Treating Migraines with Cannabis
There are more than 50 million Americans who experience migraines on a regular basis. Most find that pharmaceuticals don’t work.
Most who suffer from the condition will get one to two migraines a month, varying in severity. Each one will nevertheless impact quality of life. Today, migraine patients are frustrated with pharmaceuticals, but medical cannabis is a possible solution. Treating migraines with cannabis isn’t new, but the scientific understanding of it is becoming more precise. A recent study published online in the Journal of Pain found that, “inhaled cannabis reduces self-reported headache severity by 47.3 percent and migraine severity by 49.6 percent.”
With a growing interest in cannabis for therapeutic benefit and more attention on the minor cannabinoids, well-controlled studies are warranted. Recently, there seems to be a surge in interest for a cannabinoid called cannabigerol (CBG). What is this cannabinoid, and does to help with migraines too?
What is CBG?
CBG is one of the 100 plus naturally occurring cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. It is one of a handful of cannabinoids that begin their life as a precursor acidic-bound cannabinoid.
CBG starts as cannabigerol acid (CBGa), when in the raw or living flower. Through exposure to oxygen, higher temperatures, and UV rays, acidic cannabinoids transform into activated forms. Other acid-bound cannabinoids, like THCa and CBDa, transform into THC and CBD. Depending on the conditions, CBGa may transform into THC or CBG, but THC is the most common end-result. Therefore, CBG is a rare and sought after compound, that is relatively uncommon.
All cannabinoids are remarkably similar in their molecular structure, but the minute microscopic differences tend to modify their therapeutic impact. For example, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBG is non intoxicating. Which means it doesn’t trigger a ‘high’ or altered state of mind. In this way, it is quite similar to the experience of cannabidiol (CBD).
Where Does CBG Come From?
Where can patients find CBG? Cannabis growers are working to develop new chemovars with a focus on these secondary cannabinoids, like CBG, but these are not yet readily available on the market. Additionally, because CBGa is the ‘mother of most cannabinoids‘, it readily undergoes chemical change to become THCa or CBDa. This poses a challenge to capture CBG within a dried and cured flower. CBG-rich flower contains less than one percent CBG.
Producers can also extract the cannabinoids from the plant and are already marketing concentrates with higher levels of CBG. Full-spectrum, live resin, and other specialty extractions cater to the more heat-sensitive compounds, like CBG. A quick scan of third-party lab results will confirm the available concentration of CBG.
What are the Medicinal Properties of CBG?
Patients are already curious about the therapeutic potential of secondary cannabinoids for treating migraines and beyond. Most research these days is still focused on THC and CBD. But even with the major cannabinoids, there is so much still to learn. To date, there are only a handful of studies into the secondary cannabinoids like CBG, but these remain in the very preliminary phases of research.
So far, scientists have studied CBG for the following medical applications:
Glaucoma Patients May also Benefit from CBG?
In 1990, in the Journal of Ocular Pharmacology, Brenda K. Colasanti explored, “A comparison of the ocular and central effects of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabigerol.”
Testing these cannabinoids on the eyes of cats, Colasanti determined both THC and CBG produced a significant drop in measured ocular pressure. However, CBG had fewer adverse reactions than THC. Because of the noted reduction in pressure, without adverse reaction, Colasanti concluded CBG and related cannabinoids may be useful for the treatment of glaucoma. Future research will test these findings.
Other Potential Medicinal Uses for CBG: Cancer & Huntington’s
A more recent investigation, published in the pages of Carcinogenesis (2014), looked at the anti-tumoral qualities of CBG on colorectal cancer cell lines. It demonstrated evidence that CBG blocks carcinogenic activity. In the second phase of the study, scientists used mouse models for colon cancer. The researchers detailed how CBG promoted cancer cell apoptosis and reduced the cellular growth of colorectal cancer in the rodent body.
In a 2015 study, entitled, “Neuroprotective Properties of Cannabigerol in Huntington’s Disease: Studies in R6/2 Mice and 3-nitropropionate-lesioned Mice,” researchers examined CBG with experimental models of Huntington’s disease. Their experiment showed how CBG treatment improved antioxidant defenses and “lower, but significant, recovery” in a specific motor skills test.
The authors concluded that, “our results open new research avenues for the use of CBG, alone or in combination with other phytocannabinoids or therapies, for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as HD.”
What is the Evidence Behind CBG for Treating Migraines?
But what about CBG for treating migraines? It turns out, no studies have explored CBG for the treatment of headaches or migraines. Although cannabis, more generally, is already under the early stages of investigation for treating migraines, there is no study of CBG for this application. This, despite the overwhelmingly positive reports reported by migraine patients.
Cannabis and its hundreds of compounds, hold a lot of promise for the treatment of migraines. First, cannabis regulates the trigeminovascular system. This system is a primary target of novel migraine treatments. The trigeminovascular system “consists of small pseudounipolar sensory neurons that originate from trigeminal ganglion and upper cervical dorsal nerve roots.”
According to “Phytomedicines in the Treatment of Migraine,” several case studies and patients surveys support the use of cannabis for the reduction of migraine activity. More studies are needed to determine precisely how cannabinoids treat migraines.
Without solid evidence behind CBG for treating migraines, one can only make imperfect assumptions. As a nonintoxicating cannabinoid, CBG does seem more accessible and applicable for widespread use in migraine therapy, especially compared to dealing with the side effects of THC.
Also, early evidence tells us CBG is useful for the reduction of ocular pressure. One symptom of glaucoma is severe headaches around the eyes.
Newer research also demonstrates the power of CBG for inflammation and neuroprotection. Theories about migraines state, “migraines are an integrated defensive, neuroprotective response to brain oxidative stress.” Perhaps cannabinoids could treat migraines by boosting neuroprotection before the brain kicks into high gear.
Suggested Strains High in CBG for Treating Migraines
At the time of writing, few chemovars advertised cannabinoid content beyond THC and CBD. Patients interested in searching for strains with higher CBG, should request a lab report. This will allow them to see levels of all secondary cannabinoids and terpenes.
CBG is a heat-sensitive cannabinoid, meaning it degrades under low-to-medium temperatures (compared with other cannabinoids). As a patient, the best way to capture this elusive cannabinoid is to use dry-flower vaporizers like a Volcano or Pax device, which allows the user to set temperature. CBG’s boiling point is 220 ̊F (105 ̊C)
- Allen Wrench
- Green Dream
- Jack Frost
- Liberty Haze
- Maui Dream
Treating Migraines with Cannabis
Science is a long way from proving why cannabis works so well for the treatment of migraines —but that hasn’t stopped people from experimenting. Often, cannabis is more affordable, accessible, and beneficial than prescribed pharmaceuticals, so it’s now a first-line of defense for many people.
Although case studies and patient surveys continue to support cannabis for treating migraines, there is a desperate need for well-controlled clinical trials to find out which cannabinoids are most effective. Both CBD and THC hold promise, plus there are also over 100 other minor cannabinoids, like CBG, to dig into!