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Information about Migraines:
A migraine is a debilitating type of headache that affects a surprisingly large number of people. Worldwide, there are one billion sufferers, of this severe type of headache.
Migraine medications help reduce the pain and frequency of attacks. Unfortunately, many of those medications cause unpleasant or dangerous side effects.
Medical marijuana can help with both the pain and frequency of migraine attacks without many of the side effects associated with conventional medications. This article explains what migraines are, and how medical marijuana can be used to manage them.
What Is Migraines
A migraine is a type of recurring headache that is characterized by severe pain and throbbing blood vessels. While the specific cause of migraines is unknown, doctors believe that genes play a role and that certain triggers initiate migraines in individuals prone to them.
Migraines are both prevalent and disabling, affecting about 12% of the population in the US, and approximately one billion people worldwide. Medicine, lifestyle choices, and self-help remedies are currently the most common means by which to prevent or manage migraine symptoms.
What Causes Migraines
The cause of migraines is hypothesized to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Researchers are also considering the role of chemical (particularly, serotonin) imbalances in the brain that lead to a lack of proper regulation of the nervous system.
While environmental factors may not be the root cause of migraines, they absolutely play a role in triggering these super-headaches. Examples include:
- Types of food
- Food additives such as artificial sweeteners and MS
- Alcoholic or caffeinated drinks
- Change in sleeping pattern/lack of sleep
- Sensory stimuli such as particularly bright lights, potent odors, or loud sounds
- Physical exercise
- Changes in the weather
Genetics & Other Risk Factors
Of those who suffer from migraines, 90% have a family history of the condition. This makes it likely that genes are directly related to the incidence of migraines. Additionally, women are 3x more likely than men to be affected by migraines, which researchers believe to be linked to the hormonal changes that occur during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. These migraines tend to be most extreme in one’s thirties.
Other Health Conditions
For those who experience migraines on a regular basis, meaning 15 or more days a month for three months, this is categorized as a chronic migraine. For those who experience it that last for three or more days, this is classified as migrainous. Finally, in certain cases, migraines can lead to a loss of blood supply to an area of the brain, causing a stroke.
Symptoms of Migraines
Migraines are more than just headaches. They are neurological attacks, most often affecting only one side of the brain, and triggering a number of unpleasant and even excruciating symptoms for about 4-72 hours. There are four stages of a migraine: prodrome, aura, attack, and post-drome.
Prodrome: Often beginning one to two days before a migraine, and characterized by subtle changes such as:
- Changes in mood
- Cravings for food or water
- Stiffness of neck
- Frequent yawning
Aura: Occur either before or during a migraine, lasting up to an hour, and characterized by a change in one’s senses, such as:
- Seeing flashes of light
- Blurred vision/vision loss
- Weakness/numbness in the face/body
- Tingling sensation in the limbs
- Jerking movements
- Trouble with speaking
Attack: Lasting up to 72 hours, and characterized by:
- Throbbing or pulsing pain on one or both sides of the head
- Sensitivity to light and other sensory stimulators
- Nausea and vomiting
- Compromised vision
- Lightheadedness or fainting
Post-drome: Occurring after the migraine, and often having to do with the state of one’s body and mind. For example:
- Change in mood, ranging from depressed to elated
- Sensitivity to light, touch, and sound
Current Treatments for Migraines
The most common way in which to prevent or manage symptoms of migraines is through the use of medication. There are two categories of medication: pain relieving and preventive. Individuals affected by migraines may choose which medications to use based on their frequency and severity.
There are various risks associated with the most common treatments for migraines. Certain anti-inflammatory medications that attempt to relieve migraine pain (such as ibuprofen), when taken over a prolonged period, can trigger dangerous outcomes such as ulcers, bleeding, and abdominal issues. Additionally, when using over-the-counter drugs in high doses for periods of more than 10 days per month consistently, these drugs can ultimately have a reverse effect and begin to cause additional migraines. Finally, while less common, certain migraine medications that aim to regulate serotonin can essentially cause an overdose of serotonin in the brain that can be life-threatening.
CBD & Migraines
As researchers look into new ways in which to treat migraines, some have turned to marijuana as a potential alternative treatment. With cannabis now getting more attention for its medicinal properties, studies are now looking into the possibility of using marijuana to treat migraine symptoms.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is non-psychoactive cannabinoid and anti-inflammatory found to have various healing abilities for a wide range of conditions.
Medical Research on Medical Marijuana and Migraines
Migraines can be severely debilitating, and can profoundly affect one’s quality of life. Those who suffer from migraines often take any means possible to find relief. In fact, one study, published by the National Institute of Health, discussed the use of online forums as a method of documenting the effectiveness and desire for medical marijuana by migraine sufferers. Patients commented on a variety of sites such as shroomery.org, clusterbusters.org, and bluelight.org, all detailing their relief from migraines using marijuana.
While many migraine patients have been using marijuana to self-medicate for years, science is now revealing just how effective this alternative treatment is. In a study published by Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science, researchers looked at how inhaled or ingested marijuana affected those who suffer from migraines. Of the 121 adult participants, “About 85% of subjects reported having fewer migraines per month with cannabis, and the average number of migraine headaches decreased from 10.4 per month to 4.6.”
One study, published in the Journal of Headache and Pain, attempted to describe why cannabis reduced both the severity and the frequency of migraines. The study looked at the interaction between marijuana and “CB2 receptors,” or receptors in the endocannabinoid system that play a role in the perception of pain. The study found that “The pharmacological manipulation of the CB2 receptor may represent a potential therapeutic tool for the treatment of migraine.”
These studies are two of many that attempt to give reasonable evidence that cannabis can play a prominent role in the reduction of migraine severity and frequency. Researchers are also looking specifically to the cannabinoid, CBD, for its potential medicinal manipulation.
Treatments such as medical marijuana are often considered once all other forms of medicine fail to effectively resolve the problem. Some avoid medical marijuana because of its psychoactive effects, but these can be prevented by using a sub-psychoactive dosage instead.
Some patients that were treating their migraines and cluster headaches with marijuana had erratic outcomes, but no adverse effects. Others had positive effects when using certain psychedelics such as psilocybin, and lysergic acid diethylamide.
While there may not be any clinical evidence that explains how marijuana affects people with migraine headaches, the possible benefits cannabinoids can have on serotonin in the central nervous system shows that cannabis could turn out to be a great alternative medicine. This particular marijuana and migraine study focuses on how medical marijuana affects a migraine headache on a monthly basis. The research was conducted on 121 adult patients with migraine headaches who were prescribed medical marijuana over a 4-year period.
The doctors discovered that many times, patients experienced a reduction in migraine occurrences from 10.4 to 4.6 migraines a month. The average person consumed different types of cannabis daily during this study.
Even though the frequency of migraines was reduced by using cannabis, more research needs to be conducted to determine the varying results different strains offer for there to be a clear understanding of how medical marijuana truly affects migraines.
Medical Research on CBD and Migraines
Because it can interact with the endocannabinoid system and is non-psychoactive in nature, CBD is getting attention for the treatment of headaches and migraines. A study published by the American Headache Society stated that “Modulation of the endocannabinoid system through agonism or antagonism of its receptors, targeting its metabolic pathways, or combining cannabinoids with other analgesics for synergistic effects, may provide the foundation for many new classes of medications.”
Using CBD to target the endocannabinoid system could significantly reduce the pain of migraines in those who suffer from them, giving migraine patients some well-deserved relief.
CBD vs. THC
To understand how CBD interacts with our brain and body, start by understanding the difference between CBD and THC, the two most well-known cannabinoids found in cannabis. These cannabinoids are chemicals found in cannabis and absorbed by our endocannabinoid system.
As stated earlier, CBD is non-psychoactive and a known anti-inflammatory. Its medicinal effects range from gastrointestinal support, reduction of anxiety, pain reduction, potential cancer treatment, and mood enhancer.
THC is most notorious for its psychoactive effects (the feeling of being “high”); however, it also has a plethora of healing properties. Among others, it can assist with appetite loss, energy increase, and pain reduction.
How to take Medical Marijuana for Migraines
Marijuana can be taken many different ways to reduce symptoms of migraines. For the quickest results, smoking or vaporizing may be best. Smoking, however, may reduce some of its benefits because the high heat may literally cook away some of the active THC and CBD.
Vaporizing is a popular alternative to smoking. Unlike with smoking, the material (rather oil or flower) is only heated up enough to release a vapor, which is then inhaled to receive the effects.
For patients who do not want to inhale smoke or vapor, edibles, pills, and tinctures are also options. This method includes the ingestion of CBD oil.
CBD Oil for Migraines
Migraines are more than headaches – they affect the neurological system and have severely painful symptoms. It is impossible for migraine patients to control their genetic predisposal to migraines, and often difficult for them to manage the environmental factors that trigger the attacks.
CBD oil can work with the endocannabinoid system to reduce the pain of migraines and is a more sustainable approach to treatment compared to the over-use of migraine medications and over-the-counter drugs.
Growing Your Own Migraines Medication
The evidence we now have on the effect of cannabis on migraines is exciting. Perhaps most exciting is the fact that those who suffer from migraines could potentially grow their own medicine, and side-step the potentially hazardous effects of current migraine medications.
For those who want to begin cultivating medicinal marijuana, it will be important to choose/find a strain that works with the endocannabinoid system to reduce migraine symptoms. The best marijuana strains for migraines include CBD rich strains such as: Afghan Kush, Blueberry, Trainwreck and Cheese. Order your seeds today and grow some relief.
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