In case the uptick in cannabis-laced lip balms, face serums, and coconut butters has somehow slipped past your social feed, marijuana is having a bit of a moment in the wellness space. The pungent crop’s associated benefits—from easing menstrual cramps to tackling anxiety—has helped it become the fastest-growing industry in the U.S. (Legal sales rang in at nearly $10 billion in 2017.) But it may also be possible to eat your way to a health high, without infringing on cannabis’s ever-complicated relationship with state legislators.
Enter the endocannabinoid system (ECS). First discovered in 1988, the ECS is now considered to be one of the most important systems in the body for its ability to regulate a range of vital processes, from appetite and mood to sexual function. Triggered by neurotransmitters that are activated by the components in cannabis—well known cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)—it can also be initiated by common pantry ingredients, such as black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, and bay leaf, according to new research.
“Balancing the ECS with dietary cannabinoids is proving to be an essential component in treating patients with weight problems, blood sugar issues, and a variety of disorders related to inflammation,” says Charles Passler, D.C., a New York–based nutritionist whose client roster includes Bella Hadid and Naomi Watts.
Alan Badiner, a member of the International Cannabinoid Research Society in North Carolina, is currently working on a book to further flesh out these findings. The Endocannabinoid Diet, due out later this year, is more a set of guidelines for how to engage your ECS than a traditional meal plan, and it is contingent on consuming beta-caryophyllene (a phytochemical found in the essential oil of cannabis, and in a range of other plants and herbs, including rosemary and basil), which the ECS utilizes to send information to receptor cells in the body when eaten with foods rich in omega fatty acids, such as wild salmon, avocados, walnuts, and flax.
As different spice strains from different parts of the world contain different levels of beta-caryophyllene, ingredient potency can vary, warns Jürg Gertsch, PhD, a leading researcher in the field of dietary cannabinoids at Switzerland’s University of Bern. But examining labels to determine the ideal origins of your pepper (India), or your cinnamon (Sri Lanka) just might be worth it, especially when it comes to preventative care, says Gertsch. “If you’re constantly eating [phytocannabinoid-rich foods] it could help you overcome conditions of chronic inflammation and have a positive anti-stress effect as well.” Should you be more concerned about your stress levels in the spice aisle at Whole Foods, a new line of ECS-regulating supplements from San Diego–based Emerald Health Bioceuticals, made entirely of expertly sourced, non-psychoactive phytocannabinoids, has you covered.
And if you’re already stocked up on rosemary and cardamom, but need a little direction, here’s how to make Badiner’s ECS-boosting, spice-packed protein shake:
Plant-based vanilla protein powder
2 large tubers of turmeric root, peeled and chopped
2 big chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 leaves of fresh basil
1 heaping teaspoon of ground Sri Lankan cinnamon
1 teaspoon of cardamom
1 teaspoon of allspice
1 heaping teaspoon of Maca Magic powder
1 teaspoon of raw organic sesame seeds
1 teaspoon of green tea extract
1 heaping teaspoon of psyllium husks powder (Yerba Prima)
1/2 teaspoon of green superfood blend (Amazing Grace)
1/2 teaspoon of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of Omega 3 6 9 oils
1/2 teaspoon of coconut/MCT oil
1/2 teaspoon of THCA extract (if available)
1/2 teaspoon of Calm magnesium
1/2 teaspoon of rosemary or 1/2 branch of fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon of Malabar Indian black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of black caraway seeds
4 clove pieces
1 banana, peeled
1 packet (or half cup) of vanilla protein powder
3 handfuls of ice cubes
3/4 cup of water (or more – to taste)
Blend and serve.