Many people are becoming more familiar with craft beer, wine tasting and the foodie culture surrounding high-priced specialty groceries or upscale food establishments that offer organic, grass-fed, non-GMO everything these days. Some of these places even feature talented chefs who can create culinary masterpieces with their knowledge of flavor profiles, tasting notes, and food and drink pairings. The perception of this aspect of food is now evolving, from something that many might view as exorbitant and inaccessible, into a more broadly appealing experience that has branched out into other aspects of both food and drink. With the inception of the third wave specialty coffee movement and a growing trend toward locally produced foods, our overall outlook on what we eat and how we enjoy it has drastically started to change.
Now that we’ve begun to understand how important it is to have access to chemical free foods that aren’t mass produced, irradiated, and shipped across the country (or across the world), before we finally purchase them and take them home to eat, our palates have been diversifying. The unique flavor and higher nutritional quality of fresh, locally grown produce just simply can’t be matched by your average supermarket or big box store. Once a person becomes aware of this, food is transformed from something more or less utilitarian into an enjoyable experience to savor and find joy in. Our palates and our consciousness expand together to accommodate our travels through other realms of sensory experience. And I suspect that cannabinoids and cannabis can, and maybe always do, play a role in all of this.
In my own experience, I was never one to really care too much about where my food came from, or how it tasted. Growing up, I typically only ever ate the lower quality inexpensive foods that my family could afford, so I never knew anything different by the time I was an adult. As a teenager, I began trying different foods and became interested in coffee, which is really where my palate started to expand, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. Like many other teenagers, I had also begun experimenting with marijuana and discovered (as so many others often do) that, not only did I often get the “munchies,” when I was stoned, but it also seemed like the flavor of the foods I ate was enhanced in some way. I was really quite oblivious to what was happening at the time, but looking back, I can see how my experience with cannabis was beginning to transform my relationship with food even though I was completely unaware of it.
During my teen years and into my mid-twenties, even now in the present, I have used cannabis quite sporadically, and there have been many time periods where I’ve gone years without using it at all for one reason or another. But ever since the first few times I used marijuana, I’ve had a growing awareness of some sort of connection that exists between the effects it has on the senses and gastronomy. Much like a perfectly brewed cup of high quality, freshly roasted coffee, a carefully cultivated strain of cannabis can have a very distinct flavor profile that will titillate the senses and induce feelings of happiness and contentment. Just imagine the rich, chocolatey smell of a brand new bag of coffee when it’s first been opened, or the bright, citrus-like aroma of some newly harvested cannabis sativa.
These sensory-driven, almost culinary aspects of cannabis, may help bring us to a better appreciation of the plant as something much more than a mere recreational drug or medicine. Considering its interaction with, and the rebalancing effects it has on the endocannabinoid system in the human body, we already know that it has been found to affect both the digestive and endocrine systems in several ways. Recent studies are continuously extrapolating on the medicinal and therapeutic benefits that cannabis can be utilized for, such as pain relief and appetite stimulation, among many other things. Science has only just begun to discover the various ways that cannabis interacts with cannabinoid receptors and how it affects the entire endocannabinoid system. However, it seems pretty safe to assume that, since the olfactory system is also regulated by the endocannabinoid system, then this interplay between our sense of smell and our appetite, and the human desire for fulfillment and happiness are all closely intertwined, and perhaps even necessary for satisfaction and perfect balance.
Though there hasn’t been enough research done yet to lead us to any conclusions, it seems logical that the relationship between cannabinoids and terpenoids may play an important part in helping to inform and develop the human palate. Being that terpenes are chemical constituents of highly aromatic plant materials, many of which are used for aromatherapy, it can possibly be concluded that the aromatic nature of marijuana also makes it useful for such purposes. The fact that various essential oils and many strains of marijuana have a pleasing odor that can help clear the mind, energize the body, and stimulate the palate, can bring us to the conclusion that there is in fact something truly curative and therapeutic in this plant we call cannabis sativa. Not only do our senses tell us so, but science is beginning to prove it to us as well.