One of the symptoms of serious illnesses is a lack of appetite. Often caused by other symptoms such as chronic pain or nausea, a lack of appetite can lead to weight loss and malnutrition, blocking a patient’s ability to heal. There are not many medications available that stimulate appetite effectively and without serious side effects, but cannabis, through the action of its special cannabinoids, can help.
How Cannabis Stimulates Appetite
Cannabis’ ability to stimulate appetite is well known on a casual level, but clinical trials on medical marijuana as an appetite stimulant provide scientific evidence as well. The primary active compound in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, is believed to be the single most active chemical in cannabis’ ability to stimulate appetite. Though synthetic compounds containing THC exist, most users report better effectiveness through smoked cannabis. Nonetheless, studies on both methods of intake have shown a positive impact on stabilizing or increasing appetite.
- Medical cannabis, when smoked, raises the levels of two key hunger-regulating hormones, ghrelin and leptin, but does not significantly alter insulin levels, indicating it may be a safe and effective way to increase appetite (A pilot study of the effects of cannabis on appetite hormones in HIV-infected adult men, Riggs, P., et al.)
- It is believed that the body’s natural endocannibinoids, similar to the cannabinoids found in medical cannabis, help regulate eating, and doses of medical cannabis do encourage individuals to take in more calories than they might have otherwise (Stimulation of eating in healthy volunteers following acute oromucosal administration of delta-9-THC, Townson, A., et al.)
- AIDS patients, a group at risk of wasting disease or cachexia, receiving dronabinol (a synthetic cannabis pill) gained an average of about 10 pounds after a year, indicating that medical cannabis can reverse weight loss after it has begun (THC improves appetite and reverses weight loss in AIDS patients, Dejesus, E., et al.)
- The weight gain promoted by cannabis may actually be higher than what might be expected based on the calories consumed by patients, a finding that is helpful for many suffering uncontrolled weight loss due to chronic illness (Effects of smoked marijuana on food intake and body weight of humans living in a residential laboratory, Foltin, R.W., et al.)
When used for appetite stimulation or weight gain, medical cannabis takes many forms. As noted above, most users prefer to smoke medical cannabis, but other methods of intake are also available to patients living in areas where medical cannabis is legal.
- Oromucosal solutions, preparations meant to be absorbed in the mouth or the throat, either by a fast dissolving solid or a liquid. Oromucosal solutions for medical cannabis are primarily available through major pharmaceutical companies as synthetic cannabis, though if approved in the U.S. a spray called Sativex will soon make the raw ingredients of cannabis available in oromucosal form
- Vaporizing the plant through the use of specialized vaporizer equipment
- Ingesting the plant as an ingredient in a food item, such as baked goods or specially prepared liquids
Medical cannabis can relieve many symptoms of chronic illness, and is one of very few options for appetite stimulation in patients who have little or no appetite to help them manage or recover from their conditions. This unique property makes medical cannabis an ideal treatment choice that patients may want to consider for appetite stimulation.
For more information on which strain of medical marijuana and which form would be best as an appetite stimulant, contact United Patients Group.