What are migraines?

Migraine headaches can render you incapable of doing anything. Migraine is accompanied by several symptoms and is most commonly marked by debilitating, intense headaches, vomiting, nausea, sensitivity to sound, light, or and smells, numbness or tingling, difficulty speaking, and seeing an aura. There is no cure for migraines as of now, but there are many techniques for helping you manage them so that the headaches become less frequent and intense. Your doctor will come up with a migraine treatment plan to help you manage your headaches.[1] 

Pain medications are the most common treatment plan recommended for migraines, but for most people, these pain relievers only seem to alleviate the symptoms for a short period of time. Furthermore, there is also a concern about the side effects of these pain medications.[2]

This is where many migraine patients can find help in using cannabis or cannabidiol (CBD). The cannabis plant has many active compounds, out of which cannabidiol is a major one. Cannabis for migraines has been used for many years and has been found to be effective in treating migraines. Cannabis or marijuana for migraines has grown in popularity as people find it to be a natural treatment for migraine headaches. However, let us see what the evidence has to say.[3]

See: Ayurveda Treatment for Migraine

Marijuana, CBD and migraine research

Is there any evidence about CBD and Migraines?

People have been using cannabis for treating migraines for many years. However, there is a lack of scientific evidence to show that marijuana for migraines is a safe treatment. Nevertheless, experts agree that one or more of the active substances present in cannabis can have a beneficial effect on different types of headaches, including migraines.[4]

Results of studies have differed because some studies use CBD oil, while others use the entire marijuana plant due to which there have been many different results. 

While there is evidence to show that CBD oil can decrease the level of inflammation and arthritis pain.[5] This is why it is believed that CBD oil can help treat migraine headaches as well. 

A review of studies found that marijuana is indeed effective and useful in treating migraines. Still, at the same time, there is a lack of studies supporting the effectiveness of CBD oil on migraines.[6] It is believed that as there are more studies on the efficacy and safety of using CBD oil for migraines, it will become clearer about whether CBD oil actually works in alleviating the symptoms of migraine. 

There are several studies that examine the dual effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (another active compound of cannabis), and CBD on migraine.[7] There is no standalone research that looks at the effectiveness of CBD as a standalone ingredient on migraine headaches. 

This is possibly due to the strict regulations that control the use of cannabis and the various legalization issues surrounding marijuana. There are minimal studies that explore the use of CBD oil in all forms on acute and chronic pain, such as what is experienced in migraine.[8]  

See: Functional Medicine for migraine healing

Best cannabis strain for Migraines

Which is the best cannabis strain for Migraines?

There are two main types or subspecies of cannabis - Indica or Sativa for migraines. Cannabis sativa is known to contain low levels of CBD and high levels of THC. Sativa is responsible for the euphoric properties of cannabis. Cannabis Sativa is usually recommended during the daytime for migraines.[9, 10] 

Cannabis indica, on the other hand, contain very high levels of CBD and moderate levels of THC. This causes you to feel calm, relaxed, and also has some sedative properties, helping you sleep off your migraine. Since cannabis Indica has a stronger effect, it is usually recommended to use this strain of cannabis at night as it can cause drowsiness.[11]

Over the years, there has been a debate raging on whether Indica or Sativa for headaches is the right option? However, bot the strains are known to benefit in migraine headaches.[12]

See: Acupuncture for Migraines and Headaches

Research on other forms of cannabis for migraines

There are many ongoing and recently concluded studies on other forms of cannabis that have shown that cannabis can help those looking to get relief from migraine symptoms. 

For example, a study done on the effectiveness of medical marijuana for migraines found that nearly 40 percent of participants reported experiencing fewer migraine headaches as compared to those who did not take medical marijuana.[13]

However, the participants also experienced several side effects, the most prominent of which was drowsiness. Others also had difficulty in determining the correct dosage, and in which form the edible marijuana should be used. People who inhaled edible marijuana experienced the most severe side effects.

Another recent study in 2018 found that people with headaches, arthritis, chronic pain, or migraine were successfully able to replace their prescribed medications with cannabis to control and manage their pain.[14]

See: Migraine diet

How does cannabis for migraines work?

It is believed that cannabis for migraines works by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors known as CB1 and CB2. The exact mechanism by which this system works is not entirely understood. Still, it is believed that these cannabinoid receptors have an impact on the immune system and prevent the body from metabolizing the compound anandamide. The compound anandamide is known to be linked with the body's pain regulation system, and having high levels of anandamide in the bloodstream helps reduce the feelings of pain.[15]

Marijuana for migraines is also believed to work by reducing inflammation in the body, which in turn helps decrease pain.[16]

See: Botox Injections for Migraines, Cost & Side effects

Summary

More research is still needed before cannabis or marijuana can be legalized and made a conventional treatment for migraines. However, if you are interested and medical marijuana is legalized in your locality, then you can always discuss it with your doctor. Your doctor will also advise you on what would be the correct dosage, what form of marijuana to take, and even help you understand any legalities involved in using medical marijuana. Make sure to discuss the potential side effects of cannabis for migraines as well with your doctor.

See: Yoga asanas for migraine pain relief

References

1. Dodick, D.W., and Gargus, J.J., 2008. Why migraines strike. Scientific American, 299(2), pp.56-63.

2. Martel, M.O., Finan, P.H., Dolman, A.J., Subramanian, S., Edwards, R.R., Wasan, A.D., and Jamison, R.N., 2015. Self-reports of medication side effects and pain-related activity interference in patients with chronic pain: a longitudinal cohort study. Pain, 156(6), p.1092.

3. Lochte, B.C., Beletsky, A., Samuel, N.K., and Grant, I., 2017. The use of cannabis for headache disorders. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), pp.61-71.

4. Mechtler, L., Bargnes, V., Hart, P., McVige, J. and Saikali, N., 2019. Medical Cannabis for Chronic Migraine: A Retrospective Review (P3. 10-015). 

5. Burstein, S., 2015. Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry, 23(7), pp.1377-1385.

6. Lochte, B.C., Beletsky, A., Samuel, N.K., and Grant, I., 2017. The use of cannabis for headache disorders. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), pp.61-71.

7. Baron, E.P., 2018. Medicinal properties of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in cannabis, and benefits in migraine, headache, and pain: an update on current evidence and cannabis science. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 58(7), pp.1139-1186.

8. Vučković, S., Srebro, D., Vujović, K.S., Vučetić, Č. and Prostran, M., 2018. Cannabinoids and pain: new insights from old molecules. Frontiers in pharmacology, 9, p.1259.

9. Zuardi, A.W., Crippa, J.A.D.S., Hallak, J.E.C., Moreira, F.A., and Guimarães, F.S., 2006. Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an antipsychotic drug. Brazilian journal of medical and biological research, 39(4), pp.421-429.

10. Turner, C.E., Elsohly, M.A., and Boeren, E.G., 1980. Constituents of Cannabis sativa L. XVII. A review of the natural constituents. Journal of Natural Products, 43(2), pp.169-234.

11. Dixon, W.E., 1899. The pharmacology of Cannabis indica. British medical journal, 2(2030), p.1517.

12. Piomelli, D., and Russo, E.B., 2016. The Cannabis sativa versus Cannabis indica debate: an interview with Ethan Russo, MD. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 1(1), pp.44-46.

13. Rhyne, D.N., Anderson, S.L., Gedde, M., and Borgelt, L.M., 2016. Effects of medical marijuana on migraine headache frequency in an adult population. Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy, 36(5), pp.505-510.

14. Baron, E.P., Lucas, P., Eades, J., and Hogue, O., 2018. Patterns of medicinal cannabis use, strain analysis, and substitution effect among patients with migraine, headache, arthritis, and chronic pain in a medicinal cannabis cohort. The journal of headache and pain, 19(1), p.37.

15. Rhyne, D.N., Anderson, S.L., Gedde, M., and Borgelt, L.M., 2016. Effects of medical marijuana on migraine headache frequency in an adult population. Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy, 36(5), pp.505-510.

16. Burstein, S., 2015. Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry, 23(7), pp.1377-1385.

See: Home Remedies For Migraine

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