What research reveals about chronic headaches and how cannabinoids may be a solution
Caroline had been getting migraines since she was just nine years old. These horrific headaches were preceded by other scary symptoms: “My vision blurred and every noise felt like an ice pick being plunged directly into my brain,” Caroline writes for Vice. Oftentimes, she would be forced to isolate herself in a darkened room for hours. Only then would the pain subside. Caroline believed she would have to cope with migraines for the rest of her life as conventional medicines didn’t seem to work either. Then, one day, a friend recommended Rick Simpson Oil. Caroline writes, ” I was skeptical, but I didn’t have much to lose. I squeezed out a tiny dollop onto my finger and rubbed it on my gums. Half an hour later, my migraine disappeared. I had no nausea, no sensitivity to light or sound, no dizziness, no anxiety. My migraine wasn’t muted; it was just gone.”
For someone who had dealt with severe migraines for 20-plus years, cannabis medicine feels revolutionary. And Caroline isn’t the only person who could potentially benefit from cannabis therapy to treat migraines.
Here are some quick facts about migraines:
- Migraines affect around 12 percent of the population
- Women are more likely to experience migraines than men
- They are often accompanied by light & sound sensitivity (photophobia & phonophobia)
- Migraines can also cause nausea & vomiting
- People who suffer from migraines often have a family history of them
Physicians used to believe expanding and constricting blood vessels, resulting in a pulsing sensation that migraine sufferers often report, were the primary cause of migraines. While this still may play a role, researchers have begun to explore hormonal reasons behind this painful condition. The team at John Hopkins have proposed a few theories as to the biological reason behind migraines. They found that fluctuating hormone levels — particularly that of serotonin and estrogen — play a pivotal role in migraine onset. This may explain why women, who produce more estrogen than men, are more often reporting migraines. Furthermore, the researchers attribute these fluctuations to various triggers including:
- Stress & other emotions
- Biological & environmental conditions (such as hormonal imbalances or physiological reasons)
- Weather changes
- Certain food and drinks
Most traditional migraine medicines work to address these expanding blood vessels — which we now understand only play a small role in the overall migraine cause. Therefore, many medicines are ineffective in treating this pain. In addition, many of these medicines have unpleasant side effects, such as mood swings or drowsiness.
Studies prove cannabis’ ability to soothe migraine pain
For people like Caroline, cannabis is a much-needed & effective medicine in treating migraine symptoms. So how come cannabis offer such powerful results in treating migraines, stepping in where other therapies simply cannot?
There are over 30 different cannabinoids in cannabis. While tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) get the most attention, there are several other powerful compounds naturally found in the cannabis plant. This well-rounded, holistic approach to treating pain is part of the reason for making cannabis so effective. Ingesting cannabis not only addresses the pain — though that is a huge benefit — but also relieves nausea, inflammation, and anxiety that often comes with migraines.
Dr. Michele Ross is the founder of the IMPACT Network, an organization dedicated to cannabis research and women’s health. Ross experiences migraines herself, but has had success in treating them with CBD.
“A lot of migraine medications actually end up making migraine symptoms worse,” said Ross. “For example, a lot of people experience nausea and vomiting with their migraines, and medications that work to regulate serotonin can exacerbate that. But cannabis is antiemetic, which means it suppresses nausea. Also, a lot of migraines can be triggered or worsened by anxiety, which isn’t really addressed by traditional medicine. CBD can help relieve anxiety.”
Scientific evidence supports these individual stories, too. Most recently, a study conducted by 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology, based in Amsterdam, found that cannabis was much more effective in treating migraines than other pain relief medications. The results of the study revealed cannabis’ ability to lessen the frequency of severe migraines, A THC-CBD combination was also very effective at reducing pain, by reportedly 43.5%. This study reinforces earlier research that cannabis is effective in relieving pain and a number of other symptoms. In the past, patients have reported experiencing notable improvements in their headache severity/frequency by choosing cannabis therapy.
“I have migraines… What cannabis strain should I choose?”
If you’re confident cannabis therapy is the right choice for you, we would be happy to assist you at High Mountain Health. Our knowledgeable staff offers consultations and individualized recommendations based on your symptoms, lifestyle & needs.
To begin, there are a few strains known to assist in migraine pain and associated symptoms, such as nausea & anxiety. These strains most often have high CBD and THC contents. While not all of these strains may be available at all times, we’d be happy to recommend another option that is comparable to the ones below.
ACDC – This sativa-dominant strain has one of the highest CBD contents known. Its effects are soothing & calming, anti-inflammatory, and anti-emetic. Furthermore, there is little to know psychoactivity, making it an ideal choice for the individual who wants to feel clear-headed and alert.
Platinum Girl Scout Cookies – For patients looking for serious pain relief, PGSC is a wonderfully effective option. A well-known hybrid strain, it is known for its fruity-spicy flavor & for its immediate relief.
Cannatonic – Similar to ACDC, this high-CBD strain is ideal for treating nausea, anxiety & inflammation. There is also some noticeable THC for soothing pain relief.
Check out our full, mountain-grown flower menu here.