Migraine is a fickle, unpleasant neurological condition. A debilitating, pulsating headache that lasts from 4 to 72 hours. The best choice is to avoid their experience, but that is a constant battle. Diets and medicines that prevent migraines do exist, but not all routines work. Cannabis seems to be a flexible, ubiquitous option that may be a suitable addition to these efforts. How it is consumed as a preventive aid doesn’t necessarily matter as long as the cannabinoid receptors are being activated, but the strain that is used might make a difference.
My battle with a rearing migraine
In my own experience, smoked or vaporized CBD can calm some pulsing, shakes, and general sensitivity, even during onset when food or capsules will no longer stay down. Although, it may produce unpleasant side effects on its own, and certainly does little for any adjacent nausea. Yet, a small amount of THC, or preferably, a large amount of the terpene, caryophyllene mixed with does CBD does wonders. To find the right chemovar is a challenge, and it is, unfortunately, hard to trust every isolate and distillate. If there is a trusted source, CBD isolate can be mixed with the terpenes of an ideal strain and vaporized to reduce my migraines.
My body can take in larger doses of smoked or vaporized THC without becoming displeased with the response once the CBD and caryophyllene set in – depending on other terpenes involved of course. Keep in mind, at onset, my body can become upset by a loud noise or mild change in temperature. A nurse once asked me to take off my thin sweater so she could check my blood pressure. I told her I needed one of the emesis bags hanging on the wall next to me if I do that, and I was not wrong. Thankfully, cannabis is great at desensitizing heat and cold shock.
Prevent migraines with cannabis – success under trial
A study published in 2019 analyzed the effect of inhaled cannabis on headaches and migraines. The final result was quite positive, with an average 50% reduction in severity and frequency shown. Extracts showed an even greater improvement score over flower. One could note tolerance to THC as a negative, but it did not have a remarkable impact on migraine relief, especially compared to morphine. Not to mention, CBD can inhibit THC’s tolerance, and the study claimed there was no difference between CBD and THC. That, however, could be due to large variances in the effect cannabis has on migraines between individuals. Despite these variances, the overall score still showed exceptional benefit. They also cited another clinical trial study that showed the synthetic ‘THC-like’ cannabinoid, nabilone can treat and prevent migraine with greater efficiency compared to ibuprofen.
At the beginning – Hormones and gases
Despite the obvious benefits, it is best to prevent migraines as much as possible, rather than play a finicky game of regulating the pain and sensitivity of an active one.
Migraines are caused by major inflammatory agents that do regulate different systems. We have discussed nitric oxide in the sense of preventing our blood vessels from damage by dilating them. As well the potential too much in our lungs can result in respiratory arrest. Migraineurs are sensitive to this toxic yet necessary gas, however, they are also vulnerable to a pair of hormones. Calcitonin-gene-related-peptides (CGRPs) are two major amino acid groups that also induce these pounding attacks. These hormones dilate blood vessels much like NO and are necessary for regulating calcium levels and bone health.
This inflammatory assault is a vicious cycle. NO causes the release of CGRPs which then causes the release of more NO. No wonder migraines continue to escalate with such severe intensity.
Vitamin loading or regulating – prevent migraines with a dietary balance
Many assets of migraines tie in with diet, hydration, environment, routine, etc. Vitamin E and especially C can produce nitric oxide, whereas, Vitamin A and K can knock down Vitamin E. Vitamin D as well as B vitamins are capable of directly inhibiting NO and CGRPs. As we explored, we need some nitric oxide to prevent our blood vessels from damage. We also need Vitamin E and C, but migraineurs are especiallysensitive to these vasodilators. In fact, it is largely believed the endocannabinoid, anandamide can aid with migraines by regulating nitric oxide synthesis as well as calcium which inhibits CGPRs.
I always found carrots, rich in vitamin A and complex starches, to help with my migraines. Not everyone experiences this benefit, though, sometimes it is more about balancing overall vitamin intake. Small doses of Vitamin C are known to scrub away free radical oxygen species (ROS,) aiding with inflammation. It does this by creating nitric oxide though, so larger doses of Vitamin C would not be recommended for preventing migraines.
What about caffeine and chocolate?
Cannabis and terpenes, like pinene and limonene, do our bodies metabolism and microbiome wonders, which helps regulate our diet. Pinene, on the other hand, can increase focus which may be negative for migraines, for certain people. Linalool may be an option if pinene does aggravate symptoms.
Doctors recommend caffeine to prevent migraines because it constricts blood vessels, instead of dilating them, but THC and limonene counteract caffeine’s effect. Both the cannabinoid and terpene possess anti-inflammatory properties, yet they can exasperate a migraine through vasodilation as well. Counteracting THC and limonene with caffeine moreover builds on their therapeutic potential – natural polypharmacy with herbs and tea. It should be noted that chronic use of caffeine will produce a tolerance to these effects, unfortunately.
Doctors also recommend avoiding chocolate as it can induce headaches, which is likely due to high levels of amines, like phenylethylamine. Interestingly though, is the presence of an anandamide derivative in cocoa which can counteract those effects. Chocolate may make migraines worse, so it is likely not worth trying to raise your endocannabinoid tone with this therapeutic treat.
Nature’s objection to the artificial world
My mom always told me Kraft Dinner gave me headaches. I believed her when I found out an artificial colour in the old KD recipe, tartrazine, promotes not only migraine but also NO synthesis. Other artificial colours and flavours are also culprits. One can ensure they have a heightened level of the endocannabinoid, anandamide to prevent excessive and even inadequate levels of free radicals and NO. This can help keep certain environmental elements from triggering migraines through both CGRP’s and NO. Although, it is indeed best to simply avoid artificial foods.
Using the ECS to Prevent Migraines
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has a tight relationship with migraines and the fire of activity that erupts in a major nerve involved in these attacks. In the next installment, we will explore how the ECS is directly involved with causing and preventing migraines.
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