doing other things. The mice who had ingested THC were more interested in the scents - which demonstrates that cannabinoids can lead to heightened senses. Additionally, the mice dosed with THC also showed an increase in appetite, eating significantly more food than the mice that weren’t dosed.


More research is needed, as we’ve said many, many times - a broken record we call it, in fact. But it’s promising to see the positives in these aforementioned studies, and how mainstream publications are covering the science behind the munchies.

HashDash - Connecting the Cannabis Community

We hope you found value in our content about how cannabis causes the munchies. Did you learn something, or have anything to add? Let us know - @hashdash on all platforms, except for Instagram, where we are @hashdashdotcom.

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Thanks for reading! Please consume responsibly.

Jason Sander
Jason SanderJason is a versatile writer and marketer with over ten combined years of experience working with clients in various industries. He couples this expertise with six years of writing for the cannabis sector as well as a passion for the business side, and the science behind the plant medicine.
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