Bean, Bud and the Brain - Cannabis Coffee Anyone?


The perfect start to the day for many is a steaming cup (or cups) of coffee. For others, the day can’t truly begin until cannabis is pumping through their system. You might be surprised to find out that these two substances have a surprising amount in common!

Why Coffee

Coffee is a complex substance and — as a new study finds — its metabolic interactions are similarly complex. Remarkably, coffee affects the same parts of the brain as cannabis.

And whether you are a coffee drinker or not, the study’s discoveries are valuable for cannabis users who want to know exactly how either of the drugs affects their system. As it turns out, coffee and cannabis actually do have quite a lot in common.

The current research accessible on  how cannabis interacts with the human body generally raises more questions than it does answers. However, it is intriguing to point out that the same can be said for the research on the effects of coffee, even though there is a whole lot more of it available. Although studies looking at coffee's health benefits — or lack thereof — appear to be published on an almost daily basis, its true impact on health is still poorly understood.

No doubt you have seen a coffee-related headline that has grabbed your attention lately, proclaiming the latest research. There are studies that conclude coffee is beneficial to one’s health, others that say it may reduce risk of mortality, and some that have even identified cardiovascular risks. But most have offered no solid conclusions.

This confusion is due to several factors, and one is the difficulty in separating cause and effect in large, population-based studies. For example, someone who drinks a lot of coffee might also sleep less, smoke more tobacco, drink less water, or work unsociable hours. These factors muddy the statistical waters.

The reason for this is that the unassuming coffee bean is densely packed with thousands of compounds. Each sip releases a burst of complex metabolic activity that rapidly blurs obvious relationships of cause and effect.

Benefits of Cannabis 

The same is true of cannabis. Cannabis flowers are full of rich, complicated collections of terpenes, cannabinoids, and other resins. And cannabinoids, like the psychoactive THC and therapeutic CBD, trigger complex chains of metabolic and cellular reactions.

We still have so much to learn about both, but the good news here is that studying one helps us study the other, and we know that thanks to a new study that found coffee and cannabis both interact with the same bodily system to produce their effects. We even have  tried it with the Ascent vaporizer and vaping coffee with it seemed to have good results for some people. Marilyn Cornelis heads a team of researchers at Northwestern University conducting research on the effects of coffee. Their most recent study, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, takes a fine-grained look at how coffee modifies our internal chemistry. Using advanced profiling techniques, Cornelis and her team checked the levels of more than 800 metabolites in the blood after each stage. Metabolites are chemicals produced during metabolism. They are generally small molecules and carry out a range of functions both within and between cells.

The scientists found that with amplified coffee consumption, blood metabolites involved in the endocannabinoid system dropped off. This is the system that gives cannabis its recreational and medical effects.

The study analyzed results from 47 participants in Finland. Over three months, participants steadily increased their coffee consumption from zero to eight cups a day. The researchers were interested in measuring the presence of metabolites in the blood at each stage, and that is when they got their revolutionary results.

These results revealed that the link between coffee, cannabis and brain function is, remarkably, the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is a deep-wired network of cell receptors and neurotransmitters responsible for modulating a number of critical bodily processes. Interested on seeing how you can vape coffee? The endocannabinoid system helps to modulate a whole host of metabolic activities — including blood pressure, cognition, addiction, immunity, appetite, sleep, and glucose metabolism. So, if coffee influences this overarching system, it will open up many new research avenues.

"These are entirely new pathways by which coffee might affect health," notes Cornelis. "Now, we want to delve deeper and study how these changes affect the body."

For instance, the endocannabinoid system is believed to influence eating behavior. As Cornelis says, this could help to explain "the link between cannabis use and the munchies." Conversely, coffee has been considered a potential weight loss aid and may reduce type 2 diabetes risk.

Cannabis users may know that the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the human endocannabinoid system are the ones that interact with phytocannabinoids in cannabis. Some of those plant cannabinoids, like THC, are obviously extremely active within the body.

Cannabinoids bond with endocannabinoid receptors and thereby stimulate a whole host of reactions throughout the body, especially in the brain. These reactions include producing the chemicals that cause the euphoria of a good high, but they also include non-psychoactive reactions like those that reduce inflammation.

Coffee and Cannabinoids Pathways

Cornelis’ research into coffee made the crucial discovery that the chemicals in coffee appear to take advantage of some of the same pathways that cannabinoids do.

In short, both interact with the endocannabinoid system, and that fact has insightful implications for studying the link between coffee, cannabis and brain function, as well as how it affects metabolism and many other health factors.

“These are entirely new pathways by which coffee might affect health,” Cornelis concludes. “Now, we want to delve deeper and study how these changes affect the body.”

"Our new findings linking coffee to endocannabinoids," she adds, "offer alternative explanations worthy of further study."

Drinking more coffee was also found to increase metabolites from the androsteroid system. This infers that coffee speeds up the excretion of steroids, and because steroids are involved in a number of conditions — notably cancers — coffee could, theoretically, play a part here as well.

This study was the first (of hopefully many) to have established such a depth of metabolic interaction between coffee and the endocannabinoid system. No doubt these new learnings will form the foundations for continued research in the future into a variety of conditions.

“Whether elevated blood levels of plant-derived cannabinoids (resulting from cannabis use) offset the lower levels of endocannabinoids produced by the body naturally (in response to coffee) or vice versa is unknown but one can imagine this might impact the effects of either substance/beverage,” Cornelis said. “Coffee is a very common beverage and it is highly possible that cannabis users are also coffee consumers.”

However, more work will still be wanted to truly comprehend whether the perceived changes in metabolites were due to caffeine or one of the myriad other compounds in those cups of energizing java. So, keep pouring and keep vaping and help us test out this theory firsthand! Maybe YOU will be the one who discovers the connection between the bean, the bud, and the brain.


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