Anyone who smokes cannabis regularly is very familiar with the munchies phenomenon: At one point or another, we find ourselves living the stereotype of the lazy stoner shotgunning a bag of chips on the couch. So when the budtender at my local dispensary told me about a new kind of “Weight Watchers” strain that killed your appetite and gave you energy, I was equally enthused and skeptical. Could this new kind of cannabis help the millions of Americans who suffer from obesity and compulsive eating?
There is already ample evidence that the long-term use of all cannabis strains can help you lose weight. Cannabis publications, including PRØHBTD, have talked extensively about the weight loss benefits of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). A 2013 study in the American Journal of Medicine established a link between lower-insulin resistance rates, a smaller BMI and regular cannabis use; a 2011 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that obesity rates were eight percent lower for cannabis users; and a 2015 study in PLoS One found that THC caused changes in the gut microbiome that lead to a healthier balance in the digestive tract directly impacting metabolic functions.
But even with all this proof, the munchies still persist (as my Postmates account can attest), so what’s so different about this new Weight Watchers weed? THC is only one of 12 major cannabinoids in cannabis, but the kind of pot my budtender mentioned contains something else: tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).
THCV is a relatively new phenomenon but one with ancient roots stretching back to the Nepalese monks from the Himalayan region. Yogini hashish contains high amounts of THCV and CBD that were believed to have significant medicinal properties. Over time, THCV was bred out of cannabis plants because of its short-lasting effects. THCV, like THC, provides a psychoactive high but one that sets in almost immediately and only lasts about 30 to 45 minutes. In recent years, growers and scientists revisited the compound to examine its health benefits and uniquely energetic high.
So what exactly does THCV have to do with weight loss?
Studies suggest THCV helps balance blood sugar, reduce inflammation of the pancreas, improve insulin sensitivity and perhaps most significantly, suppresses appetite. The American Journal of Botany studied 160 strains of cannabis and found that the health benefits of THCV strains, mostly from South Africa and Afghanistan, are caused by the unique way it interacts with the endocannabinoid system in the human body. A further study in 2013 found specifically that THCV acted in the opposite way that CB1 and CB2—the components that give us the uncontrollable urge to gorge on carne asada fries and strawberry ice cream—did. This means that THCV affects the parts of the brain that control hunger and activity. Not only will THCV kill your appetite, it will also give you energy and drive, making it a perfect component for an active lifestyle necessary to maintain weight-loss results.
THCV-high strains offer more than just weight loss. Although research remains in the preliminary stages, it is thought to stimulate bone growth, help stave off physical deterioration caused by Alzheimer's, prevent diabetes and reduce panic attacks. Drug companies are currently exploring the medicinal properties of THCV to treat diabetes, colitis and epilepsy.
THCV-potent strains like Cherry Pie, Green Crack and Doug’s Varin (featuring a whopping eight percent THCV) are currently widely available. Strains like Tahoe OG and Master Kush are also great for weight loss with the terpene humulene thought to suppress appetite as well. If you plan on indulging, THCV has a higher heating point than THC so be sure to set your vapes for a higher temperature setting.