The Endocannabinoid System
In order to understand both cannabis’ (and chocolate’s) effects on the brain and body, you must understand the endocannabinoid system. When researchers were looking to discover how and why marijuana affected users, they uncovered that its active chemical compounds such as THC and CBD mimic neurotransmitters naturally created in the body. Neurotransmitters are molecules that regulate various functions in the body by turning specific responses on or off. The endocannabinoid system is composed of a series of neurotransmitters and their corresponding receptor cells that regulate functions such as pain, mood, memory, appetite, fertility and pregnancy.
As the endocannabinoid system is a complex network, researchers are still discovering and proving the chemical effects of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids inherent within cannabis. Nevertheless, science has managed to isolate several effects (link to article explaining effects) that each one produces. Chocolate, coincidentally, acts on many of the same receptor sites while also having some nifty chemical properties of its own:
Anandamide is one of two main endogenous cannabinoids the body naturally produces, and it helps to stimulate brain function. By supporting the creation of new cells in the brain, it has been shown to have an anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effect. The word anandamide comes from the Sanskrit word ‘ananda,’ meaning ‘bliss’. It is literally the ‘bliss molecule’, which explains many peoples’ attachment to chocolate.
Theobromine, the most concentrated chemical in chocolate acts similarly to caffeine as a stimulant. It decreases inflammation by the inhibiting certain enzymes and activating others. It also helps to reduce blood pressure, open the airways, remove toxins and increase cognitive function.
Phenylethylamine acts also as a stimulant by facilitating the release of serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters. Some chemists observe its effects to be similar to that of a ‘runner’s high’.
Seeing the pharmacological value that both cannabis and chocolate play, it’s obvious that combining the two can have some amazing benefits:
As cannabis and chocolate’s main chemicals touch on the endocannabinoid receptors in the brain, adding chocolate in with cannabis is literally adding another cannabinoid into the mix. Often in the marijuana industry companies talk about the entourage effect, a synergy that occurs as the result of ingesting a full spectrum cannabis supplement. As each molecule has slightly different properties, you are getting each one’s benefits combined into one powerful medicine.
The endocannabinoid system, when stimulated, temporarily inhibits GABA neurons that inhibit dopamine from being released. Dopamine is the ‘feel-good molecule’ that many associate with reward, motivation and pleasure. Combining chocolate with weed allows more dopamine to be released. That means a longer, more enjoyable experience.
Relieves Inflammation and Pain
As we said before, chocolate’s theobromine is a potent anti-inflammatory. In addition to cannabinoids, cannabis also contains terpenoids, chemicals found in many essential oils that also have anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive (pain-relieving) effects. If you are in pain or inflamed, combining chocolate with cannabis can help ease symptoms.
Menstrual Symptom Relief
Many women swear by chocolate as a relief from cramps thanks to its magnesium content but warn that eating too much may increase bloating and unwanted calories. The good news is that cannabis can also help relieve cramps, menstrual pain, and help soothe mood swings.
Studies have shown that cannabis and chocolate both reduce stress and can lift depression. Combining the two means you can once again take advantage of the synergies between them to enjoy a greater sense of well-being.
Studies show that neither cannabis nor chocolate are seen to have a direct influence on sexual desire—there is no magic potion for physical attraction yet. Nevertheless, by relieving stress and pain and by increasing feel-good chemicals in the brain, chocolate and marijuana can be used to enhance sexual pleasure for two people who share a connection.
While many cannabis users may report minor cognitive impairment, chocolate’s theobromine and flavanol content stimulate cognition and can likely offset the short-term disadvantages of cannabis.
Dark chocolate has been shown in studies to curb appetite. The theory is that its bitter flavor suppresses ghrelin, the ‘hunger hormone’ that increases appetite and promotes fat storage. This is good news for anyone who loses willpower thanks to the munchies. The good news is, users of marijuana report healthier weights than the average non-user. Who knew?
Rich in Antioxidants
Both cannabis and chocolate contain antioxidants. These chemicals help prevent free radicals from damaging cells. Free radicals are molecules created when you breathe in oxygen through your lungs to be metabolized into the blood stream. These free radicals can cause damage to the DNA and cell membranes of various tissues in the body. By protecting against free radicals, antioxidants can help to fight cancer and help to slow or prevent other forms of disease.
Chocolate and cannabis alone have served medical and ceremonial purpose for thousands of years. Thanks to the research of scientists today, we can finally understand why each possesses several chemicals that serve the body and mind in helping to relieve pain and stress and increasing our capacity to enjoy life. And we can enjoy the benefits of combining them both.