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How Hashish Can Assist Migraines

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Emma Stone, January 9, 2020

(maclifethai / iStock)

Life presents unique challenges for those who experience migraines regularly. Seemingly harmless sensory stimuli such as bright light, strong aromas or loud noises can trigger excruciating pain. Stress, neck tension and even jet lag can also trigger a debilitating migraine . This intense pain can be accompanied by loss of feeling, nausea, or alarming visual changes. The disorder associated with chronic migraines can be so constant that your own self-confidence is even impaired.

Although drugs that are commonly prescribed to prevent and treat migraines help some people, do not provide relief for all migraine sufferers . Similar to many heavy drugs, there can be a variety of undesirable side effects when used. However, evidence is mounting that cannabis could be an effective treatment for migraines and chronic headaches .

A study published in November 2019 in the Journal of Pain reported that cannabis could reduce the severity of migraines and headaches 50% , and although tolerance may increase, cannabis use does not increase headaches or migraines over time. Concentrates seemed to offer more relief than flowers.

In addition, a 2019 retrospective study published in Neurology found that 88.3% of a sample from 279 patients reported an improvement in their headache after consuming cannabis. More than half of the patients noticed a reduction in headache frequency and 38.3% found that their sleep improved. 50 percent of opiate users were able to reduce their consumption.

So now we know that cannabis can relieve migraine symptoms. What are the most effective ways to take advantage of it?

The role of the endocannabinoid system in migraines

According to Dr. Jim Polston, PhD neuroscientist and chief science officer at Helius Therapeutics Cannabis works on migraines through the endocannabinoid system.

"There is growing evidence that the endocannabinoid system can directly relieve migraine pain when activated by patients' naturally produced cannabinoids or medical cannabis," said Polston. Cannabis can help reduce inflammation in the protective dura mater tissue that covers the brain and minimize the release of inflammatory substances, both of which contribute to the onset of a migraine.

Polston also points out that one cause of chronic migraines is anandamide deficiency. "Anandamide is one of two cannabinoids that are naturally produced in the brain and are associated with reduced inflammation and activation of pain centers in the brain," he said.

You feel the onset of a migraine – when should you dose?

As science supporting the use of cannabis to treat migraines increases, practical knowledge of how, how much and when to dose is still lagging behind. However, anyone who is already familiar with cannabis against migraines can give valuable tips.

"I use cannabis both as a prophylaxis to prevent migraines by relieving stress and muscle relaxation, and as a lifeline when migraines occur to relieve severe pain and nausea," said Boston Marathon survivor Lynn Crisci.

Dr. Debra Kimless, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Pure Green notes that cannabis can be most effective when the signs of an impending migraine first appear. "The patients I have treated with cannabis have had tremendous success in reducing and eliminating the acute onset of their migraine symptoms, especially when they can dose the first time they experience symptoms," she said.

Cannabis can be used both preventively and for the treatment of migraines because the triggers and symptoms of migraines are so different.

"Migraines have a complex set of causes, triggers, and various symptoms," said Polston. “Cannabis, with its diverse active ingredients and widespread role in many problems associated with migraines, may be an ideal migraine drug. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-emetic. In addition, CBD is a well-known anxiolytic [anxiety-reducer]which is why its presence could be useful in the treatment of stress-induced migraines. "

Delivery methods: which are the most effective?

Most studies examining cannabis for the treatment of migraines are based on oral administration and inhalation methods.

"Although more research is needed to compare methods, we can theorize from current research that oral cannabis use may be sufficient and that first attempts should be made to avoid smoking in certain patients," advised Polston. "However, for some patients, inhalation can help relieve pain more quickly because the effects are quicker."

However, this does not mean that inhalation and oral administration are the only effective methods. "The complexity of the migraines means that the variability of patients can lead to different successful methods that are dependent on the patient or the symptoms," added Polston.

Tinctures administered under the tongue also work successfully with Kimless. “Most of my patients prefer a sublingual delivery method. it's fast, effective and discreet, ”she said.

Crisci experimented with many methods of ingestion to determine what was the greatest relief for her personally and decided to vape. "I prefer vaping cannabis oil, preferably in a vape pen," she said. "With vape pens, I can dose and control exactly how much medication I am taking and at the same time avoid inhaling smoke into my lungs."

On THC or not THC: The cannabinoids that work best in migraines

2019 Journal of Pain Study argued that different concentrations of THC and CBD Do not affect the effectiveness. other recent research found, however, that migraine sufferers prefer hybrid strains with high THC and low CBD concentrations. This preference may be due to the strong analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-emetic properties of THC.

For Crisci, however, experience has led her to prefer strains with a low THC content. “I prefer a Sativa hybrid with a high CBD content as a prophylactic or preventive medicine, because a pure Sativa can make some, including myself, anxious. I will give a microdose as soon as I feel like a migraine is occurring. "

In adult migraines, Crisci indica-dominant strains with a high CBD content are preferred. “Indica has a pain-relieving effect on me and CBD lowers the THC value. Personally, I don't want to feel high while suffering from the effects of an intense migraine, she thought.

Kimless notes that individual responses to cannabinoids are different – what works well for you may be less of a relief for others. Still, a certain amount of THC appears to offer greater relief. "Most of my patients need a small amount of THC and not just CBD to get relief," said Kimless.

Polston added that the therapeutic terpenes, flavonoids and phytocannabinoids that are also found in cannabis could play a role in relieving migraines. "More research is needed to determine what role these compounds may play," he said.

Last Tips

The frequent use of prescription medication for migraines is often related to drug addiction and overuse of headache . Several studies, including a 2018 review suggest that cannabis can reduce or even replace addictive opiate medication that Crisci has experienced firsthand. "When I started using cannabis to treat my migraines, I found that I was able to stop taking many of my prescription medications: no more opioid pain relievers, muscle relaxants, or anxiety medications," she said.

If you are already taking migraine prescription medication but are considering cannabis as an alternative, you should speak to a doctor experienced in cannabis medicine. Kimless supports the saying "start low, go slow".

“A little bit goes with cannabis medicine. The sublingual or inhalation method enables incremental dosing that helps patients learn how much is required to be effective, ”she advised.

Endocannabinoid system Migraine

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Emma Stone is a New Zealand-based journalist specializing in cannabis, health, and wellbeing. She has a Ph.D. in sociology and has worked as a researcher and lecturer, but above all loves being a writer. She liked to spend her days writing, reading, hiking, eating and swimming.

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