Migraines are a type of recurring headache characterized by their severity and a throbbing or pulsing pain typically located at the side or front of the head.
It is estimated that there are more than 1 billion migraine sufferers around the world. According to headacheaustralia.org.au, there are an estimated 4.9 million individuals that suffer from migraines in Australia alone. 71% of sufferers among those are women, and 86% of patients are of working age.
Common triggers for migraines include but are not limited to hormonal changes in women, food or beverages, stress, sleep changes, weather changes, medications, and free radicals such as tobacco and alcohol. Migraine sufferers experience mental confusion, nausea, stiff necks, and sensitivity to light and smell in addition to pain.
The most common treatments for migraines include pain-relieving medications and preventive medications like Botox injections. These include over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription drugs such as Triptans, opioids, and anti-nausea medications.
Unfortunately, some of these treatments and combos thereof only provide minimal, if any, relief for patients and come with an exhausting list of potentially dangerous side effects.
The ECS Role in Migraines
Substantial scientific research concludes that the body’s endocannabinoid system plays a direct role in migraines. One review suggeststhat the activation of this system through cannabinoid therapies could “represent a promising therapeutical tool for reducing both the physiological and inflammatory components of pain that are likely involved in migraine attacks.”
This review also notes that through clinical observations, it has been proven that there is a reduction in the levels of anandamide (a naturally produced endocannabinoid) within cerebrospinal fluid and plasma of patients with chronic migraines. This suggests a clear “link between dysregulation of this signaling complex and migraine headaches.”
Scientific researchhas also shown that cannabis, which is considered a vasodilator, can mediate neural networks. The naturally occurring endocannabinoid known as anandamide can constrict dilation of blood vessels due to migraine-provoking inflammatory agents known as CGRPs by as much as 30%.
Effective Delivery Methods
While inhalation, ingestion, sublingual, and topical applications have all been shown to offer relief from migraines, oral delivery methods, along with inhalation, seem to provide the most relief based on what both science and anecdotal stories conclude. While some patients may find faster and more efficient relief through a sublingual tincture placed under the tongue, others find that a few inhalations offer substantial relief almost instantaneously. Tetra’s anecdotal claims also suggest that microdosing with cannabis regularly can help prevent the onset of migraines altogether.
There has been substantial research into the efficacy of cannabis as a treatment for migraines throughout Australia. These range from cross-sectional studies regarding cannabis’s role in reducing migraine frequency to the ECS’ role in pain signaling related to migraine attacks. Learn more here. Interested patients can also request to participate in various clinical trials regarding cannabinoid therapies as a treatment for migraines such as the ones listed here.
CBD or THC?
When it comes to the specific cannabinoids that should be utilized when seeking relief from migraines through cannabis, there is great debate on whether CBD or THC is best. According to one study, there is no difference in efficacy between varying concentrations of THC:CBD.
Other research, however, suggeststhat those who utilize cannabis to treat migraines prefer higher THC strains with low CBD content. This is likely due to the proven anti-inflammatory, antiemetic, and analgesic properties of THC. It seems that like with many things cannabis-related, what works may highly differ between each patient. Popular opinion supports that CBD alone tends not to provide relief and that even low concentrations of THC along with CBD tend to offer at least some level of relief.
Tips for Relief
When looking to utilize cannabis to manage migraines, it is recommended to start slow and keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Whether you are consuming through inhalation or ingestion methods, it is best to start with a low dose of both THC and CBD and increase as per your doctor’s instructions until you find relief. Indica dominant strains of cannabis tend to offer more sedating effects, which are often desired for those suffering from migraine headaches. As with anything, it is always recommended to speak with your medical professional before adding anything new to your treatment regimen.