The effects of certain cannabinoids against pain are well known by now, both CBD and THC are effective painkillers. But what about specific types of pain? In this article we look at the effects of cannabinoids against certain types of headaches. Headaches are common and certain variants (such as migraine and cluster headaches) can drive patients to despair.
Migraine is a brain disease in which headache attacks may be accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, or the temporarily loss of function of certain body parts.
Greco and colleagues used systemic nitroglycerin (NTG) to study migraine. With NTG it’s possible to generate migraine attacks in patients. In rats NTG causes hyperalgesia (an increased sensitivity to pain). Presumably, the endocannabinoid system (the body’s own cannabinoid system) is associated with both hyperalgesia and migraine. The endogenous substance that is likely to play a major role in this is called anandamide (AEA), which works on the same receptors as some cannabinoids (mainly THC). In this study, it was clearly demonstrated that experimental animals who had been administered with AEA, were less sensitive to the effects of NTG . This finding is a good indication that cannabis (and in this case, in particular THC) might be effective against migraine.
Cluster headache is an extremely severe form of headache that comes in the form of attacks. This particular type of headache is nicknamed suicide headache because the pain associated with these attacks can be almost unbearable.
In a 2013 study 139 patients that suffered from cluster headaches were studied, 63 of them had a history of cannabis use, 27 of them had tried to fight their cluster headaches with cannabis. Of these 27 patients, 25.9% reported a positive effect on their symptoms, 51.8% a variable or uncertain effect and 22.3% reported negative effects. So although a portion of patients does appear to benefit from cannabis, the results have not been very convincing .
Advice for the use of cannabinoids against various types of headaches
There is evidence that cannabinoids may work against different types of headaches. Most of these indications are found for THC in particular. At the same time we know that cannabinoids such as THC and CBD help against pain in general. Click here to read more about safe use of cannabinoids.
- Greco, R., Mangione, A.S., Sandrini, G. (2011) Effects of anandamide in migraine: data from an animal model. Journal of headache pain, 12(2): 177-183
- Leroux, E., Taifas, I., Valade, D. (2013) Use of cannabis among 139 cluster headache sufferers. Cephalalgia, 33(3); 208-213.