Migraines are a chronic issue for millions of people, with pain so severe it can become a debilitating occurrence that is near impossible to manage. Migraines don’t just make your head soar, due to the nature of their severity they can also bring on an array of other uncomfortable issues such as nausea and light sensitivity. Treating migraines isn’t the easiest of feats either, unlike a routine headache a glass of water and an Advil aren’t enough. There are various prescription medications that are designed specifically for handling the pain of migraines but many tends to be ineffective or produce their own symptoms and side effects. This has lead many to explore other alternatives such as the two main cannabinoids found in marijuana, known as THC and CBD. With a already proven track record of helping with things such as pain and inflammation, there are a lot of positive signs pointing towards marijuana having the attributes to battle the stubborn effects of a migraine.
What is a Migraine?
Migraines can be a debilitating occurrence with most migraines causing severe and debilitating effects. Doctors aren’t confident on why exactly individuals get migraines, with many suggesting it is due fluctuations of the blood flow in the brain, with the change of blood flow and blood vessels not initiating the pain but contributing to it. Migraines are also possibly caused by changes in trigeminal nerve, which is a pain pathway in the brain. Today many researches believe that chemical compounds and hormones like serotonin and estrogen play a role in the sensitivity and severity of migraines. There are various triggers that can cause a migraine such as:
- Stress and emotions
- Hormonal changes
- Exposure to light and smells
- Fatigue and sleep patterns
- Weather changes
- Specific food and drinks
Migraines can last up to 4 hours or 4 days depending on the individual and severity. The pain usually is described as a throbbing or pulsing beginning on either side of the head in the temple area. When experiencing a migraine people tend to be effected by light, sound and physical movement which can cause the body to feel nausea or induce vomiting.
Migraine vs Headache
Headaches are one of the most commonly known forms of pain experienced. Headaches are whats known as a catchall term that can be related to any type of head related pain, usually referring to tension headaches where both sides of the head feel sore or painful. Migraines however are different, they are classified as a neurological disease. Migraines have some specific attributes such as pain on one side of the of the head, a pulsing or throbbing feeling that gets worse with movement, lights and noises. Headaches on the other hand are felt throughout the head, with a sensation of pressing or tightening. Headaches are best described as tight band feeling around the head. Headaches also tend to remain the same once they settle in, things like movement, sounds or light don’t worsen the pain, nor is there much throbbing or pulsing like with a migraine.
Marijuana and Migraines
The use of both THC and CBD the two most dominant cannabinoids in cannabis have shown continued signs that they can help manage various aspects of pain throughout the body. This largely comes down to both cannabinoids interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is made up of endocannabinoids, receptors and enzymes that help regulate functions throughout the body such as sleep, mood, hunger, cognitive ability, and pain sensation. Let’s take a look at CBD and how it can potentially ease the painful affects that come with migraines.
CBD and Migraines
Although there are no conclusive studies directly linking CBD to migraine relief, there is evidence that CBD interacts with various avenues in the brain that can helps provide relief in those who are experiencing migraines. Located in the pain processing area of the brain you can find endocannabinoid receptors, one of these receptors is known as the anandamide. The purpose of the anandamide is to maintain homeostasis. The anandamide does this by regulating inflammation and the neuron signaling in our brain, binding with both cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. When we consume CBD it binds with the anandamide receptor. Since the anandamide is found in the pain processing area of the brain this means that when CBD interacts with the natural endocannabinoid it binds together and helps reduce the pain signals that are sent to the brain, telling the brain that the pain isn’t as bad as it could be. This shows that CBD interaction with the anandamide can help reduce pain brought on my migraines. Furthermore, anandamide is shown that is targets similar pain signaling pathways as Triptans which is a medication commonly used when treating migraines and cluster headaches. This points towards the use of CBD as a safer alternative to helping treat migraine pain, as it binds with the anandamide, boosting its ability and preforming similar actions to migraine-based medication. There are other studies around anandamide levels that further support CBD and how it can help influence migraines in a positive manner. In 2007 a study done by the journal of Neuropsychopharmacology looked at the possibility that there is an impairment of the endocannabinoid system when it comes to those suffering from migraines. In the study there is evidence that our anandamide levels become depressed in the cerebrospinal fluid when we are experiencing a migraine, which points to an impaired ECS. This also boosts the support of CBD for migraine relief as the introduction of CBD cannabinoids into the body would help reduce that anandamide depression, therefore reducing an impaired ECS and possibly reducing the pain of a migraine.
There is still much to be studied on the role of CBD, the ECS and migraines but the evidence is mounting that CBD is a strong contender when it comes to a natural alternative to pain relief within the body and the partnership of marijuana and heades.
THC and Migraines
Recently the movement to use THC to help mediate migraines has come up big on the research front. Two recent studies have shown that the use of cannabis can have big impacts on pain management for those who suffer from migraines. First is a study conducted by Washington State University, published in the Journal of Pain has become the first research group to use big data from those who are suffering from both headaches and migraines and using marijuana in real time. The study had over 1300 individuals who experience regular headaches use an app to track changes in headaches from before to after using cannabis and another 653 patients suffering from migraines. In total the app was used over 20,000 times and saw an overall decrease in headache and migraine reduction, with 90% of male participants and 89% of female participants. The study also noted that the use of cannabis concentrates helped reduce headache severity more then of cannabis flower. The different in THC and CBD levels didn’t seem to make much difference on the reducing of pain which also points towards other cannabinoids such as cannabis terpenes playing a larger role in cannabis then previously thought. With further studies needed this evidence should help experts better understand the best marijuana strains for migraines and whether indica or sativa for migraines is the best choice.
The second study was on a smaller scale but had similar results towards the positive nature cannabis could have on migraines. The study included 127 participants who were effected by chronic migraines and cluster headaches. The participants were given a combination of both THC and CBD throughout two phases. The results shown from these tests resulted in:
- A decrease in migraines from 10 per month to 4
- Around 40% of participants found cannabis provided positive effects
- 8% reported cannabis helped to prevent oncoming migraines
- 6 reported that cannabis stopped migraine headaches all together
- 85% reported less migraines per month while using cannabis
- 12% saw no change
- 2% reported an increase in migraine frequency
Within the study inhaling cannabis seemed to be the quickest and most effective method of stopping migraines, with edibles being less favoured due to the time it took to kick in and the strong euphoria experience, along with sleepiness and other negative side effects.
Marijuana & Migraines
More research needed
Marijuana for a headache or marijuana for migraines has shown that it can be an effective tool in the fight against head pain. Studies however are limited, research to date has been mostly focused on prescription drugs and how they can help with headaches and migraines. The next stage of research is to discover the best marijuana strains for migraines and if indica or sativa is best for migraines, along with delivery methods as well. For now the anecdotal research will have to suffice, but in the meantime if you want to try marijuana for headaches or migraines, read out How Medical Marijuana Helps with Pain article to get a better understand on how cannabis interacts with pain in the body.
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