In the 1980s, scientists first discovered the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system is most well known because of its interaction with plant-based cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD in cannabis. But did you know that there are other compounds in a variety of plants and foods which can affect the endocannabinoid system as well?

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Evidence has shown that if taken with cannabis, some natural compounds have been shown to act synergistically to enhance or alter the psychological and physiological effects, and increase medicinal action. In this article, we will look at the science behind the foods that can enhance your high, as well as some that can reduce it. Some foods that may enhance your high include mangoes, pine nuts, broccoli, and lavender.

Over the years, many foods have been implicated in enhancing the effects of marijuana or helping to reduce any feeling of paranoia or anxiety that cannabis over-consumption can bring about. However, it is not until more recently that scientists have been able to show a mechanism for these observations, and provide evidence for the interaction between multiple types of plant-based compounds which can affect the body’s endocannabinoid system directly or indirectly. One of the more well known of these are the terpenoids, which occur in many plants that are vital to our diet or are known to have medicinal properties. How to extract terpenes

How do terpenes enhance your high?

Terpenes, or terpenoids, are found in a variety of plants, with the cannabis plant having over 200 of them. In many cases, there are largely responsible for the aroma of the plants, fruits, and herbs we experience. Many of these terpenoids have been found to have medicinal value when extracted in the form of essential oils, but only recently has science been able to provide the mechanism for their effectiveness.

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In a 2011 review from the British Journal of Pharmacology, the effects of several terpenes were described, which are also present in some food that we eat. b-Myrcene – Is a terpene found in cannabis which has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, sedative effects and antibiotic effects.

Mangoes are high in Myrcene and believed to heighten the high from smoking cannabis. It turns out there is both anecdotal and scientific evidence to back that claim. Myrcene is also found in lemongrass, hops, and bay leaves.

Three ripe mangos on a tree. iStock / Khonte Abejuela

α-Pinene – one of the most common terpenes in nature, is largely found in trees, and the cannabis plant. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, be a bronchodilator, and improve memory and mood. It is found in pine nuts and may add to the mood-enhancing properties of the cannabis while reducing any forgetfulness.

β-caryophyllene – This terpene has been shown to bind to CB-2 reactors in the body, much like the CBD found in Cannabis. Because of this, it has been shown in several studies to aid in the reduction of pain, reduce inflammation, support immunity, and act as an anti-malarial. Broccoli is high in β-caryophyllene and although it may not affect your high, there is scientific evidence that eating it can help the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis. One study even indicated that the body does not build a tolerance to β-caryophyllene as it does with many synthetic pain relievers

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D-linalool - D-Linalool has been shown to have psychotropic activity and provides sedative effects. The terpene is primarily found in lavender, and can aid in the mood-enhancing benefits of cannabis and also its action as a sleep aid.

How else can terpenes affect your high?

Just as there are synergistic terpenes in the food you eat that will enhance you high, there are also those that help to regulate or balance it and are the reason why taking pure THC is so different from smoking cannabis.

LimoneneLimonene is commonly found in citrus fruits, and is what give some cannabis strains a citrus aroma. Limonene has well proven medical benefits including the treatment of ulcers, stimulating the immune system, reducing acne bacteria, and treating heartburn. It is known to reduce the uncomfortable psychoactive effects of cannabis so you can enjoy the high. As far back as 10th century Persia it has also been known as a treatment for the overconsumption of cannabis. If you ever feel too high, find some strong lemonade or a grapefruit.

Ripe grapefruits in basket and bowl on brown wooden table iStock / 5second
Other foods that are known as THC antidotes or reduce the uncomfortable side effects of overconsumption of cannabis are thought to rely on the concentrations of some of the terpenes described above. For example, black pepper is great to take with THC for the mental clarity effects of Pinene, sedation effects of myrcene, and some additional benefits from β-caryophyllene.

Other compounds in food that may enhance your high

It's not only the terpenes in our foods that can affect your high - there are other natural chemical compounds working on the endocannabinoid system as well. One of the most well researched and effective is a neurotransmitter and endocannabinoid called Anandamide. This compound has been referred to as the “bliss molecule” and is actually named after the Sanskrit word Ananda, which means joy, happiness, or bliss.

In a 1999 Review published by the American Dietic Association, it was shown that anandamide affected endocannabinoid receptors in the brain to cause a heightened sense of euphoria which mimicked the effect of THC in cannabis. In fact, this effect is well known as the major food we consume containing anandamide is chocolate. Anandamide is also found in black truffles,  so enjoy either along with your cannabis for a heightened sense of bliss. Another group of compounds found in food to enhance your high are called catechins. Studies have found that catechins have anti-inflammatory effects, are neuroprotectants, and also have a calming effect on one’s mood. Catechins are abundant in both green and black tea leaves.

Studies indicate that they have an affinity for both CB-1 and CB-2 receptors, and that drinking tea with cannabis leads to a more mellow, chilled out experience. Although the evidence is still quite thin for the effects that food can have on your high, there is reason to believe that terpenes in food can and do have some benefits.

More studies are needed to find out just how strong these relationships are, and the magnitude of the benefits that phytocannabinoids and other compounds in plants have on our overall health and mood. However, what is known is that these terpenes are generally considered safe and non-toxic, and eating more of them alongside your cannabis consumption is probably a good idea.