The Surprising Science Connecting Cannabis and Coffee

Posted on October 1st 2018

Cannabis, with its complexity of cannabinoids, has a knack for enhancing experiences. Coffee is an incredibly complex beast itself, with more than 1,000 aroma compounds, levels dependent on the bean, its roast and how it was brewed. Both are social drugs.

It’s kind of perfect that cannabis pairs so well with coffee. The two look so good together on Instagram, and a new study says that the complementary effects are a 'yin and yang' of a chemical kind. They cause opposite reactions in the same areas of the brain.


Coffee Is an “Upper” and Cannabis Is a “Downer”

Scientists at Northwestern University found that coffee consumption altered many more metabolites - chemicals produced by metabolic reactions inside a cell (metabolism) - in the blood than previously thought.

Their findings are now in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

The team applied modern analytical techniques to measure 800 metabolites in blood samples from 47 participants in Finland during a three-month study. The study required participants to abstain from coffee for one month, followed by one month of four cups of coffee a day, followed by a final month of eight cups a day.

The researchers checked the levels of more than 800 metabolites in blood samples after each stage of the study.

One of the remarkable findings was that coffee had an effect on a total 155 metabolites in the blood, 34 of which “don’t even have names or known roles in the body.” But one, endocannabinoids, affect the same cell receptors as cannabinoids from cannabis (phytocannabinoids). 

Phytocannabinoids are secondary metabolites, meaning the plant doesn't use them for reproduction, photosynthesis or growth. However, they do mimic the endocannabinoids the human body manufactures and for which we have specific cell receptors. 

The researchers' conclusion: It could mean that drinking coffee with marijuana in your system creates interacting effects. Typically, the same endocannabinoids that declined with coffee behave in the same way when the body is under stress. Maybe it was the amount of coffee that caused the stress, creating a drop of endocannabinoid levels as a sort of protective measure.

Our conclusion: people who consume four to eight cups of coffee daily, may experience suppressed endocannabinoids but that's nothing a bong rip can't fix. 


Cannabinoids, Coffee and Curbing One's Appetite

And because the endocannabinoid pathway is involved in a wide array of bodily functions, including appetite, coffee should also impact eating behaviour. While cannabis rouses 'the munchies', coffee suppresses appetite. Historically, studies linked coffee intake to successful weight management and a reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but the association hinged on caffeine’s ability to boost fat metabolism or the glucose-regulating effects of plant-derived chemicals called polyphenols. 

Now, there's talk of cannabinoids from marijuana having a positive effect on the waistline of consumers, specifically blood glucose levels and metabolism. 

What the team at Northwestern found suggests coffee’s impact on endocannabinoids is worth pursuing further.

The endocannabinoid system helps to modulate a whole host of metabolic activities. Besides appetite and glucose metabolism, it regulates blood pressure, cognition, addiction, immunity and sleep. So, if coffee influences this overarching system, many new research avenues present themselves.

The participants from this trial submitted data for changes in their levels of lipids and proteins, which is what the researchers will study next. 


Since We're Already Talking about Coffee and Cannabis

Bushwick coffee shop, Caffeine Underground, had a moment in March 2018 when CBD-infused coffee drinks appeared on the menu. Now, it looks like other coffee dealers are getting on board with cannabidiol coffee infusions. Greenpoint’s Antidote Apothecary and Tea Bar is selling CBD-infused coffee beans, with drinks coming soon. It’s a trend we’re watching for here in Canada. 

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