Medical Marijuana and CBD for migraines

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  • Updated 233 days ago
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If you are a migraine sufferer, you understand the impact your chronic condition has on your life. Social plans get cancelled, productivity at work is slashed in half and life gets put on hold when a migraine hits. That is generally why migraine sufferers are so open to trying new treatments that show promise.

But, first – what exactly is a migraine?

Migraines are a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent episodic headaches. Researchers believe that people suffering with migraines have a nervous system that is simply not working properly. Although doctors are still unsure exactly what causes a migraine, scientists are sure they have uncovered from which areas of the brain the pain actually arises, and which molecular changes signal the onset of one. They have also studied how cannabinoids affect these changes (but we’ll get to that soon)! For the most part, all sufferers have a problem with a specific part of the nervous system called the trigeminal nerve. Less oxygen is said to reach the brain and as a result, there is restricted blood flow. Platelets, the blood cells that aid in clotting, become stuck in the pathways as vessels outside the brain are contracted.

There are two types of migraines. Classic and Common:

Classic migraines: A migraine with aura.

  • This is a recurring headache that strikes after or at the same time as sensory disturbances called ‘aura’. These disturbances can include flashes of light, blind spots and other vision changes or tingling in your hand or face. It is a vascular type headache with sharply defined, transient visual or other sensory symptoms.

Common migraines: A migraine without aura.

  • This is the most common type as the name suggests. It doesn't have the early symptoms, called an aura, that some people have before a migraine begins, like vision changes, dizziness, confusion, feeling prickling skin, and weakness.

Marijuana – the Best Treatment for Migraines:

There is a long history of using cannabinoids for effective treatment of pain conditions. In fact, cannabis has been used medicinally for millennia. As far as headaches are concerned, the founder of Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Sir William Osler, in the “Principles and Practice of Medicine” first published in 1892, wrote that “cannabis is probably the most satisfactory remedy [for migraines].” Clinical publications between 1839 and 1937 show compelling evidence and valuable insights into the most effective practices, challenges, and benefits during an era when cannabis was commonly used to treat migraine headaches.

Despite this stunning endorsement, today, in the 21st century, migraines are most often treated with pharmaceutical drugs. A 2017 study found that the active compounds in cannabis were more effective at reducing the frequency of acute migraine pain than prescription migraine meds, and with fewer side effects. The results showed that medical marijuana was also significantly better at reducing the number of attacks. MMJ cut migraine pain by 43.5% compared to RX medication. The side-effect profile was also generally much better than the common meds. People taking medical cannabis reported fewer stomach aches and muscle pains, and fewer incidences of colitis than those taking the prescription med. On the downside, those using medical marijuana reported some drowsiness and difficulty concentrating.

The Endocannabinoid System:

By now we all know that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a comprehensive signaling system alive in virtually every cell type in our body. It also plays a critical role in maintaining the body’s homoeostasis. This recently discovered system is involved in processing pain signals—as well as inhibiting them. There are loads of studies including one in April of 2018 that clearly points to a link between endocannabinoids and migraine headaches. While the exact causes underlying migraines is not fully understood, the available data does reveal that the ECS has a therapeutic effect in reducing both the physical and inflammatory symptoms of pain that are likely involved in migraine attacks.

How about CBD?

Encouraging Research:

Research on the use of CBD for migraine is limited but evidence is mounting. There are many more studies showing the efficacy of migraine relief with the use of both CBD and THC combined; however, there are not quite as many studies that examine the effects of CBD alone, as a single ingredient on migraine. Although the research is limited, due, in part, to regulations on CBD and obstacles with cannabis legalization, there are some laboratory studies that are encouraging, suggesting that CBD oil may help all forms of chronic and acute pain, including migraines.

How to Use CBD for Migraines

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), CBD oil can be used in various ways to manage migraine

  • Ingested
  • Applied topically
  • Vaped

Oral CBD has lesser side-effects than vaping and is thus a better option.

You can consume CBD oil orally by:

  • Putting a few drops under the tongues
  • Taking CBD capsules
  • Eating CBD gummies

Vaping can come in handy in cases of severe migraines when it is your only resort.

According to The National Cancer Institute (NCI), inhalation is quicker as it delivers the compounds directly into your bloodstream.

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