Image of The Endocannabinoid Diet An Endocannabinoid System Booster with bowls of nuts, seeds, and legumes, two walnuts in shell, two cannabis fan leaves, a slice of cheese, pitcher of milk, three eggs in shell, one piece of salmon, one piece of steak, one piece of chicken, one slice of cheese

The Endocannabinoid Diet: An Endocannabinoid System Booster

The endocannabinoid diet is meant to act as an endocannabinoid system booster to feed and nurture the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in an effort to improve and maintain overall wellness while enhancing the therapeutic and medicinal effects of cannabis.

Meant for both (cannabis) users and non-users, this article will discuss the best endocannabinoid-enhancing foods to nourish the ECS with other tips to enhance your herbaceous experience.

None of the information presented in this post is meant to provide or replace medical advice. Consult with a physician.
This post contains affiliate links*. As an Amazon Associate + Green Compass Advocate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

What is the Endocannabinoid Diet?

Some individuals have an ECS that doesn’t work efficiently, and “feeding” the ECS through proper food and beverage pairing could be the key to resetting your ECS for health improvements and optimal functioning

the endocannabinoid diet an Endocannabinoid System Booster - Image of hippocrates quote from 420 BC stating leave your drugs in the chemist's pot if you can cure the patient with food for the endocannabinoid diet with female cannabis plant
Hippocrates was celebrating 420 way before we were!

Resetting your ECS is a great method if your tolerance increases with little to no therapeutic benefit perceived. You may have crossed into the biphasic effect, and incorporating an endocannabinoid diet could be just the thing to prepare (and optimize) you for your new tolerance levels.

The Endocannabinoid Diet: An Endocannabinoid System Booster

Without food, we simply can’t maintain cellular health. Our cells are literally fed by nutrition, so it should be of utmost priority to nourish the body in the most optimal manner possible. (6,10,13)

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.

the endocannabinoid diet an Endocannabinoid System Booster sushi image of salmon nigiri, shrimp, nigiri, tuna nigiri, salmon roll, tuna roll, ginger and wasabi and round, teal plate with chop sticks on bamboo table

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 endocannabinoid-enhancing foods in specific ways can power the ECS in order to preserve optimal function for health, healing, effect, and overall wellness. (6,10)

What’s 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)

Cannabinoids are fat-soluble and protein-binding, so eating fatty and/or protein-rich foods can enhance and extend the medicinal (and recreational) benefits. (6,10)

“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 through the endocannabinoid diet.

Try pairing these foods around your cannabis consumption (6,12):

the endocannabinoid diet an Endocannabinoid System Booster -Image of eggs over medium on a slice of toast with a bite taken out with a cannabis fan leaf on top of the yolk on a yellow background
  • Dairy
  • Ground meats
  • Meat
  • Omega-3 enriched eggs
  • Poultry

Check out the shop for more protein options, and to snag your 420 Freebie!

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 effect compared to other delivery methods because it must first pass through the liver (i.e. metabolism). (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 eventually make its way to the liver, extending the duration of effectiveness. (9)

Be sure to “start low, and go slow”, and be patient! Edibles can take anywhere from 30 minutes up to 2 hours to set in and can last for up to 12 hours.

Do not try to keep dosing up until you “feel something” otherwise it will not be a fun time for you. It won’t kill you, but you’ll probably feel uncomfortable, paranoid, and anxious, ruining your entire experience. (9)

Seasoned stoners will tell you, once you ingest, there’s no going back and the body will start to metabolize it.

At that point, the only way to truly “come down” is to wait it out. And we all know that time feels like it stands still when you’re high, prolonging your unintended discomfort.

Timing is key when ingesting cannabis and endocannabinoid-enhancing foods.

You can extend the time of effectiveness by adding more fat and/or protein after ingesting a small amount of your edible.

For example, try having a balanced meal with protein and fat, ingest your edible, then an hour or so later, have an egg. (9) 

Essential Fatty Acids

As we know, phytocannabinoids are hydrophobic (water-fearing) and fat-soluble.

A healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid sources not only helps combat inflammation but can also intensify the activity of the ECS. (12)

Endocannabinoid-enhancing fatty acids are an essential component of the endocannabinoid diet (10,12):

the endocannabinoid diet an Endocannabinoid System Booster - Image of bowl of walnuts, peanuts, and hazelnuts next to a sliced avocado with pit in one side, small glass bowl of oil, seven pumpkin seeds, and one slice of raw salmon on a wooden background

  • Avocados
  • Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies)
  • Hemp, flax and chia seeds
  • Hemp and flaxseed oil
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Omega-3 enriched eggs
  • Oysters
  • Walnuts

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. (12)

Omega-6 sources are the most common oils, such as corn, soy, sunflower, and safflower oils, along with meat, poultry, and eggs.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Just like any other healthy fat recommendation, in order to stabilize the ECS, adequate (anti-inflammatory) 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 be sure to not eliminate it entirely. (12)

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 plus chocolate is fat-based.

Cacao powder’s compounds prevent the breakdown of endocannabinoids, allowing for greater activity levels of the endocannabinoids in circulation. (12)

the endocannabinoid diet an Endocannabinoid System Booster - 
Image of four chocolate squares and one cannabis fan leaf for the endocannabinoid diet

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.

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)

the endocannabinoid diet an Endocannabinoid System Booster - Image of tea cup on saucer with cannabis flower image in foam with words endocannabinoid-enhancing beverages, black tea, coffee, fermented teas I.e. kombucha, green tea and maca root powder on a green background

You can also make your own, non-psychoactive cannabis tea by steeping raw cannabis flower/buds in hot (not boiling) water to experience the effects of the inactive cannabinoids, THCA and CBDA.

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)

Image of that says what we eat and drink, the drugs we use, treatments we receive, exercise, the stressed we respond to - many factors augment or diminish cannabinoid neurotransmission within our bodies by John M. McPartland, DO, MS

Other endocannabinoid-enhancing herbs and spices (6,12,13):

  • Basil
  • Cannabis (obviously)
  • Curcumin
  • Turmeric
  • Probiotics

Endocannabinoid System Booster: Go Organic

Pesticides are most widely sprayed 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, or preservatives
  • Avoid the Dirty Dozen
  • Include the Clean 15 

The Endocannabinoid Diet: Cannabis for Appetite Control

It’s no secret that cannabis is well-known for stimulating appetite. In fact, cannabis has been used medicinally for years as a means to increase weight in cachectic patients or those experiencing severe muscle-wasting.

However, there are a few factors that go into appetite stimulation in relation to cannabis, such as cannabinoid and terpene profiles.

Why Does Weed Make You Hungry?

Before we can fully understand exactly why cannabis makes us hungry, it’s critical to understand the primary cannabinoids responsible for appetite stimulation AND appetite suppression.

Cannabinoid Profile: 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, with key 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. (1,2)

And while THC provides some of the more fun “side-benefits”, it’s probably most infamously known for its ravenous onset of the munchies.

Choosing strains higher in THC can be beneficial for 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’ll still give you all of these beautiful benefits, but without that intense appetite stimulation…cue THCV.

What is THCV?

Still psychoactive and potent, THCV provides an energized, clear-headed, less intense high with a shorter duration compared to THC.

While 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 in THCV 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. Next time you’re at a trusted dispensary, ask about a more THCV-dominant option. Or ask me!

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

Clearly, there’s a lot of science that goes into the onset of those marijuana-induced munchies.

And while you don’t need to experience the munchies in order for cannabis to work its magic, it’s also totally ok to let them kick in every once in a while to just enjoy yourself and live in the moment without judgment.

That self-permission alone could be enough of a “therapeutic release”, and a great exercise in mental wellness.

the endocannabinoid diet an Endocannabinoid System Booster - Image of left hand reaching into the fridge for the marijuana munchies for the endocannabinoid diet

Unfortunately, avid cannaconsumers are often left with unwanted pounds or general discomfort from overeating.

But there are a few things you can do to avoid the munchies altogether or you can get ahead of the game and prepare for them ahead of time by using the principles of the endocannabinoid diet.

Using the Endocannabinoid Diet to Make Over Your Munchies

Try prepping snacks ahead of time to account for the munchies, such as granola with omega-3 rich nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate chips.

Sprinkle some of that over a cup of plain Greek yogurt with a scoop of protein powder, (frozen) wild blueberries, and a drizzle of honey, and you’ve got yourself a marvelous munchie makeover filled with healthful nutrition that will nourish you AND your endocannabinoid system!

Go for foods with similar sensations to your usual food choices, such as carrots in place of chips dipped in a Greek-yogurt-based ranch dressing. You’ll still get the same crunch sensation with a little bit of sweetness along with healthy fats and protein.

Or choose simple, easy-to-make “cannaconvenience” foods, such as a protein shake with frozen fruit (like pineapple!), milk or water, avocado, and dark 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. 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

One (not-so-easy) way to avoid the munchies is willpower…although I’m far too familiar with how that weedy willpower completely goes away as euphoria/impairment set in, making any decision more challenging than usual.

Try preparing 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, smoke half of that bowl, and THEN 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, smoked, and BAM! 20 minutes later I’m ready to eat all over again…..and I do.

As a registered dietitian, I fully understand that food choices can be the hardest part of our health regimen to stick with, even when we have the best of intentions.

So if none of those options above work for you (and that’s ok), there are other ways to avoid the munchies by looking at the cannabinoid and terpene profiles of your cannabis.

Choose Strains High in THCV

Many strains with higher THCV content tend to be more energizing since most are Sativa-dominant (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)

Terpene Profile: Humulene

Also found in hops, humulene is a unique terpene due to its appetite-suppressing effects that may work in synergy with limonene.

Humulene can be found in black pepper & ginseng and acts as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent. (7)

Strains High in Humulene

High-humulene strains are usually found in conjunction with high-beta caryophyllene-dominant strains (7,8):

  • 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

**strains with high levels of both THCV and humulene

Too High? Let’s Come Down

We’ve all been there. In an attempt to have a great time, we’ve accidentally overdone it. So what can you do to start to lessen those unwanted effects?

>>> Not interested in the high? Then check out this article: Does CBD Get You High? <<<

Increase CBD:THC Ratio

CBD doesn’t bind to cannabinoid receptors as THC does, but instead binds to other receptors, like serotonin, and why it can be helpful for sleep.

In even ratios, CBD is metabolized first and will prolong the effects of THC, but then delays THC metabolism via the cytochrome P450 (CYP450) detoxification pathway. (2,6,12)

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 a bigger ratio isn’t always better than an even ratio. (6)

Balanced (1:1) ratios are best for chronic diseases and neuropathic pain, but if the euphoric effect has become way too intense, try adjusting your ratio 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, try a minimum ratio of 25:1 CBD-to-THC. Or to be totally safe, choose hemp oil or a CBD hemp flower. This is a great ratio for children, the elderly, and for travel. (6)

Terpene Profile: Beta Caryophyllene

Surprise, surprise! Look who’s returned and just won’t back down! Our “designated driver” terpene savior is ready to save the day.

THC primarily binds to CB1 receptors of the brain and central nervous system to cause euphoria or “intoxication”. (5,6)

Unlike any other terpene, beta caryophyllene really does tend to behave like a cannabinoid more than a terpene since it binds to CB2, causing no euphoric effects. (5,6)

the endocannabinoid diet an Endocannabinoid System Booster - Image with words beta caryophyllene, all you ever do is bring me down on an emerald background with a cup of coffee with the chemical structure of beta caryophyllene embedded along with books, pencils and a desk plant
The only “Debbie Downer” I’m ok with!

Either consume more beta caryophyllene-rich foods or choose a cannabis strain that is beta caryophyllene-dominant with a higher CBD:THC ratio (even if you’ve already consumed cannabis).

Beta Caryophyllene-Rich Foods

  • Cracked black pepper
  • Basil
  • Dark, green leafy plants
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary

Grab your free What Are Terpenes? handout here!

Stoner Storage

Whenever possible, try to avoid plastics and use glass containers with airtight seals to best preserve cannabinoids and terpenes not only in your flower/bud but also 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. 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
  • Massage
  • Meditation and/or yoga
  • Music
    • While soothing music tends to be the most beneficial genre for a more blissful sensation with cannabis, 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 greater detail – I am who I am 🤷🏻‍♀️)
Meme image of Homer Simpson listening to a walkman with caption when I'm high listening to music and I hear an instrument I usually don't hear or focus on
Master of the Munchies, Homer J. Simpson. The Simpsons image courtesy of 20th Century Studios (The Walt Disney Company)
  • Socialize!
    • In animal studies, social isolation seemed to produce less cannabinoid receptors than those who were allowed to roam, 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

Nourishing your ECS with specific foods, beverages, and activities is essential for overall wellness.

Happy 420!

In honor of one of our favorite green holidaze, I hope 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!

Image of hot pink rotary ticker clock set at 4:20 on a blue background
Don’t forget your 420 freebie in the shop! Well, it’s 4:20, gotta go!

Let me know some of your favorite munchie snacks below!

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Until next time, go Pineapple Express Yourself!


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References

  1. Sulak, D., DO. (n.d.). Medical Cannabis Core Curriculum: Chapter 2 / Lesson 6 THC and THCA. Retrieved April 18, 2021, from https://training.healer.com/app#missionInfo/5853
  2. Cascio, M. G., Zamberletti, E., Marini, P., Parolaro, D., & Pertwee, R. G. (2015, March). The phytocannabinoid, Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabivarin, can act through 5-HT₁A receptors to produce antipsychotic effects. Retrieved April 18, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4337703/
  3. Bolognini, D., Costa, B., Maione, S., Comelli, F., Marini, P., Marzo, V. D., . . . Pertwee, R. G. (2010, March 22). BPS Publications. Retrieved April 18, 2021, from https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.00756.x
  4. Drury, A. (2020, April 03). The 5 High-THCV Strains You Should Know About. Retrieved April 18, 2021, from https://weedmaps.com/news/2020/01/high-thcv-strains-you-should-know-about/
  5. Sulak, D. DO. (2020, July 28). How to stimulate the endocannabinoid system without cannabis. Retrieved April 18, 2021, from https://www.leafly.com/news/health/how-to-stimulate-the-endocannabinoid-system-without-cannabis#:~:text=Endocannabinoid-enhancing foods&text=Essential fatty acids, chocolate, herbs,can naturally stimulate the ECS.&text=A healthy ratio of omega,an omega-6 fatty acid.
  6. Lagano, L., MS, RDN, CDN, & Shields, D., MS, RDN. (n.d.). Holistic Cannabis Academy. Retrieved from https://holisticcannabisacademy.com/
  7. Cho, K. S., Lim, Y., Lee, K., Lee, J., Lee, J. H., & Lee, I. (2017, April). Terpenes from Forests and Human Health. Retrieved April 18, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5402865/
  8. Fernandes, E. S., Passos, G. F., Medeiros, R., Cunha, F. M., Ferreira, J., Campos, M. M., . . . Calixto, J. B. (2007, May 22). Anti-inflammatory effects of compounds alpha-humulene and (−)-trans-caryophyllene isolated from the essential oil of Cordia verbenacea. Retrieved April 18, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0014299907005419?via=ihub
  9. Dooley, J., Lagano, L., MS, RDN, CDN, & Shields, D., MS, RDN. (n.d.). Packaged Edibles: Making Informed Decisions. Retrieved from https://holisticcannabisacademy.com/.
  10. Lagano, L., MS, RDN, CDN, & Shields, D., MS, RDN. (n.d.). Food as Medicine: An Integrative Approach to Diet + Cannabis. Retrieved from https://holisticcannabisacademy.com/.
  11. Elmes, M. W., Kaczocha, M., Berger, W. T., Leung, K., Ralph, B. P., Wang, L., . . . Deutsch, D. G. (2015, April 03). Fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs) are intracellular carriers for Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4423662/
  12. Sulak, D., DO. (2021, March 24). Endocannabinoid Diet & Activities. Retrieved April 19, 2021, from https://healer.com/programs/endocannabinoid-diet-activities/
  13. McPartland, J., DO, MS. (2013). Care and Feeding of the Endocannabinoid System. O’Shaughnessy’s, 5-6. Retrieved April 18, 2021.

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