Are you one of the 12 percent of the world’s population who sufferers from migraines? Migraines are classified as the sixth most disabling disease, according to The Migraine Research Foundation. A debilitating neurological disease, sufferers are often incapacitated with the headaches excruciating pain. Pharmaceutical options often have severe side effects. However, medical marijuana appears to help ease the pain and symptoms.
What is a Migraine?
In the early days of migraine research, it was believed that the pain was caused by the constriction of arteries in the brain which impaired the blood’s flow. The lack of adequate blood would cause the brain’s pain receptors to activate. However, modern researchers now believe that certain individuals have hypersensitive neurons. The neurons located in the central nervous system are sensitive to external stimuli or hormones. Once activated, they cause the pain receptors in the brain to react and a migraine to develop.
Symptoms of a Migraine
Migraines last anywhere from four to 72 hours. Each occurrence varies in intensity and longevity. Some sufferers will experience all the following symptoms and some only a few:
- Increased yawning
- Pain on one side of the head (although some sufferers experience pain on both sides)
- Sensitivity to smells, light, and sounds
- Blurred vision
Some migraine sufferers also experience what is known as an ‘aura.’ An aura often includes visual disturbances, motion issues, vision loss, hearing noises, pins/needle sensations, or physical jerking motions.
How Cannabis Helps Migraine Sufferers
The body’s endocannabinoid system is made up of receptors known as CB1 and CB2. Both receptors play key functions in the body’s central nervous system. The two dominate cannabinoids found in marijuana are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Both respond and bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors. At the Congress of the European Academy of Neurology in 2017, Italian researchers revealed that in clinical trials migraine sufferers who were dosed with marijuana experienced a 55 percent reduction in migraine pain. When given daily over a three-month period, the individuals had a 40.4 percent reduction in migraine frequency when used in combination with amitriptyline (a common antidepressant used as a treatment for chronic migraines)
Using Marijuana to Treat and Prevent Migraines
During a full-blown migraine attack, sufferers often report experiencing a significant reduction in pain when they use either smokable marijuana or vape a cannabis concentrate. Edibles, tinctures, capsules, and oils appeared to not help reduce the severity of an attack. However, a daily dose of cannabis in such forms does appear to reduce the frequency. Medical marijuana when used to treat migraines also reduces nausea and vomiting associated with the condition.
Currently, research shows that the most effective treatment for migraines involves using whole plant cannabis. Researchers have found that both THC and CBD provide profound pain relief and reduce the frequency of the headaches. CBD used alone does not appear to be as effective at relieving pain or preventing the attacks. However, when combined with THC, innumerable studies clearly show that sufferers experienced reduced pain during and attack and also fewer headaches.