A migraine is a benign and recurrent headache syndrome accompanied by other symptoms of neurological malfunction combined in many ways; its origin may be genetic and occurs more frequently in women than in men. This disease is featured by intense, long-lasting headaches (up to 72 hours) that are generally unilateral, i.e. affecting one side of the head, and cause a throbbing sensation aggravated with physical activity. It is said that migraines are related to an overstimulation of certain brain nerves, leading to blood vessel dilation in the brain and inflammation of the surrounding tissue.
Both Children and Adults May Suffer from Migraines—Signs to Watch Out For
Migraines usually break out between ages 10 to 45, although sometimes it may appear earlier. There is a set of symptoms referred to as an “aura,” a warning sign that a migraine is coming: blurry vision, eye strain, and the appearance of temporary blind spots or coloured sparks. Headaches may be also accompanied by nausea and vomiting, photophobia, noise sensitivity, sweating and lack of appetite.
There are many reasons why a migraine attack may be triggered: intense light, noise, anger, stress, physical strain, lack of sleep, and the use of alcohol or other substances.
September 12th is the International Day of Action against Migraine, “a date to raise awareness that migraines are much more than just a headache: it is a highly disabling neurological disease, with an elevated occurrence rate, that represents a huge burden on the life of patients. Still, migraines remain an underdiagnosed disease that is insufficiently treated and acknowledged,” stated Dr. Sonia Santos, Headache Study Group Coordinator at the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN, by its Spanish acronym).
Traditional Treatment for Migraines
The traditional treatment for this disease comprises three kinds of therapeutic strategies: non-pharmaceutical interventions such as avoiding migraine-triggering factors, acute crisis pharmaceutical treatment and migraine prophylaxis. Acute migraine attacks usually respond to anti-inflammatory drugs. If this fails, relief is sought in triptans, but pain sometimes comes back after an initial soothing. Relapse is less common when using ergotamine derivatives, but side effects occur more frequently.
Therapeutic Effects of Cannabis
Different studies evidence a drop in anandamide endocannabinoids in the cerebrospinal fluid of migraine patients, which is why it is posited that this kind of individuals could suffer from an endocannabinoid system deficiency. Under normal conditions, anandamide activates CB1 receptors, triggering anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects by way of several mechanisms, such as those related to serotonin and dopamine, as well as by interacting with NMDA receptors and the endogenous opioid system. Cannabis and phytocannabinoids, whose structure is analogous to anandamide, could remedy this deficiency, which may explain why cannabis positively relieves migraine symptoms.
Finally, it is worth noting that orally administered cannabis extracts may act as a prophylactic agent, while migraine attacks are frequently alleviated by vaping cannabis. The recommended strains are varieties containing a higher amount of THC than CBD.