Cannabis e mal di testa

Using cannabis against migraines

Migraine sufferers know that headaches come in many forms and are often much more than an annoyance. So much so that it is able to prevent the normal carrying out of one's activities. Chronic headaches affect many people around the world, but unfortunately to date there are no specific treatments that solve the problem. However, since cannabis has been legalized in many countries around the world, science is considering the use of its active ingredients to combat headache pain in some people.

What is a headache?

Headaches are one of the most common disorders among the world's population and can affect any part of the head, including the scalp and face. The pain appears to be caused by excessive tension in the neck and head muscles caused by anxiety, stress or incorrect posture . When this continuous tension leads to inflammation, severe painful manifestations occur.

In Italy it is estimated that 27 million people suffer from headaches (source WHO 2018 - ISTAT 2018): approximately 55% of the total population, with a higher incidence recorded by women. There are many types of headaches : there are frequent and occasional headaches, continuous and pulsating headaches, severe headaches and light headaches. The forms of headache differ in intensity, mode of pain manifestation, duration and symptoms.

Females often suffer from headaches and the triggering factor can be linked to stress, accumulated tension, fatigue, lack of sleep, poor nutrition , but also to environmental factors such as heavy air. or too much noise. To understand how to deal with this disorder, whether for example it is sufficient to rely on self-medication drugs for headaches, or contact the doctor for a more targeted therapy, it is essential to understand what type of headache you suffer from and what the causes are. . Knowing the type of headache that causes us to suffer means being able to adopt the most suitable solution and the most useful measures to avoid subsequent attacks.

Person with headache

Migraine: how many types?

Not all headaches are the same. Indeed, it must be said that there are different types, which are striking for different reasons.

There are many ways to understand what type of headache is causing us to suffer: type of symptom, duration of pain, intensity of the disorder. Starting from the point where the pain is concentrated is perhaps the quickest and most reliable route.

Migraine attacks are probably the most common form of headache in the world. It is a pathology characterized by the onset of frequent headaches, in which the level of pain can vary greatly . Its name derives from Greek and means "half skull": in fact the pain that causes migraines is always localized in one half of the head or exclusively on the frontal part.

It presents with a throbbing pain, more or less intense, which can make even normal daily activities complicated. It lasts between 2 and 72 hours and can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, photophobia and phonophobia . Before puberty, migraines are more frequent among males, while as they move into adulthood, women are more affected. However, it is generally believed that the causes of migraine lie in a combination of genetic and environmental factors. If a family member has suffered from migraines, we are more likely to suffer from them too.

The ways in which migraine presents are different from episode to episode: we go from cases of frequent migraine to situations in which migraine is occasional, with a duration that can vary greatly, ranging from a few hours to several days. Especially in its most acute forms or when it becomes chronic migraine , it has a decisive influence on the quality of life of those who suffer from it. Considering the duration of the disorder and the fact that headaches often worsen if you do physical activity, it is easy to understand how migraines affect the normal performance of daily activities and also prevent proper night's rest.

Migraine and the endocannabinoid system

Studies conducted on this topic are still in their infancy and cannot provide credible scientific guarantees, but some evidence suggests that CBD could help treat migraines .

The effectiveness of this molecule comes from its interaction with the endocannabinoid system. This system is composed of receptor sites present in various cells scattered throughout the organism, and its action regulates numerous physiological processes. The entire system is regulated by chemicals called endocannabinoids, similar to the phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.

The endocannabinoid system is believed to play an important role in the treatment of migraines, and can be activated through the administration of CBD. An article published in the journal Experimental Neurology states that this system could act centrally and peripherally in processing pain signals. Endocannabinoids would be able to inhibit the release of neurotransmitters that control pain signals, by interacting with CB1 receptors. According to the authors of the article, the endocannabinoid system is a promising therapeutic tool, useful for reducing inflammation and physiological pain caused by migraine.

CBD, anandamide and migraines

Light cannabis inflorescence

If scientists are right, the lack of endocannabinoids contributes to the development of migraines and many other ailments. This condition is known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency and, for some individuals, it may actually be the root cause of headaches.

Anandamide is one of the cannabinoids produced by the human body. This molecule can stimulate or inhibit the activity of some serotonin receptors. Consequently, anandamide may hold potential therapeutic effects for the treatment of migraine. Other research published in the Journal of Headache and Pain examined the role of anandamide in guinea pigs and its side effects. Tests confirm that a dysfunction of the endocannabinoid system can contribute to the onset of migraines. The authors of the study hypothesize that in some cases modulating the receptors of the endocannabinoid system, for example by administering AEA, may be useful for treating migraine pain.

Medical cannabis may be particularly effective in treating migraines due to its ability to regulate anandamide levels. It has been shown that CBD can inhibit the absorption of AEA and the enzymes that degrade this molecule and allows it to circulate outside the cell for a longer period of time, exerting its beneficial effects.

Clinical studies on cannabis and headaches

In 2017 a group of Italian researchers presented a study on the topic at the Congress of the European Academy of Neurology . The study confirms the significant benefits brought by therapeutic cannabis in the treatment of headaches. The study involved a group of 48 people suffering from chronic migraines, who were administered THC and CBD orally. After the administration of cannabinoids, painful symptoms decreased by 55% in the patient sample, as did monthly attacks, which were reduced by 40% .

Obviously we are still far from being able to claim that cannabis consumption can solve the problem of headaches, also because it would be simplistic to think that such a complex phenomenon dictated by such different factors can have only one solution, but we expect that the research medical solutions bear more and more fruit in this direction.

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