The endocannabinoid diet is really meant to act as an endocannabinoid system booster to feed and nurture the ECS in an effort to improve, and eventually maintain, overall health while enhancing the therapeutic and medicinal effects of cannabis (in users).
Whether you partake in cannabis use or not, this article will discuss the best endocannabinoid-enhancing foods to nourish the endocannabinoid system, along with other tips to enhance your overall herbaceous experience.
The Endocannabinoid Diet
Some individuals may have an ECS that does not work efficiently, and “feeding” the ECS by properly pairing certain foods, and other environmental/behavioral factors, with cannabis could be the key to resetting your ECS for health improvements and optimal functioning.
This is also a great method if you’re experiencing the biphasic effect, and are in need of an ECS reset due to tolerance increases with little to no therapeutic benefit felt/perceived.
The Endocannabinoid Diet: Cannabis for Appetite
It’s no secret that cannabis is quite well-known for stimulating appetite. In fact, cannabis has been used medicinally for years as a means to increase weight in cachectic patients.
However, there are a few factors that go into appetite stimulation in relation to cannabis, and we’ll break down what those factors are below.
Why Does Weed Make You Hungry?
Before we can fully understand exactly why cannabis makes us so hungry, it’s critical to understand the cannabinoids primarily responsible for either appetite simulation or suppression.
THC vs. THCV
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) are phytocannabinoids with similar chemical compositions that both act on CB1 and CB2 receptors, mimicking the function of the other endocannabinoids.
This compensatory reaction allows for THC and THCV to essentially “pick up where the other endocannabinoids are lacking” to maintain health and overall physiological regulation, however, there are some differences among them. (1)
What is THC?
THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis that typically provides a sense of euphoria along with relief from pain, anxiety and migraines. While THC provides some of the more fun “side-benefits”, it is probably most infamously known for its ravenous onset of the munchies. (1,2)
Choosing strains with higher THC content can be beneficial to those looking to increase or maintain their weight/appetite.
But if your weed-induced waistline has been expanding more than you’d like, there’s another great option to explore that will still give you all of these beautiful benefits, but without that intense appetite stimulation.
What is THCV?
Still psychoactive and highly potent, THCV provides an energized and clear-headed high with a shorter duration compared to THC. While very similar to THC in its medicinal profile, such as anti-inflammation, the one distinguishing factor between the two is THCV’s appetite suppressing effect. (2,3)
Choosing strains with higher THCV content can be a better option for those looking to lose or maintain weight while still experiencing the same blissful benefits of THC. Check out some options below.
It’s important to note that THCV does not replace THC in the strains in which it resides. Much like CBD and THC, THCV and THC values will vary by weight in different ratios in different strains, so when you are at a trusted dispensary, ask about a more THCV-dominant option.
The Nose Knows
In addition to the cannabinoid and terpene profiles of your strain of choice, an olfactory response is also triggered by CB1 receptors when hunger hits by increasing odor detection, therefore, increasing food intake. (6)
While this olfactory connection may be inconvenient in the general sense of overeating, it’s still a beautiful network that the body is able to produce, and without our senses working together, life truly wouldn’t be quite as enjoyable.
The Endocannabinoid Diet and the Munchies
As you can see from above, there’s a lot of science that goes into the onset of those marvelous munchies. While there is also no requirement to experience the munchies in order for cannabis to work its magic, it is also totally ok to let them kick in every once and awhile and just enjoy yourself.
There is something to be said for just allowing yourself to live in and enjoy the moment without any judgment. That self-permission alone could be enough of a “therapeutic release”, and a great exercise in mental health.
Unfortunately, avid cannaconsumers are often left with regret, unwanted pounds or just overall discomfort from overeating. Discussed further below, there are a few things you can do to avoid the munchies all together, while there are other methods to prepare for them.
Use the Endocannabinoid Diet to Make Over Your Munchies
Try prepping healthier snacks ahead of time to account for the munchies, such as granola with omega-3 rich nuts and seeds, and dark chocolate chips.
Sprinkle some of that over a cup of plain Greek yogurt (try freezing it first!) with a scoop of protein powder mixed in, frozen, wild blueberries and a drizzle of honey, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful munchie makeover filled with healthful nutrition that will not only nourish you, but also your endocannabinoid system (ECS)!
Go for foods with similar sensations to your usual food choices, such as carrots in place of crackers or chips. You’ll still get the same crunch sensation and a little bit of sweetness.
Or choose really easy “convenience” foods, such as a protein shake with frozen fruit (like pineapple!), milk or water, avocado and leafy greens (ice as needed for texture preference).
These are easy enough to prepare ahead of time or as soon as the munchies kick in. Just watch out for those fingers with that blender since you’ll be a bit more impaired than usual.
How to Avoid the Munchies When High
As much fun as the munchies can feel in the moment as you binge on all your favorite snack foods that just taste so much better than usual, those munchie choices are typically never “good” ones.
Now one way to avoid the munchies is will power…although I am far too familiar with how that willpower completely goes away once the munchies set in.
Another option is to prepare healthy foods and snacks ahead of time (discussed below). Try and choose foods with similar taste, texture, smell and bite sensations to your “fun” snacks.
Or prepare your meals around when you plan to use cannabis so that when the munchies do set in, you’ve already got a pre-planned out meal ready to go. For example, I’ll cook my dinner, load a bowl, THEN smoke half of that bowl, and then I’m ready to eat my dinner.
This way I’ve essentially closed in my cannabis consumption around my food intake because too many times have I eaten an entire meal, then smoked, and BAM! 20 minutes later and I’m ready to eat all over again…..and I do.
However, if none of those options above work for you (and that’s ok – as a dietitian I fully understand that food choices are the most difficult part of our health to stick with, even when we have the best of intentions), there are other ways to avoid the munchies by looking at the cannabinoid and terpene profiles of the cannabis you purchase.
Choose Strains High in THCV
Many strains with higher THCV content tend to be more energizing since most are sativa-dominant or pure sativas (with a few indica-dominant exceptions*). “High” THCV strains are considered those with 1-6% THCV content or higher. (4)
- Durban Poison (1% THCV / 17% THC)
- Pineapple Purps: (4% THCV / 17% THC)
- Pink Boost Goddess*: (4.24% THCV / 18.7% THC)
- Jack the Ripper: (5% THCV / 15-25% THC)
Also found in hops, humulene is a unique terpene due to its appetite-suppressing effects that may work in synergy with limonene.
Humulene can also be found in black pepper and ginseng. As an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent, this terpene packs a powerful punch to aide you in receiving medicinal benefits while avoiding unnecessary binging or cravings. (7)
Strains High in Humulene
- Durban Poison** (17% THC): energizing, uplifting, euphoric, happy
- Jack the Ripper** (15-25% THC): energizing, creative, focused
- Sour Diesel (18% THC): happy, uplifting, energizing, euphoric
**these strains contain high levels of both THCV and humulene
An Endocannabinoid System Booster
Without food, we simply cannot have cellular health. Our cells are literally fed by nutrition, therefore, it should be of utmost priority to nourish the body in the most optimal manners possible. (6,10,13)
And one way to do so is to feed the ECS properly through the principles of the endocannabinoid diet, whether you partake in cannabis use or not.
Feeding the ECS Can Be an Endocannabinoid System Booster
The ECS interacts in a specific and synergistic fashion with the foods that you eat, but can also have a negative impact based on what you eat.
For example, consuming high-fat or high-protein foods with edibles will extend effects, while high-sugar and/or CO2-extracted edibles provide more of a short-term experience. (6,9)
Endocannabinoid System Booster: Endocannabinoid-Enhancing Foods
With endless amounts of food choices out there, pairing foods, specifically endocannabinoid-enhancing foods, in certain ways can power the ECS in order to preserve optimal function for health, healing, effect and overall wellness. (6,10)
What is so unique about the ECS is that since it controls lipid and fat metabolism, it can still function when food is scarce as a wonderful compensatory benefit, but we can do our parts to properly preserve it just like any other organ system in the body by fueling it with a purpose. (6,10)
Keep reading to discover how to craft your very own cannabis cuisine!
Endocannabinoid System Booster: “Plant-Based” Protein
Phytocannabinoids (i.e. CBD and THC) bind to and target fatty-acid binding proteins (FABPs), inhibiting the cellular uptake and breakdown of anandamide. In addition, CBD and THC are transported in the blood via lipoproteins and albumin (protein-binding), and are hydrophobic & fat-soluble. (11)
When it comes to protein and cannabis, the greatest synergistic effect is typically felt if your delivery method is ingestion (i.e. edibles) since they pass through the liver to slow down the effect, but everyone will have a different digestive rate.
However, there are still plenty of ways to optimize the effects of cannabis through protein-rich food regardless of your delivery method of choice, if at all.
Try pairing these foods around your cannabis consumption (6,12):
- Ground meats
- Omega-3 enriched eggs
Edibliss: Enhance Your Edible Experience
Delta-9-THC is converted to 11-hydroxy-THC, which is available to the body, more potent, and takes longer to onset (30-90 minutes) with a longer duration of effectiveness compared to other delivery methods, such as inhalation or tinctures. (9)
Fat pathways to the liver are preferred and most optimal for edible digestion and absorption that is long-lasting. If there’s fat or protein in the edible (both would be best), it’ll take longer to digest, but will make its way to the liver, extending the duration of effectiveness. (9)
If you’re newer to cannabis, especially with edibles, be sure to “start low, and go slow”, but also be patient! They can take anywhere from 30 minutes up to 2 hours to set in, and can last up to 12 hours.
So do not try to keep dosing up until you “feel something” otherwise it will not be a fun time for you (no, it will not kill you), and could ruin your entire experience with cannabis for future use. (9)
Seasoned stoners will tell you, once you ingest, there is no going back and the body will start to metabolize it. And the only thing to truly “bring you down” at that point is time, and we all know that time almost stands still when you’re high, prolonging your unintended discomfort.
Timing is also key when ingesting cannabis and endocannabinoid-enhancing foods. For example, you can extend the time of effectiveness by adding more fat and/or protein after ingesting a small amount of your edible.
Maybe try having a balanced meal with protein and fat, then ingest your edible, then an hour or so later, have an egg. (9)
Endocannabinoid System Booster: Essential Fatty Acids
As mentioned earlier, the phytocannabinoids are hydrophobic (water-fearing) and fat-soluble. (11) No different than its typical recommendation for health and wellness, a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid sources can intensify the activity of the ECS. (12)
Endocannabinoid-enhancing fatty acids (10,12):
- Hemp, flax and chia seeds
- Hemp and flax oil
- Nuts and nut butters
- Omega-3 enriched eggs
- Fatty fish
- Specifically salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Endocannabinoids are derived from an omega-6 fatty acid, arachidonic acid. It is key to control your omega-6 intake as too much pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid could potentially downregulate cannabinoid receptors.
Omega-6 sources are most commonly found as oils, such as corn, soy, sunflower and safflower oils, along with meat, poultry and eggs. (12)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Just like any other healthy fat recommendation, in order to stabilize the ECS, adequate omega-3 is prudent to balance out omega-6 intake, aiming for an ideal ratio of 1:1.
Remember that omega-6 is pro-inflammatory, and tends to be the fatty acid that is most easily over consumed, but also be sure to not eliminate it entirely. (12)
Endocannabinoid System Booster: Sweet Treats
Being a huge candy-lover myself, sugar is one of the quickest ways to kill your high, but chocolate contains compounds with similar structures to the endocannabinoids.
Cacao powder’s compounds prevent the breakdown of endocannabinoids, allowing for higher activity levels of the endocannabinoids in circulation. (12)
Endocannabinoid-enhancing sweets (12):
- Dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao)
- Raw cacao/raw cacao powder
- Carob nibs
Therefore, one of your best candy choices would be dark chocolate since it has synergistic and therapeutic properties. Try adding some carob nibs to whole fat ice cream or dark chocolate syrup to whole or 2% milk (remember that fat-solubility synergy).
Endocannabinoid System Booster: Tea Time
Several teas and coffees naturally contain very similar endocannabinoid-enhancing properties as the herbs listed above along with flavonoids. The herbal elements of tea tend to be more beta caryophyllene-heavy and act on CB2, although some teas, such as Camelia sinensis, act on CB1. (12)
Black tea, coffee, fermented teas (I.e. kombucha), green tea, and maca root powder are excellent endocannabinoid-enhancing beverages to consider. (12)
You can also make your own, non-psychoactive cannabis tea by steeping raw cannabis flower/buds in hot water to experience the effects of the inactive cannabinoids, THCA and CBDA.
This is also a great ingestion option for those highly sensitive to the effects of cannabis and/or the active cannabinoids, THC and CBD.
Endocannabinoid System Booster: Herbal Healing
There are several herbs out there with bountiful amounts of endocannabinoid-enhancing properties, but one terpene stands out from the rest. Cinnamon, clove, oregano, and black pepper all contain beta caryophyllene.
This particular terpene has a bit of an identity crisis, but is pretty unique in that it selectively triggers the CB2 receptor without stimulating CB1, acting like a cannabinoid as a full agonist to fight inflammation. (12)
Other endocannabinoid-enhancing herbs & spices (6,12,13):
- Cannabis (obviously)
Endocannabinoid System Booster: Go Organic
Pesticides are most widely used on produce, and can heavily disrupt the endocannabinoid system. Choose organic foods free of pesticides to reduce the toxic load to the body, especially for your meat, dairy and produce options. (10,12)
Endocannabinoid-enhancing tips (10,12):
- Choose non-gmo foods with no artificial ingredients, flavorings, colors, sweeteners, preservatives
- Avoid the Dirty Dozen
- Include the Clean 15
Too High? Let’s Come Down
“Why do you build me up, cannabis, baby just to bring me down?”. We’ve all been there, right? In an attempt to have a great time, we’ve accidentally overdone it. So what can you do, other than hurrying up and waiting, to start to lessen those unwanted effects?
Increase CBD:THC Ratio
In general, a balanced,1:1 CBD-to-THC ratio is most optimal and recommended to experience the most botanical benefits. However, there are several other ways to pair your cannabinoid ratios based on what effect you want.
CBD does not bind to cannabinoid receptors like THC does, causing no euphoric effect. CBD does bind to other receptors, like serotonin, and why it can be helpful for sleep.
CBD changes the shape of CB1, making it more challenging for THC to bind to that receptor of the brain, tempering the THC high. Basically, the greater the CBD:THC ratio, the less high you’ll feel, but know that a greater ratio is not always better than an even ratio. (6)
Balanced ratios are best for chronic diseases and neuropathic pain, but if the euphoric effect has become far too intense, try adjusting your ratio (and this may take some trial and error) to 2:1, 3:1, 6:1 or opting for hemp oil that contains less than 0.3% THC to lower psychoactivity. (6)
Alternatively, to avoid any psychoactivity from the start and still get the therapeutic benefits, try a minimum ratio of 25:1 CBD-to-THC. Or to be totally safe, choose hemp oil or a CBD-only flower/bud. This is a great ratio for children, the elderly, working individuals and for travel. (6)
Surprise, surprise! Look who’s returned and just won’t back down! Our “designated driver” terpene savior, beta caryophyllene, is always there to save the day.
THC primarily binds to CB1 receptors of the brain and central nervous system, causing euphoria. (5,6)
Unlike any other terpene, beta caryophyllene really does tend to behave more like a cannabinoid than a terpene since it binds to CB2, causing no euphoric effects. (5,6)
Either consume more beta caryophyllene-rich foods, or choose a cannabis strain that is beta caryophyllene-dominant with a higher CBD:THC ratio (yes, even if you’ve already consumed cannabis).
Beta Caryophyllene-Rich Foods
- Cracked black pepper
- Dark, green leafy plants
Grab your free What Are Terpenes? handout here!
Whenever possible, try to avoid plastics and use glass containers with airtight seals to best preserve cannabinoids/terpenes not in your flower/bud, but in your foods.
The phthalates found in plastics and tin have been known to actually obstruct the cannabinoid receptors and throw the body’s hormonal system out of balance. (10,12)
And never heat or decarboxylate in plastic, again whether food or cannabis. If you currently use a plastic-based inhalation device, consider switching to a glass device as soon as possible.
Set the Scene
Your endocannabinoid experience can be heavily influenced by your environment. There are several creative activities you can engage in to further enhance the endocannabinoid system.
Endocannabinoid-enhancing activities (12,13):
- Creative journaling/writing/doodling
- Meditation and/or yoga
- While soothing, calming music tend to be the most beneficial genres to choose to experience some of the more blissful sensations that cannabis has to offer, I also totally condone your music of choice (does Rammstein sound a bit more intense (than usual) when I’m high? Yes, but I also feel like my cannabis-induced spidey senses pick up on every instrument and sound in great detail – I am who I am 🤷🏻♀️)
- In animal studies, social isolation seemed to produce less cannabinoid receptors than those who were allowed to groom, play and interact. I guess there’s a reason the method is called “puff, puff, pass”. Especially after this pandemic, puff, puff, pass it to your “bud”dy.
- Voluntary, fun exercise that you enjoy and will actually do
As you can see, whether you partake in cannabis use or not, nourishing your ECS is still essential for overall health, and there are so many different ways to do so, even without cannabis.
In honor of our favorite green holiday, I hope that you found some fun and different ways to not only experience cannabis, but to enjoy cannabis. And there’s really nothing I love talking about more than some of my very favorite things: food and flower!
Share your favorite munchie snacks with me by commenting below or dropping into the free Facebook group.
Until next time, go Pineapple Express Yourself!
Please be sure to check out our disclosures.
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