Mary Jane has always had a reputation for being a cool cat, an herb that chills us out. But, does she do this in the literal sense? Does consuming cannabis mess with our body heat one way or the other? It turns out that the answer is yes.
Imbibing and Body Temperature
Many of us have experience with how alcohol influences body heat. We arrive at the bar in a jacket and leave in a t-shirt. It’s simple: tequila really makes our clothes fall off. According to Live Science, booze does indeed up make us feel hotter. It does this because alcohol dilates the blood vessels of our skin (leading to the “beer blanket” phenomenon where people feel warm and fuzzy upon drinking a glass of wine or a stein of ale).
But alcohol doesn’t really increase our body heat, it just redistributes it. This redistribution cues the brain to think that the body is hot.
Of course, alcohol makes us sweat – walk into any college party in Anywhere, USA and they’ll probably be someone on the couch nicknamed “Pit Stains.” This is, again, because our body thinks it’s hotter than it really is.
This may sound like something beneficial, especially if you’re someone who finds themselves cold in seventy-five-degree weather. But, in actuality, it’s dangerous. In its natural state, the body is designed to detect cold – you feel cold, so you take actions to amend that feeling (like going inside or putting on a coat).
Because alcohol removes the ability to feel body temperature, it’s easy for those inebriated to grow cold without their body realizing it. And this can be dangerous, leading to hypothermia in some cases
It’s always possible that alcohol does up your true body heat because it lowers your inhibitions and makes you more likely to do things like dance, move around socializing, and grow more animated overall. Nevertheless, it’s not alcohol that’s increasing the heat but the activities you’re engaging in.
How Cannabis Influences Body Temperature
So, we know why Hot Damn makes us damn hot, but what about weed? Some people experience the opposite with cannabis – it doesn’t warm us up; it cools us down.
But the relationship may be more concrete than what is demonstrated with booze and body heat – cannabis might not just make us feel cooler; it might make us truly cooler too. It does this through something called THC-induced hypothermia.
THC, as we all know, is a cannabinoid in the cannabis plant – it’s the one you adore, the one responsible for the “high.” And it is believed to cool us off the same way chilis do (or spicy peppers and other hot things).
Most people have experienced this at some point – you take a bite of wasabi and immediately feel a cascade of warmth followed by a cool-down response. You start to sweat (and you make a note to go home and throw out your sinus medicine – wasabi cleared those babies right out). A similar thing happens when you consume cannabis.
The reason for this reaction lies in a cell receptor called TRPA-1. The job of this receptor is to soothe pain, control inflammation, and regulate body temperature. When you eat a jalapeno, or the like, this receptor activates and starts a cool down process.
Smoking cannabis is believed to activate the TRPA-1 receptor as well. In fact, studies performed in rodents have proven this activation. But body height and Mary Jane appears to be more complicated than that.
Cannabis doesn’t just affect one cell receptor; it affects many. There are a variety of cannabinoid receptors all over the body that “do something” when a cannabinoid is introduced to the system. And that’s why the relationship between cannabis and body heat is so complicated.
It activates the TRPA-1 receptor which cools us down but, in low doses, some studies suggest that cannabis may heat us up by causing hyperthermia (an increase in body temperature). This research theorizes that, if you consume enough marijuana to get high, the cooling effects of cannabis come into play. But, if you consume small amounts that don’t provide a psychoactive effect (micro-dose), the heating effects may be more relevant.
That’s Mary Jane for you. Our gal is just full of surprises.
The TRPA-1 Receptor and Weight Loss
Eating a diet high in spice is known as a good way to lose extra pounds. The spice activates our body’s cooling system, increasing our metabolism in the process until, wah-la, those old jeans fit again.
Still, it’s not quite that simple – most studies suggest that while spicy foods may help weight loss to some degree, they’re not going to do the work of a personal trainer. In other words, you can’t maintain a sedentary lifestyle and expect to lose weight just because you’ve started eating chili powder. Yet that doesn’t mean the TRPA-1 receptor doesn’t play any role in cannabis’s ability to keep off the pounds.
There are lots of theories surrounding the fact that people who use marijuana tend to be thinner than those who don’t
Some claim it has to do with substitution, as people choose to smoke calorie-free marijuana over drinking calorie-heavy booze. Others claim that marijuana-users adopt an overall healthier, more organic, more active lifestyle. Some claim it’s because it takes medical marijuana into consideration, when people with AIDs or depression may already be thinner than the general population. And some say that, because marijuana activates the reward area of the brain, it keeps people from rewarding themselves with food.
It may be a variety of the above. But, when you weigh the munchies factor, the idea that THC is connected to a low BMI is even more perplexing.
Maybe it has something to do with the role cannabis plays in body heat. Or maybe not. That’ the neat thing about cannabis research – there’s so much more to learn. We’re just at the tip of the iceberg lettuce (in keeping with the plant theme) and only starting to realize what pot can truly do. Marijuana – it’s not just for getting high anymore.