Have you noticed how some of our favorite things have a lot in common? As winter is slowly coming to an end, we decided to focus on things that make us feel warm and happy! Naturally, when thinking about things that make us feel great, cannabis and chocolate come to mind. Let’s discuss some of the many amazing similarities shared between cannabis and chocolate.
Dopamine is one of the most famous neurotransmitters around, mainly because it floods our brains whenever we experience or do something that our brains deem ‘good’ or ‘rewarding’. Ever hear the term ‘runner’s high’? That’ll be due to the flood of dopamine rushing through you after you run. Basically… it makes you feel good!
Dopamine is related to many different neurological processes, everything from emotional response to volitional movement. To say that this is an important chemical is to put it lightly. Dopamine is also famously known as the motivational neurotransmitter because without it, you wouldn’t want to do anything. You know when you are feeling super motivated and focused? That’s due to dopamine! For those with motivational/attentional disorders such as ADD/ADHD, dopamine agonist (dopamine increasing) medications are often prescribed for this very reason.
When a patient consumes cannabis, dopamine is released. Over time, dopamine is altered in our brains in a few ways which can be useful for those with movement disorders like Parkinson’s, impulsive disorders like Tourette’s and even ADD/ADHD. Several case studies have been done with adults who live with ADD/ADHD who self-medicate with cannabis and claim it helps manage their symptoms.
Now when a patient consumes chocolate, dopamine is released (secondarily) due to chemicals known as tyrosine and tyramine. Tyrosine is the building block that makes dopamine in the first place, so it helps dopamine get pumping and makes you feel up and at ‘em. Yum!
Cortisol is known as the stress-hormone and doctors are now trying to advise patients on how to lower stress to avoid increasing their cortisol. Normal amounts of cortisol are necessary for hormone function and can come from fatty foods so yes, that chocolate cupcake technically has health benefits. The issue really becomes apparent when cortisol levels jump to high levels from getting stressed and staying stressed. When we get angry and upset, a part of our brain turns on called the amygdala which in turn gets us riled up and tells our bodies to pump out adrenaline and our ever silent-but-deadly cortisol. Heightened levels of cortisol has been linked with many series ailments including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hypertension, depression, anxiety, migraines and more.
How do we decrease our levels of cortisol? Well, great news, cannabis and chocolate can help decrease cortisol levels!
Cannabis has been known to decrease anger and aggression, and in a study performed in Germany, had shown decreased amounts of cortisol in cannabis users. Alcohol users had the most amount of aggression and cortisol, control users (people who did not use alcohol or cannabis) had a medium amount of aggression and cortisol while cannabis users had the lowest amount. We knew cannabis patients were the most relaxed of the bunch but hey, now we have scientific proof!
Chocolate has always had the ability to make people smile, and it looks like it has the ability to decrease cortisol too! Over in Switzerland, a chocolate study was done that had shown after two weeks of eating 40 grams of dark chocolate a day, cortisol levels were significantly dropped. There was an added bonus of decreased blood pressure and a boosted metabolism!
Oxytocin is commonly known as the love hormone. It flood our brains (and our hearts) when we are with those we care about. As with love, oxytocin is just as elusive and mysterious. We know it makes us feel good and we will always want to keep feeling good… but why? And how?
It turns out, oxytocin works with our endocannabinoid system as this study had discovered. Oxytocin is almost completely derived from social interaction with anything from parent to child, friend to friend or partner to partner. Humans are social creatures and oxytocin rewards that and, apparently, so does cannabis!
Why is this important? Autism and other social disorders have often been linked with a dysregulation of oxytocin, which makes social interaction difficult and not rewarding for these individuals. It is for this reason many who do live with autism and social disorders chose to treat with cannabis to aid with social interaction, sensory experience and environmental triggers.
We pretty much have agreed that chocolate can make you happy and feel ‘lovey’, but there is some research behind it. Apparently, it may help avoid winter season-based depression and can even increase energy. Want to boost your oxytocin levels even more? Try sharing chocolate with someone else! We have it on good authority that BEYOND / HELLO gives away sweet chocolate treats on special days, so keep a look-out!
- http://web.colby.edu/st297-global18/2018/10/28/serotonin-dopamine-the-neurological-benefits-of-chocolate/ (<–bonus chocolate cake recipe with this link!)