Can medical marijuana help combat painful migraine symptoms? Read below to learn more about MMJ for headache and migraine relief.
What is a Migraine?
Many of us have experienced mild headache pain at some point in our lives; however, a sizeable percentage of the population is plagued by frequent and severe headaches that, unfortunately, disrupt their daily lives. These types of headaches are typically referred to as migraines. A migraine is considered one of the top ten most debilitating illnesses by the World Health Organization, and it’s estimated that twelve percent of Americans, or over 37 million of the adult population in our country alone, are chronic migraine patients.
Women are particularly susceptible to the illness, estimating that approximately one in five will experience migraines. Many migraine sufferers feel the debilitating impacts of chronic pain in their social and professional lives. Unfortunately, migraine treatments are not always practical due to the unknown nature of their exact cause.
Causes of Migraines
Although the exact cause of a migraine headache pain isn’t always easy to pinpoint, some of the most common reasons that we get migraine headaches are:
- consuming alcohol
- poor posture
- tight muscles
- eye strain
- lack of food
- over/underuse of caffeine
- sinus congestion/allergies
- medication overuse
- high blood pressure
Migraines come in four stages: prodrome, aura, attack, and post-drome, although not all migraine sufferers go through all steps.
The day before a migraine, you may notice changes in the body that warns of a migraine, including:
- Mood swings
- Food cravings
- Neck stiffness
- Increased urination
- Fluid retention
- Frequent yawning
Auras are reversible nervous system symptoms and can occur before or during a migraine episode. They are usually vision-related, but only sometimes. Each sign usually begins gradually, builds up, and can last up to an hour.
Migraine auras may include:
- Visual phenomena- shapes, bright spots, or flashes of light
- Temporary vision loss
- Tingling sensations in limbs
- Weakness or numbness in the face/body
- Difficulty speaking
Depending on the treatment method, a migraine attack can range from four to seventy-two hours. The frequency of migraines occurrence varies with each person.
During a migraine, you could experience the following:
- Pain on one or both sides of the head
- Throbbing or pulsing facial pain
- Light and Sound Sensitivity
- Nausea and vomiting
After a migraine headache, you could feel confused and exhausted for a short period. Many people report feeling dizzy as well.
When should I Consult a Doctor?
Visit a healthcare provider immediately if you have any of the following symptoms that could indicate a serious health condition:
- An abrupt, severe headache
- Headache with fever, confusion, seizures, double vision, numbness, or weakness within the body, which could be a sign of a stroke
- Headache after an injury
- A reoccurring headache made worse by coughing, straining, or a sudden movement
- New headache pain after the age of fifty
Can medical marijuana help with headache relief?
THC, CBD, and other minor cannabinoids play an essential role in psychoactive properties, but terpenes also work behind the scenes to help provide a particular strain’s effects.
So far, there has been limited research into terpenes and their relation to migraine headaches and the human endocannabinoid system because recreational cannabis is federally illegal. But one cannabis science study found that the terpenes, myrcene, and caryophyllene, have medicinal benefits that can ease migraine attacks and potentially reduce migraine frequency. Discussing medical cannabis use with a trusted healthcare provider could help if you’ve exhausted other prescription medication options.
With many migraine sufferers finding no relief in prescription migraine medications, some people have turned to the cannabis plant and its ability to treat migraines by easing the pain caused by light and sound sensitivity.
Based on emerging peer-reviewed studies, the scientific community is beginning to understand how the active chemicals in certain cannabinoids can interfere with the pathways that trigger extreme pain, reducing their severity or even preventing the headache in some cases. These clinical trials represent a promising future for cannabis medicine as an effective treatment option for those managing pain relief symptoms from the cannabis flower.
What does the research say about MMJ & Migraines?
Research into medical cannabis as an effective migraine treatment is in the early stages, and further research is needed. However, The Journal of Pain published a 2019 study claiming that the severity of headache disorders and migraine pain was reduced by around 50 percent when individuals participated in medicinal cannabis use.
Another medically reviewed study in Pharmacotherapy found that 40 percent of people who began using medical cannabis treatment for migraines experienced a significant decrease in the frequency of migraine attacks.
Anecdotal evidence published by a medicinal cannabis cohort in a study by Neurology reported that 42 percent of surveyed patients saw a decrease in their migraine headache frequency.
According to medical research published by J headache pain on jpain.org: “Inhaled cannabis reduces self-reported headache and migraine severity by approximately 50%. However, its effectiveness appears to diminish, and patients appear to use larger doses over time, suggesting tolerance to these effects may develop with continued use.”
The difference between a headache and a migraine
While some people use these terms to mean the same thing, there are significant differences between migraine and headaches.
Migraine is a severe brain disease. It can be clinically diagnosed, and researchers have extensively studied changes in the nervous system during a migraine attack. Migraine attacks can be debilitating and often include other symptoms.
Although scientists understand the changes in the nervous system during a migraine attack, they can’t be seen on scans or in the blood. Doctors, therefore, diagnose migraines based on specific symptoms rather than on test results.
Headache is a broad term to describe head pain. Although it is a common migraine symptom, not all headaches fall in the migraine category.
Sativa vs. Indica for Migraine Relief
According to The Journal of Headache and Pain, which type of medical cannabis to use depends on the root cause of your headache. Here’s what they had to say:
“When comparing headache and migraine symptoms to non-headache groups, Indica strains were preferred in insomnia/sleep disorders group, Sativa strains in the mental health condition/PTSD group, and Hybrid strains were still selected in the gastrointestinal disorder/Crohn’s Disease group. “
What’s the best cannabis oil for migraines?
Cannabis oil, also known as concentrates or dabs, is very popular in both recreational and medicinal cannabis settings. Often characterized by its high potency, oil can be used for conditions that need especially high strength. Critics of cannabis oil consider this marijuana addictive, mostly because of the tolerance build-up that occurs with frequent use. Cannabis strain oil may be good for migraine treatment but should be monitored for adverse effects and potential drug abuse.
Full-spectrum CBD oil is typically helpful in reducing headaches and migraine prevention. THC is a cannabinoid that can sometimes enhance migraine attacks, so a pure, organic cannabidiol CBD oil is the best option. An exception can be vaping or smoking medical marijuana because, as a consumption method, it can irritate blood vessels and trigger allergies which can cause a migraine attack.
Best Cannabis Strains for Treating Migraines
What is the best strain for migraines? These five medical marijuana strains are known to ease the pain of migraines, migraine headaches, and help to enhance patients’ quality of life.
Harlequin is a Sativa-dominant strain with high levels of CBD and is a cross between Swiss Sativa, Thai Sativa, Columbian Gold, and Nepali Indica. It has a sweet and creamy tropical fruit flavor that is sure to make your taste buds happy on the exhale. On top of the tasty flavor and medicinal benefits, this strain has a unique history. Harlequin has extremely beneficial anti-inflammatory qualities, making it perfect for relieving chronic pain or neuralgic pain. Anyone new to medicinal weed or wanting to feel the relaxing attributes of marijuana without losing control would greatly benefit from trying the Harlequin Strain.
OG Kush, also known as “Premium OG,” is a famous strain that was first cultivated in Florida in the 1990’s and then crossed with Chemdawg, Lemon Thai, and a strain from the Hindu Kush mountains to create a unique terpene profile. The result boasts an aroma with notes of fuel, skunk, and spice. This special Kush variety can be enjoyed at any time but is especially good during stressful times due to high THC levels that help relieve headaches and promote body relaxation.
The OG Kush strain has proven beneficial for medical marijuana patients with chronic pain, depression, stress, and insomnia. OG Kush is fast-acting and could also reduce inflammation and provide overall relief for the body. It’s best to consume OG Kush after all work tasks have been completed or right before bed due to the intense high. Perhaps the couch lock effect is why OG Kush is famous among those with sleep disorders.
Northern Lights weed is an indica hybrid strain made by crossing pure indica Afghani with Thai, resulting in a delightful euphoric effect. Consumer reviews describe a full-bodied high that relaxes muscles and eases your mind while also producing a sweet earthy flavor.
Since Northern Lights produces such a heavy body high, there’s a good reason that medical patients and recreational cannabis users with chronic pains, migraines, depression, anxiety, insomnia, lack of appetite, and arthritis love this potent West Coast strain.
White Widow is a hybrid strain that is beloved among cannabis enthusiasts in the medical and recreational markets. It offers energetic feelings that can help with social anxiety and daily motivation.
This particular strain has an exciting flavor profile with notes of peach, fruit, and skunky spice. It’s an excellent choice for morning users. White Widow is an uplifting strain that is great for mood and sleep disorders. Some of the top conditions that it can treat include:
- Chronic pain
- High levels of Stress
The Pineapple Express strain is a slightly Sativa-dominant hybrid resulting from crossing the Hawaiian and Trainwreck strains. This strain has a delicious pineapple flavor with notes of apple and tangerine, making for a sweet and tasty tropical experience.
Because of its balanced high, fast onset, and calming effects, the Pineapple Express strain can possibly help with your medical condition, including:
- Chronic pain and disease
- Mild aches, Mild pains
- Chronic stress relief
- Boost Energy Levels
- Mood disorders
- Relieve anxiety and depression symptoms
Research into medical cannabis continues to gain momentum, but there is still a lot that we don’t know. Many use weed for severe headaches and chronic migraine relief, and some scientific evidence backs that up as a good option. As with any new health treatment, we recommend researching the adverse effects and health benefits of medicinal cannabis compounds, seeking advice from a doctor, and checking your state’s medical marijuana laws. We hope you can find migraine relief from one of the five strains above, and check back regularly for more suggestions!
Last Updated: July 26, 2023
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Table of Contents
Surprising to many, President Biden announced that he is taking significant steps toward changing federal marijuana laws.
Understand the different forms of medical marijuana and how they can be used to treat various conditions. Learn about the benefits and drawbacks of flower, concentrates, edibles, and topicals.
Understand the role of terpenes in cannabis and how they impact your health. Learn about the unique properties of different cannabis aromatics and how they can be used for treatment.