Cannabis & Migraines
According to statistics, migraines affect about 38 million Americans. Of these numbers, 5 million individuals experience one migraine attack monthly. About 2 to 3 million suffer from chronic migraine attacks.
Migraine attacks can be incapacitating. It prevents them from enjoying social events. It also significantly affects their school and work productivity.
Painkillers effectively control these attacks. Anxiolytics also prevent nausea and vomiting that sometimes come hand in hand with migraines. Unfortunately, these drugs sometimes don’t work. So migraine sufferers are left riding out the pain in agony and misery.
The legalization of medical cannabis saw an increase in migraine sufferers switching from conventional treatment to medical cannabis. They find that medical cannabis effectively manages their migraine symptoms. It produces fewer side effects as well.
But how does cannabis relieve migraine attacks? More importantly, is it effective and safe?
Cannabis and the Symptoms of Migraines
There’s more than just a typical headache going on inside your brain during a migraine attack. Your neurotransmitter levels go all whacky and stimulate hyperexcitable neurons. So noxious stimulus like stress and anxiety easily triggers a migraine attack.
In addition to this, neurotransmitter imbalance also causes low-grade brain inflammation. This low-grade inflammation worsens migraine symptoms since the immune cells release their own pain-generating chemicals.
Now, cannabis has properties that effectively control migraine symptoms:
- Analgesic effect.
THC and CBD both have very powerful analgesic effect. THC activates the cannabinoid receptor type 1. CBD activates several pain-regulating non-cannabinoid receptors. Some of these non-cannabinoid receptors include the vanilloid and serotonin receptors.
- Anti-inflammatory effect.
Both THC and CBD produce potent anti-inflammatory effect. They prompt the death of these abnormal immune cells. This reduces the low-grade neuroinflammation associated with migraine attacks.
Their anti-inflammatory property also stops these immune cells from releasing more pain-generating chemicals. So by controlling inflammation, pain is also reduced.
- Antioxidant effect.
High levels of excitatory neurotransmitters lead to toxicity. Toxicity contributes to the generation of more free radicals. Now, free radicals damage neurons and contribute to their hyperexcitability. They also contribute to decreased antioxidant levels in the brain.
THC and CBD act as powerful antioxidants. In fact, one study states that CBD rivals the antioxidant property of a potent antioxidant called BHT. The same study also said that CBD is safer than BHT. It doesn’t promote tumor growths as BHT does.
Cannabinoids stabilize free radicals. They protect healthy brain cells from toxicity.
- Antiemetic effect.
CBD and THC are known for their antiemetic effect. They can reduce nausea and vomiting that usually accompany migraine attacks.
Cannabis Safety and Effectiveness
One study on medical cannabis and migraine headaches is worth noting.
In the study, 121 patients with migraine headaches were given medical cannabis for treatment and prophylaxis. At the end of the study, 85% of the participants reported significant improvement in the severity and frequency of their migraine attacks. About 11.6% of them reported that medical cannabis effectively prevented the migraine attack from fully developing.
Although there were side effects, majority of the participants tolerated medical cannabis very well.
Migraine attacks can be pretty debilitating. But medical cannabis, as an alternative form of treatment, can effectively control the symptoms.