CANNABIS AS A TREATMENT AGAINST Migraine and Headache
In Italy, about 18 in 100 people suffer from at least one migraine attack every month. Until recently, the only therapeutic alternatives available for migraine were a number of medications, including over-the-counter medications and prescription painkillers. However, almost all of these drugs, including common over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen, have mild to severe side effects. According to the results of some recent tests, cannabis would have the ability to relieve migraine symptoms safely and effectively, and without negative side effects.
WHAT ARE MIGRANIES AND WHAT ARE THEY CAUSED FOR?
Migraine sufferers are subject to different forms of headaches which can sometimes be painfully debilitating. Together with headaches, sensitivity to light and sound increases and nausea and vomiting can occur. Migraines can also cause disorientation and coordination problems. In severe cases, although rare, a migraine attack can cause temporary paralysis or loss of consciousness. Most of the time, the symptoms last for a few hours, but in some cases they can last for days. For those who suffer from migraines, these conditions can often seriously affect the quality of life.
Although quite common, surprisingly science still knows little about the exact causes of this disorder. To date, the most widely accepted hypothesis is that it is caused by various physiological and environmental factors.
What we do know is that migraines most likely occur somewhere in the brainstem and nervous system, interacting with the trigeminal nerve, the largest cranial nerve that controls pain sensations, motor control and pain reporting in the face. The causes triggering the migraine would therefore activate the neurons of the trigeminal nerve, thus influencing the dilation of the cerebral blood vessels which, in turn, activate the receptors in charge of the ache and of inflammations. Some doctors who specialize in this field claim that migraine may also result from imbalances in the levels of serotonin, a chemical present in our body that plays an important role in pain signaling pathways. Furthermore, it is also possible that some people are genetically more likely to experience these disorders than others.
HOW DOES CANNABIS WORK ON OUR BODY?
Within our whole body extends the endocannabinoid system (SEC). SEC is a biological system made up of endocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced by the body that bind to cannabinoid receptors) and receptor proteins distributed in the central nervous system and in the brain. The endocannabinoid system plays an important role in regulating many bodily functions, such as pain, digestion, appetite and mood.
Cannabis can act on this system through its phytocannabinoids, such as THC and the CBD, which binds (or affects in some way) these receptors present in our body, exactly as endocannabinoids do. This means that cannabis compounds can therefore influence and regulate our bodily functions, including pain control. This mechanism would explain why cannabis use can help treat migraine and the conditions associated with it.
STUDIES ON THE EFFECTIVENESS OF MARIJUANA THERAPEUTIC AGAINST Migraines
The field of research on the potential medicinal uses of cannabis is still in its infancy. However, with increasingly permissive laws regarding the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, we are seeing a significant increase in studies on therapeutic marijuana and its effects, including the mechanisms by which it can potentially treat migraine.
A retrospective analysis on the effects of cannabis among migraine sufferers was published in 2016. The researchers examined 121 adults with clinically diagnosed migraine who were advised by their own doctors to use headache medications or therapeutic cannabis.
The researchers observed that therapeutic cannabis had the ability to significantly reduce the number of migraine attacks from 10.4 to 4.6 per month. However, they reiterated the need to conduct further studies to explore the exact cause-and-effect relationship between migraine and therapeutic cannabis, suggesting that new research be conducted on more marijuana varieties, formulations and doses in order to better understand the therapeutic effects to treat and prevent migraines.
In an other study published in the Congress of the European Academy of Neurology in 2017, some Italian researchers presented solid arguments in favor of the use of therapeutic cannabis to treat and prevent migraines.
By examining a group of 48 people with chronic migraines, the researchers administered several doses of a solution containing THC and CBD (the two main active cannabinoids found in cannabis). According to the results obtained, with a 200mg dose taken orally, acute migraine pains decreased by 55%, a figure very similar to that of the previous study. On average, patients reported a 40% reduction in their monthly migraine attacks and an approximately 43% reduction in pain intensity. In addition to reducing the frequency of migraines, many patients also noted other benefits, such as a decrease in migraines muscle pain and of stomach.
Nowadays, consumers of therapeutic cannabis and enthusiasts of recreational use have at their disposal a market with a wide choice of cannabis varieties. These plants differ from each other not only in flavors and morphology, but also in cannabinoid and concentrationsterpenes. Here is a list of cannabis strains capable of alleviating migraine symptoms.