Chronic illness and its treatment can lead to a host of other problems, one of which is anorexia, or a loss of appetite. This symptom is not limited to physical conditions, but can be experienced with some mental health issues as well. When patients don’t eat, this leads to a decrease in energy, immunity, and strength. Some strains of medical cannabis can help boost the appetite of patients suffering from anorexia due to many of these conditions. One of our Florida Medical Marijuana Doctors can help you decide which strains and routes will help you feel more like eating. To see if you pre-qualify to become a Florida medical cannabis patient, take our quick eligibility survey

A lot of health problems lead to appetite issues. People suffering with these kinds of conditions may not have an appetite at all; certain smells or tastes might cause nausea or vomiting; or, because of the chemical changes in their body due to illness, foods they previously enjoyed may no longer appeal to them. For patients with some mental health problems such as PTSD, foods or food odors can trigger a violent reaction physically or psychologically. Patients experiencing prolonged anorexia can experience the following symptoms:

  • Loss of calcium in the bones (osteopenia) or even bone density (osteoporosis), leading to skeletal damage including tooth loss
  • Weakened immune system due to hormonal imbalance
  • Shrinkage of brain tissue and a lowering of IQ
  • Infertility
  • Heart disease
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Muscle deterioration as the body starts to use muscle tissue for energy 
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Malnutrition
  • Ulcers
  • Fatigue, general lack of energy
  • Social withdrawal 
  • Lowered T-cell count, increasing the risk of infection and disease (1,2,3)

In addition to the previously mentioned health conditions, there are additional concerns for aging patients. These complications can lead to an increased risk for falls, pressure sores, hip fractures, muscle weakness, and overall frailty in addition to slowed wound healing, decreased immune function, and quality of life issues. “Between 15% and 30% of older people are estimated to have anorexia of ageing, with higher rates in women, nursing home residents, hospitalised people and with increasing age.” (4) 

 

How does cannabis help with anorexia?

When your stomach is empty, a hormone called ghrelin is released; this tells the brain it’s time to look for food. Cannabis not only triggers the release of ghrelin, but it also changes the way brain cells respond to this hormone. By doing this, it tricks the brain into hunger mode. This can be incredibly helpful for patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, HIV/AIDS patients, and others with decreased appetite. (5) 

The two cannabinoids recognized for their appetite-stimulating effects are THC and CBG. For patients who prefer to avoid the psychoactive properties of THC, CBG is a good alternative. (6) THC works primarily on the endocannabinoid system’s CB1 receptors to stimulate ghrelin production and make you feel hungry. In addition, it acts on the olfactory bulb to make the taste and smell of food more appealing. THC also triggers the release of dopamine, which helps increase the satisfaction you get from eating. While scientists don’t yet understand how CBG works, it has been shown to function as an appetite stimulant as well by acting on hormones like endorphin. (7) For medical cannabis users with anorexia or loss of appetite, especially those with long-term illnesses, using cannabis strains high in THC and CBG can help restore balance to the endocannabinoid system and help it function more effectively. It is far more pleasant than resorting to tube-feeding, and has also been shown to help patients feel more relaxed without the side effects of many conventional medications. (8)

Unlike THC and CBG, CBD does not directly stimulate the appetite. However, when used as medication to improve mood, relieve pain, or ease nausea, it can help boost the desire to eat by helping patients feel better. CBD helps calm the nervous system, decreasing feelings of anxiety and stress which may contribute to a lack of appetite. Since it acts as an anti-inflammatory agent in the body, it can also help ease gut issues like ulcers and symptoms of Crohn’s disease that cause pain with eating.  (9)

 

Cannabis strains that help increase the appetite

    • OG Kush (hybrid or H) Relieves stress, pain and nausea
    • Lemon Kush (H) Eases anxiety, lifts the mood
    • Candyland (H) Feels more like a sativa due to energizing properties, stimulating

 

  • Head Cheese (H) Eases discomfort, including migraine pain, and boosts appetite

 

    • Platinum Girl Scout Cookies (indica-dominant hybrid or IDH) Decreases nausea, helps with pain and depression
    • Tahoe OG Kush (slightly IDH) Relaxing, mood boosting, energizing

 

  • Lavender Kush (IDH) Deeply relaxing, used to treat gastric issues such as nausea in addition to depression and anxiety
  • Girl Scout Cookies (IDH) Increases energy, boosts mood 
  • Blueberry Diesel (IDH) Relieves stress and pain, eases nausea
  • Super Lemon Haze (sativa-dominant hybrid or SDH) Helps with depression, anxiety and nausea 
  • White Fire OG (SDH) High in THC, this strain eases pain and increases appetite 
  • Diablo (SDH) Eases stress and anxiety, calms stomach irritation 
  • Pineapple Express (SDH) Mood boosting, sparks creativity, relaxes without tiredness
  • Jack Herer (sativa or S) Promotes muscle relaxation
  • UBC Chemo (indica or I) Relieves nausea, stimulates appetite  (10,11,12,13)

 

 

Terpenes to look for in other strains

  • Myrcene helps manage nausea and stimulate the appetite (14)
  • Caryophyllene eases inflammation and pain; has shown promise as a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (15)
  • Limonene acts as a potent anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal agent, which can help resolve stomach issues (16)

 

Loss of appetite can not only be caused by several chronic health issues, but it can cause others to appear. Learning how to effectively treat this condition can improve your health and quality of life. Medical cannabis can help ease pain and anxiety, re-establish balance in your body’s systems, and enable you to cope with your health issues more effectively. You can explore your options for routes, strains, and dosing by speaking with one of our Ohio Medical Cannabis Doctors about your condition. 

  1. https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/anorexia/kill-spirit-body
  2. https://www.mirror-mirror.org/anorexia-and-effect.htm
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5708211/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4589891/
  5. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180717094747.htm
  6. https://www.leafbuyer.com/blog/cannabis-and-appetite-how-different-compounds-cause-or-suppress-hunger/
  7. https://coffeeshop.guru/seeds/medicinal-cannabis-seeds/appetite/
  8. https://www.wikileaf.com/thestash/cannabis-stimulate-appetite/
  9. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/marijuana-gives-you-the-munchies-what-about-cbd/2019/01/07/7a793076-0ebc-11e9-8938-5898adc28fa2_story.html
  10. https://greendoorwest.com/blogs/news/marijuana-strains-for-nausea-sufferers
  11. https://hellomd.com/blogs/articles/5-marijuana-strains-to-ease-nausea
  12. https://www.leafly.com/news/strains-products/cannabis-strains-to-help-stimulate-your-appetite
  13. https://www.marijuanabreak.com/best-marijuana-strains-for-appetite-disorders
  14. https://theherblifestyle.com/community/why-understand-terpenes
  15. https://www.leafly.com/news/science-tech/caryophyllene-terpene
  16. https://apothecarium.com/blog/nevada/2018/3/18/terpenes-the-essentials-limonene