Cannabis sativa and the endogenous cannabinoid system: therapeutic potential for appetite regulation

Phytother Res. 2011 Feb;25(2):170-88. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3375. Epub 2011 Jan 7.


The herb Cannabis sativa (C. sativa) has been used in China and on the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years as a medicine. However, since it was brought to the UK and then the rest of the western world in the late 19th century, its use has been a source of controversy. Indeed, its psychotropic side effects are well reported but only relatively recently has scientific endeavour begun to find valuable uses for either the whole plant or its individual components. Here, we discuss evidence describing the endocannabinoid system, its endogenous and exogenous ligands and their varied effects on feeding cycles and meal patterns. Furthermore we also critically consider the mounting evidence which suggests non-Δ(9) tetrahydrocannabinol phytocannabinoids play a vital role in C. sativa-induced feeding pattern changes. Indeed, given the wide range of phytocannabinoids present in C. sativa and their equally wide range of intra-, inter- and extra-cellular mechanisms of action, we demonstrate that non-Δ(9) tetrahydrocannabinol phytocannabinoids retain an important and, as yet, untapped clinical potential.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation / drug effects*
  • Cannabis / chemistry*
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology*
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / drug effects


  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Dronabinol