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Cannabis for Migraine: Studies Offer Hope

Migraine: Understanding the Condition

Migraines strike like a thunderbolt, leaving you floored with searing pain, visual disturbances, and an overwhelming urge to seek out a dark quiet room. Migraines transcend regular headaches. They are a complex neurological condition, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. This blog explores how cannabis may offer profound migraine relief by addressing multiple symptoms in one fell swoop. Some get great relief from prescribed migraine medications, but, if you're here reading this blog, you may not fall into that category.

A Shift Beyond Conventional Treatment

Recent studies indicate that around one-third of Americans have discontinued their migraine prescriptions due to dissatisfaction with adverse drug effects. The high cost of medication and lack of relief also play a role in the dropout rate.

Around one-third of Americans have stopped migraine prescriptions due to side effects and cost. If you've switched to natural remedies, discuss it with your healthcare provider for safety, even if you know your provider is hesitant about non-traditional treatments. This kind of dialogue may challenge your provider to consider and research non-conventional options. It also promotes personalized care. Your advocacy can benefit others too! If you are still afraid to be open with your provider, you are not alone!

Traditional and Alternative Migraine Management

A recent study involving 15,133 individuals suffering from migraines indicated that a significant number of patients are hesitant to discuss their use of alternative treatments with their healthcare providers. I think this can change as treatments like dietary modifications, yoga, and cannabis become more common and gain validation from scientific research.

Natural Approaches

First, let’s talk about simple lifestyle tweaks for improved migraine management. A study published in the Journal of Headache and Pain revealed that practicing yoga decreased the frequency, duration, and intensity of migraines. Consider trying ganja yoga to explore whether the combination of cannabis and yoga provides even more relief than either one alone!

Small dietary shifts may help migraine sufferers. Avoid fasting for long periods, as this can trigger migraines. It's also important to keep your blood sugar steady with small, healthy snacks between meals. Tightly controlled blood sugar may reduce how often you get a migraine. Also, choose nutritious foods like leafy greens and seeds rich in magnesium.

Take home message: develop a balanced diet to minimize migraine triggers. Establish healthy routines that address your personal stressors. Find an exercise that you consider enjoyable. Making these slight adjustments might amplify the impact of cannabis on your migraines. And now, let's introduce cannabis!

American Cannabis Research Hero-- Dr. Ethan Russo

Drawing from decades as a leading cannabis researcher, Dr. Russo presents evidence that cannabis has been used to treat various medical conditions for over four thousand years. Ancient healers documented cannabis as being beneficial for migraines that date back at least 1,500 years. Cannabis had a lead role in the treatment of migraines in Europe and the United States, especially between 1842 and 1942.

Dr. Russo advocates for modern clinical investigations into cannabis to further uncover and validate its potential benefits in managing migraines. Read about his efforts here

Newer research on cannabis inhalation shows a direct impact in alleviating migraine symptoms. Let’s see what they discovered.

Why Inhalation is Important for Migraines

Migraines tend to move through stages. The first stage is almost like a premonition of the headache that is about to come. If identified, taking medicines or avoiding trigger factors can reduce the intensity of headache or even stop the attack. This is where the fast action of cannabis inhalation comes in handy. 

A study reported in The Journal of Pain reports when people smoked cannabis, it helped reduce headache severity by almost 50%. The study was carried out with real world data from people with migraines already using cannabis.

Many take a fast puff upon noticing their own subtle warning signs that a migraine is about to come on to ward off an attack or lessen its intensity.

How to Dose Cannabis for Migraines: One Size Does Not Fit All

Be patient with finding your right dose of marijuana for migraine; it can be tricky due to the variety of strains, potencies, ratios and terpene profiles of the plant. There are at least a handful or more of other factors that influence your cannabis experience.

Edibles and tinctures take longer to work so are not ideal for immediate relief. But once the migraine pain is addressed, these longer acting formulations may aid in relieving other symptoms associated with migraine like nausea, mood and muscle tension.

Patient Testimonial Mom and Daughter Have Migraines: They Dose Very Differently for Relief

In her book "Cannabis is Medicine," Dr. Bonni Goldstein describes two patients with severe migraines: a mother and her adult daughter. The daughter, who vaped a high-THC product at the onset of a migraine, experienced prompt relief of all symptoms within thirty minutes. Encouraged by her daughter's success, the mother tried the same product, but her migraine worsened. Yet, using a CBD+THC tincture preventatively proved most effective in alleviating the mother's migraines.

This case demonstrates how individuals with a shared genetic background and the same condition may respond differently to various delivery methods and cannabinoid combinations. Given that there is no universal cannabis formula and dose ranges vary widely, finding your personalized dosing with a cannabis specialist could lead to better migraine control.

More on THC & CBD Blends for Persistent Migraines

This study affiliated with University of California at San Diego tested cannabis on 92 patients with persistent migraines. The products tested had varying ratios (some with more THC, some with more CBD, and some with a balanced ratio of both). This study also had a placebo. The study participants vaped cannabis at the onset of a migraine. The mixture with more CBD worked the best at making the pain and most annoying symptoms, like sensitivity to light and sound, go away within a couple of hours. Even after two days, people were still feeling better. No serious adverse events were reported, regardless of the type of cannabis consumed.

CBD and its Impact on Post-Migraine Recovery

Even if you successfully manage to keep a migraine from happening, you may still suffer from a group of symptoms sometimes called a “migraine hangover”. Given its potential to alleviate a range of symptoms, CBD may help you get back to work and daily activities after a migraine attack by addressing fatigue, body aches and mood disturbances associated with the post-migraine phase.

Migraines could be linked to minor brain changes that occur gradually over time. CBD has unique properties to potentially repair brain damage as evidenced by great acceptance by MMA fighters, rugby and football players. Also,  the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services acknowledges benefits of cannabis components for brain protection with a patent for cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotective agents, potentially validating CBD as a great tool to maintain optimal brain health.

All Signs Point to Greater Acceptance Needed

The evidence presented highlights the various ways and formulations of cannabis as a viable treatment for migraines. It not only addresses the acute, debilitating symptoms of a migraine attack but also supports the recovery phase. Cannabis brings hope to individuals dealing with this intricate neurological condition. The protective attributes of CBD underscore its importance in managing migraines. These current findings provide a hopeful perspective for those facing the burdens of migraines that disrupt their daily lives.

registered nurse maureen smyth headshot

Contributed to Weedgets LLC by Maureen “Mo” Smyth, BSN RN — Health Revolutionary, cannabis content writer, Founder of Cannabis Public School at Smyth Med.

As a registered nurse, it's important that I clarify smoking cannabis is not a replacement for medicine or medicinal options. Always consult your chosen healer or physician before use. Excessive inhalation can lead to lung issues. Weigh your options. Use with caution. Be intentional. 

For those interested in delving deeper into the research, here are my sources:

Erickson, N. (n.d.). What are the stages of a migraine?

Kral L, Ustic S. Managing Adverse Drug Effects in Pain: Focus on Triptans and NSAIDs.

Lipton, R. B., Hutchinson, S., Ailani, J., Reed, M. L., Fanning, K. M., Manack Adams, A., & Buse, D. C. (2019). Discontinuation of Acute Prescription Medication for Migraine: Results From the Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcomes (CaMEO) Study. 

Lipton, R. B., Buse, D. C., Friedman, B. W., Feder, L., Adams, A. M., Fanning, K. M., Reed, M. L., & Schwedt, T. J. (2020). Characterizing opioid use in a US population with migraine: Results from the CaMEO study. Neurology, 95(5), e457–e468.

Rhyne, D. N., Anderson, S. L., Gedde, M., & Borgelt, L. M. (2016). Effects of medical marijuana on migraine headache frequency in an adult population.

Wells, R. E., Beuthin, J., & Granetzke, L. (2019). Complementary and Integrative Medicine for Episodic Migraine: an Update of Evidence from the Last 3 Years. Current pain and headache reports, 23(2),

Schuster, N. M., Wallace, M. S., Marcotte, T. D., Buse, D. C., Lee, E., Liu, L., & Sexton, M. (2024). Vaporized Cannabis versus Placebo for Acute Migraine: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Goldstein, B. (2017). Cannabis is medicine: How medical cannabis and CBD are healing everything from anxiety to chronic pain. New York, NY: Little, Brown Spark.


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