Headaches and migraines are very common in our society and can make a person’s life very difficult. When a person has strong headaches or migraines it can be very difficult to integrate to everyday life. Symptoms range from heavy headaches, nausea, vomiting, strong sensitivity to sound and light, to change in our vision where we see bolts of light and blind spots. Furthermore, migraines are extremely difficult to treat. Maybe the answer lies in nature’s cannabinoids.
Headaches and migraines are one of the most spread health conditions worldwide. It affects approximately 1 billion people around the world or every eight people in our society. Almost half of all women will experience migraine in some point in their lives, most commonly between 35 and 45 years of age.
Unfortunately, migraines and heavy headaches are extremely hard to treat. There are multiple therapies to ease them, including preventive drugs and painkillers, which are not always effective. That is why many are looking into alternative treatments. Some individuals even turned to psychedelics to ease the pain. This is not surprising as for example, LSD was first invented as a vasoconstrictor (a group of drugs used to treat migraines). However, researchers see a great potential in cannabis as well.
Cannabis shows signs of a potentially convenient and effective means of pain relief, from migraines to various types of headaches. 2021 review evidence, from a group of Florida based research show, that use of cannabis can reduce migraines time and their frequency via glutamine, inflammatory, opiate, and serotonin pathways. 2 of the 34 studies included in the review will be described later on in this article.
Additionally, two other recent articles conclude, that terpenes (compounds that give cannabis its distinct smell and taste) affect the therapeutic effects of cannabis.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF STUDIES
A University of Colorado study aimed to know how individuals with migraines use cannabis and feel relief when using it. 589 cannabis users were involved in this study, where they marked the level of relief felt using various compounds in an online survey. 161 (27.3%) participants reported to have migraines. 123 (76.4%) of them responded to use cannabis exclusively due to migraines. 86 (69.9%) responded that they have used other migraine pain relieving drugs in the past.
The study concluded that cannabis had a much greater effect on migraine treatment compared to other substances (pharmaceutical prescription drugs). However, subjective reporting and different pain experiencing can be limitations of this study.
THC Rich Cannabis for Migraines and Headaches
A 2020 study published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine found, that cannabis is very effective in treating headaches. New Mexico researchers used data from over 2 years of collection with digital app “Releaf”, to study real time connection between cannabis use and symptoms caused by migraines and headaches. Patients used the app to record their pain using a 0-10 metric before and immediately after the use of cannabis.
94% of users experienced relief in symptoms in a timeframe of about 2 hours after using cannabis. On average the pain decreased by 3.3 points. Men reported greater relief compared to women and patients younger than 35 had a greater improvement compared to older participants. This study found that THC level was the main independent predictor of symptom relief (reported by users on the product of use declaration).
“THE USE OF CANNABIS CAN SHORTEN THE TIME OF MIGRAINES AND THEIR FREQUENCY”
Concentrates Are More Effective Than Smoked Flower
A team from Washington State University (WSU) examined archival data from another medical cannabis use app called Strainprint. They aimed to examine the effect of cannabis inhaling on pain caused by headaches and migraines. Researchers also evaluated the effect of gender, cannabis strain, dosage, and THC and CBD concentration in this effect.
After collecting data on thousands of uses from hundreds of app users, researchers concluded, that inhaling cannabis reduced pain by approximately 50%. Their results, published in May 2021 in Journal of Pain uncovered, that greater pain reductions were connected to concentrates and not the flower smoking. The authors also found that men had greater improvements compared to women.
However, they also noticed a tolerance effect with continuous use. It seems that the efficiency of cannabis changes through time and patients start to use higher dosages for the same effect.
TERPENE BASED TREATMENT FOR BRAIN HEALTH
Which compounds exactly in cannabis help to relief migraines and headaches symptoms? Is it primarily THC as suggested by the first study? Or THC and CBD combined are the best duo to reduce acute pain , as suggested by many other studies?
However, another factor can be terpenes. They are plant compounds, that protect cannabis (and many other plant species) and provide a specific taste and aromas. Terpenes are being studied more and more for their positive effect on people’s health.
In a 2021 article published in Journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, Australian researchers reviewed evidence connected to advantages of two terpenes found in cannabis (pinene and linalool) for neurological and psychiatric conditions. These two compounds affect various neurotransmitter, inflammatory, and neurotropic signals. Existing data (most of them pre-clinical and not tested on people) point in direction, that migraines are one of the conditions (among stroke, ischemia, and other forms of inflammatory and neuropathic pain) where terpenes can help.
Terpenes Inhibit Neurologic Inflammation
A Mexican researchers review from 2021 showed that terpenes are anti-inflammatory agents, and they assessed their potential as an alternative treatment of brain and skin inflammation conditions. Inflammation is a significant property of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, a recent Iranian study found an anti-depressive effect in mice using limonene. This is another terpene present in many cannabis species, which seems to work via inflammation inhibition.
RELIEVE OUR PAIN
As we can see, migraines and headaches affect a large part of population. With potentially very extreme symptoms, quality of life can drastically decrease, and the lack of treatments does not provide much hope for individuals. On the other hand, cannabinoids present a possible light in the end of the tunnel. With all recent findings a good example of the entourage effect is shaping. THC, CBD, and at least some terpenes in cannabis will most probably play a major role in treating migraines and headaches in the future. Along cannabis we also advise people to have a healthy, balanced way of life including healthy diet, quality sleep, and lots of exercise and time spent in nature on fresh air.