© 2015 The Authors. The gastrointestinal peptide hormone ghrelin was discovered in 1999 as the endogenous ligand of the growth hormone secretagogue receptor. Increasing evidence supports more complicated and nuanced roles for the hormone, which go beyond the regulation of systemic energy metabolism. Scope of review: In this review, we discuss the diverse biological functions of ghrelin, the regulation of its secretion, and address questions that still remain 15 years after its discovery. Major conclusions: In recent years, ghrelin has been found to have a plethora of central and peripheral actions in distinct areas including learning and memory, gut motility and gastric acid secretion, sleep/wake rhythm, reward seeking behavior, taste sensation and glucose metabolism.