The Therapeutic Powers of Delta-9 in Migraine Management

Migraine, a common and often chronic pain condition, affects countless people worldwide. At least 39 million people in the United States alone suffer.

Various factors can trigger migraines, including stress, certain foods, environmental changes, and hormonal fluctuations. Treatment often involves a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, and sometimes alternative therapies. 

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THC is well known for its analgesic (pain-relieving) properties, which is why many people with migraines are now looking for high-quality Delta-9 products to purchase.

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What is a Migraine?

Migraines are a type of headache characterized by intense and often throbbing pain, typically on one side of the head. People experiencing this ailment might also experience other symptoms such as sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and visual disturbances known as aura. 

Doctors believe migraines result from abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, chemicals, and blood vessels in the brain.

  • Cortical Spreading Depression is a critical mechanism in migraines, especially those with aura. It involves a wave of electrical activity moving across the brain, followed by a period of inactivity. This wave can trigger changes in blood flow and release inflammatory substances, leading to pain.

  • Trigeminovascular System Activation, involving the trigeminal nerve (a major pain pathway) and associated blood vessels, is central to migraines. Activation of this system leads to the release of substances like calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and substance P, which cause inflammation and pain in the meninges (the brain's covering).

  • Serotonin Levels: Changes in serotonin levels may be involved in migraines. Low serotonin levels can lead to dilation of blood vessels, contributing to headaches.

  • Neurogenic Inflammation: Inflammation around the nerves and blood vessels in the brain can contribute to migraines.

  • Genetic Factors: Migraines have a genetic component, as they often run in families. Scientists are researching specific genetic factors linked to them.

  • Environmental and Internal Triggers: Various triggers can initiate these physiological changes, including stress, certain foods, hormonal changes, sleep disturbances, and environmental factors.

Research on THC for Pain

Many studies look at the role of Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis) in pain relief. THC interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS), which regulates pain and inflammation

How does this work?

THC binds to the abundant ECS receptors, called CB1, in peripheral nerves, blocking specific pain signals and reducing sensation.  THC's binding to CB1 receptors in the ECS alters the release of neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to changes in those signals. This modulation can decrease the intensity of migraine discomfort by reducing the hyperactivation of pain pathways commonly associated with migraines.

THC may also reduce the release of pro-inflammatory compounds in the brain, further reducing inflammation in the areas involved in migraine attacks. This reduction can alleviate one of the key underlying factors in their development.

Delta-9 also indirectly aids in pain relief by increasing dopamine production, which enhances mood and pleasure. THC's ability to stimulate dopamine production can make the pain from migraines more tolerable as it helps shift the focus away from the discomfort. MRI scans support this theory, showing THC's ability to decrease activity in brain areas responsible for emotionally processing pain.

Another indirect analgesic mechanism comes from THC's potential neuroprotective effects. By safeguarding neural cells from damage and stress, THC might prevent the conditions that cause migraines over time.  

Using Delta-9 for Migraines

People can consume Delta-9 THC for migraines in various forms, including oils, edibles, topical products, or inhalation. The method can affect the onset, potency, and duration of results.

  • Oils, typically taken sublingually (under the tongue), offer relatively quick absorption into the bloodstream, leading to a faster onset than edibles but slower than inhalation. People with migraines who seek relatively immediate relief without harsh smoke often prefer THC oils. 

  • Edibles, such as gummies or baked goods, must pass through the digestive system first, delaying the onset of effects but often extending their duration. Some edible fans report this method provides the most potent THC experience. People with pain often take edibles before bed to help them sleep comfortably through the night. 

  • Topical THC products, like gels, creams, and patches, are applied directly to the skin. These formulas offer localized relief. When a person applies THC topicals to areas like the temples, forehead, or neck, they may help reduce the intensity of migraine symptoms. Some migraine sufferers prefer topical application because it minimizes systemic absorption, rendering the THC non-psychoactive. 

  • Inhalation, through methods like smoking or vaping, provides the quickest onset of effects as THC enters the bloodstream directly through the lungs. However, the impact duration from inhalation is generally shorter than that of edibles. Smoking or vaping THC is perfect for people who seek immediate pain relief. 

Safety & Efficacy

Clinical trials are looking at the efficacy and safety of Delta-9 THC in pain management. These studies are crucial to determine the appropriate dosing, effectiveness, and potential side effects in humans.

The effective dose can vary widely between individuals. Migraine patients say that the sweet spot between too much and too little Delta-9 is very narrow and warn that people should start by taking it slow and begin with low doses, between 2.5 and 5mg for edibles and oils. People smoking or vaping should begin with 1-2 small hits. This can help minimize unwanted outcomes.

Some common unwanted side effects of Delta-9 THC include:

  • Cognitive Impairment: Difficulties with memory, concentration, and decision-making.

  • Adverse Mood Changes: Anxiety, paranoia, or depression in some cases.

  • Motor Skills Impairment: Reduced coordination and reaction time can affect driving or operating machinery.

  • Dry Mouth and Eyes: Commonly known as ‘cottonmouth’ and dry, red eyes.

  • Increased Heart Rate: THC can cause a temporary increase in heart rate.

  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness: Especially when standing up quickly.

  • Appetite Changes: An appetite increase, known as the ‘munchies’.

Bottom Line

Research indicates Delta-9 THC may be beneficial for people suffering from migraines in several ways. It can interact with cannabinoid receptors in peripheral nerves to block pain signals, potentially reducing the sensation. Additionally, Delta-9 THC may aid in relief indirectly by increasing dopamine production, which enhances mood and pleasure, helping to distract from and reframe the perception of migraine discomfort. It can also reduce activity in brain areas associated with the emotional processing of pain. People with migraines should seek high-quality Delta-9 products and start with low doses to determine the best potency level for their needs. 

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