Heavy pain medication seems to be the usual prescription for the majority of migraine patients. However, many people claim cannabis helps them cope with the splitting headaches and other symptoms associated with migraine. That makes it worthwhile to explore how cannabis could bring some relief. Migraine is a highly disruptive and extremely painful condition with a huge potential to impact everyday life.
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Migraine attacks can last for hours, even days. They’re incomparable to regular headaches: heavy medication may be the only way to get a grip on the symptoms. They don’t work for everyone, though, and they often come with side-effects. Many migraine patients seek alternative solutions, and research shows that cannabis may be just the thing. This blog explains, and lists our best migraine cannabis strains.
The Migraine Mystery
As if regular headaches are aren’t enough of a… headache, anyone who has ever suffered a migraine attack knows that the symptoms are on a different level altogether. Migraine is very different from just any headache: it is a brain condition. Over 15% of the global population is affected by it. Migraine is partly hereditary, but environmental triggers play a part, too. Doctors and scientists are still trying to fathom the condition and its causes.
Migraine can have a decidedly negative impact on your daily life. Attacks can be so debilitating that everyday tasks become impossible. Severe headaches are a common symptom, often accompanied by nausea and hypersensitivity to sound, smell, and light. Sometimes, (temporary) visual impairment follows.
For some patients, migraine attacks are preceded by auras: flashes or spots of light appearing before your eyes. Hands can go numb or tingle. Typical migraine headaches are describes as throbbing and intense, often emphasising one of the brain’s hemispheres.
Causes Of Migraine
Although some migraine attacks are triggered by events like lack of sleep or stress, doctors still don’t fully understand what causes them. Modern imaging techniques help map what happens in the brain during a migraine attack, though. Heightened sensitivity to stimuli appears to be the main cause of disruptions in the brain, with an emphasis on the brain stem.
Under normal circumstances, the brain stem relays messages to other parts of the cerebrum and the cerebral membrane or meninx in particular. Migraine attacks overburden the membranes protecting the brain, which causes headaches. Several messenger substances called neurotransmitters are involved, including serotonin.
Regular Migraine Treatment
Any suffering from migraine is free to use over-the-counter pain medication like paracetamol or ibuprofen. Ibuprofen often produces better result, but if it doesn’t work, a doctor can prescribe triptan medication. These must be taken as soon as an attack set in. Triptans should work within 2 hours, and if attacks start again, another dose can be taken. This is a fragile kind of equilibrium, however: too much pain medication can actually trigger a new migraine attack, which makes problems worse.
Cannabis And Migraine
The cannabinoids cannabis contains affect the endocannabinoid system in the human body. This system regulates a whole range of physiological processes, including blood pressure and the perception of pain. These properties could enable cannabis to affect migraine symptoms, too. Interestingly, medical professionals and others have suggested weed as migraine treatment for centuries. The 20th-century taboo on cannabis cast deep shadows over this option, but these days, cannabis as a potential treatment for migraine is back in focus.
So far, research into cannabis for migraine has been limited in scope. In 2013, the Journal of Neuroscience published an article on cannabinoids and migraine pain. Studies showed that chronic migraine sufferers experience pain because their trigeminovascular nociceptive trajectories turn hypersensitive. That’s a pretty fancy way of saying that blood vessels and nerves in the skull become extra sensitive to pain: a headache, in other words. It turns out that cannabis van cause our ECS to reduce the pain response of these nerves via the endocannabinoid anandamide.
Another determining factor in migraine symptoms is the process of vascular constriction and dilation. If blood flowing through blood vessels gets blocked because vessels suddenly constrict, blood pressure rises abruptly. This would explain the intense headaches associated with migraine. Serotonin is suspected to cause constriction of blood vessels and arteries. Vasoconstrictive medication is often used to counter migraines. However, since cannabis also has vasoconstrictive properties, it may provide similar relief.
As mentioned above, serotonin is also involved in migraine. Serotonin levels rise just before the onset of migraine attacks. The endocannabinoid system is involved in the serotonin signalling system. Activation of the ECS’s CB1 receptors can inhibit serotonin release. That may make cannabis consumption a viable option for prevention of rapid serotonin surges causing migraine attacks.
User Experience Research
A recent study by Carrie Cuttler of Washing State University reviewed data on over 1,300 subjects. People used the Strainsprint app to self-report on their experiences with cannabis for migraine and headaches. The results were published in the Journal of Pain.
All 1,300 participants documented how they felt before and after taking cannabis. After inhaling cannabis, severity of migraine headaches decreased for 49.6% of subjects. The study failed to establish that using more cannabis causes more headaches, as can be the case with regular analgesics. However, it seemed as of subjects tended to increase their dosages over time, which could imply gradual cannabinoid tolerance.
Earlier research conducted in 2013 painted a similar picture. Without pinpointing specific mechanisms or compounds, patients indicated that their migraine symptoms decreased by up to 20% following daily use of cannabis.
What stands out is that these results don’t depend on choosing a particular cannabis strain, or specific THC and CBD levels. These factors seem largely unrelated to successful pain relief. This may have been due to the study’s design. There are considerable arguments for attributing important roles to cannabinoid content and terpenes in weed strains against migraines.
CBD, THC, And Cannabis Terpenes To Counter Migraine
There are over 100 cannabinoids, each of which can contribute to pain reduction. In addition, researchers suspect that other weed compounds such as terpenes play a part in the overall effects. Whenever different cannabis compounds interact or add their effects together, we call it an entourage effect. The entourage effect is readily apparent in the effect that CBD/THC combinations can have on migraine patients. If we need evidence, we need only look at the most prominent story about CBD and migraine: that of Charlotte Figi and her parents.
Famous CBD Strains: Charlotte’s Web
Charlotte Figi, a Canadian girl, started suffering from epileptic seizures soon after she was born. Over time, the seizures worsened and started occurring at increasing frequency. By the time Charlotte was six years old, her parents were close to despair. Doctors had diagnosed the girl with Dravet’s syndrome; a severe and hereditary form of epilepsy that can ultimately become fatal.
Since there is no effective cure for Dravet, Charlotte’s parents reluctantly decided to give cannabis oil a try. They had seen promising CBD oil results online, and even though they were opposed to legalization of medicinal cannabis products, the oil proved surprisingly effective. The road to get there wasn’t easy, though: doctors refused to cooperate and weed oil with high CBD content was hard to come by. Fortunately, they got in touch with the Stanley brothers. They ran a company producing CBD-rich cannabis. That allowed them to develop a dedicated strain especially for Charlotte: Charlotte’s Web.
The Effect Of CBD Cannabis On Epilepsy
The results were amazing: whereas Charlotte used to suffer about 300 (!) heavy seizures each day, the number dropped right after she started taking Charlotte’s Web. Soon, just one seizure per week became the new norm. The story drew world-wide media attention, and became a major contribution to the acceptance, legalization, and fame of CBD supplements.
Sadly, Charlotte still met a highly premature demise. In 2020, she passed away due to pneumonia. Even though she had been tested negative for coronavirus, she did receive treatment according to COVID-19 protocols. Whether the virus was ultimately to blame is unclear, but that was how the story of a brave girl who showed the world the power of CBD was brutally cut short.
Despite the tragic outcome of her tale, however, CBD’s success in treating the hefty epileptic seizures Charlotte suffered raised new attention for CBD against other brain conditions, such as migraine.
Tackling Migraine With Cannabis Terpenes
Entourage effects also occur when cannabinoids and terpenes interact. Terpenes are aromatic compounds that plants generate to protect themselves from predation, among other purposes. Over one hundred cannabis terpenes have been discovered so far, several of which seem to have the potential to help tackle migraine.
One of the most prominent terpenes people use to counter headaches is caryophyllene. Beyond cannabis, you’ll find this terpene in black pepper and rosemary. Caryophyllene is known for its analgesic and nerve-protecting properties. Research into this terpene is still in full swing, but many hands-on experts will specifically pick strains with high levels of this terpene for dealing with migraine and otther headaches.
Myrcene is another interesting terpene for anyone suffering from migraines. Just like caryophyllene, myrcene has pain-relieving properties. It is found in many different weed strains, as it is in fact one of the most common cannabis terpenes. Myrcene offers an additional benefit on top of analgesic potential, however. By means of the entourage effect, myrcene makes it easier for cannabinoids to cross the blood-brain barrier. This allows the CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids in your migraine strain to be more effective and work faster, too.
Sativa Or Indica Strains For Migraines?
As explained in earlier blogs, we can outline the general difference between cannabis indica and sativa strains. Due to the many hybrid crossbreeds we see today, these differences should be taken with a pinch of salt. However, it doesn’t hurt to take them into consideration when looking for a that perfect anti-migraine cannabis strain. Generally speaking, sativas tend to focus their effects on the brain, while indicas focus on the body. That means you could test whether a sativa-dominant strain is better for tackling the headaches and other ‘brain effects’ of migraine.
On the other hand, many people indicate that their migraine episodes start with a tense, cramped feeling in the neck and shoulders. That would justify trying a high indica strain to find relief. Moreover, indicas are renowned for the body buzz effect they produce. This lazy, relaxed sensation throughout the body can help you unwind and sleep better, for instance. For many migraine patients, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the few ways available to make it through a migraine episode. That certainly makes indica weed strains worth a shot, too.
1. Harlequin Imparts a Soothing, Mellow High
Harlequin is one of the most popular marijuana strains when it comes to relieving migraines. It’s a 75% sativa-dominant hybrid cannabis strain that features a 5:2 ratio of cannabidiol (CBD) to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
This is what you need if you want to clear your head and improve alertness. What’s great about Harlequin is that it has both THC and CBD, which makes it an effective pain reliever without imparting an intense high.
2. Remedy Offers CBD-Rich Migraine Relief
Remedy got its name for a reason: It really does provide a remedy to migraine patients. This has CBD levels of around 15% and contains very little THC.
Remedy is best known for giving consumers a mellow and relaxing feeling without a head high. Because it’s rich in CBD, it will impart all of the anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties too—which is just what you need to combat migraines.
3. Purple Kush Can Help Migraine Sufferers Get Much-Needed Sleep
What migraine sufferers usually try to do is sleep the pain away. But how can you sleep if the pain is too much to handle? Well, Purple Kush is a great solution for inducing a numbing sensation, which eventually puts you to sleep.
Purple Kush typically contains 0.1% CBD and 17% THC, though this may vary slightly from grower to grower. The pain you’re feeling dissipates as soon as you experience the head high, which consumers report is long-lasting compared to other cannabis strains. Take Purple Kush before going to bed for best results.
4. Choose ACDC for Migraine Relief Without a Head High
If you want to consume cannabis to get rid of your migraine but don’t want psychoactive effects, then what you need is ACDC. This is a sativa-dominant cannabis strain that has a CBD to THC ratio of 20:1, so contains very little psychoactive THC—perfect if you’re a migraine sufferer who doesn’t want to experience a head high.
CBD levels can even reach a maximum of 19%, making this a very effective migraine pain reliever. ACDC also does a great job when it comes to fighting depression and anxiety, which can often accompany migraines.
5. White Widow Boosts Your Mood & Relieves Muscle Tension
White Widow is a cannabis strain originating from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. What makes this marijuana strain different is that it doesn’t calm you down like a classic indica strain does. Instead, it makes you feel happy and uplifted, just what many need to deal with a migraine.
Besides uplifting mood and squashing anxiety, White Widow also eases muscle tension, which helps calm a simmering migraine.
6. Stephen Hawking Kush Imparts Balanced Migraine Relief
Stephen Hawking Kush is named after the world-famous scientist. It’s proven to be effective in dealing with migraines in a balanced way, thanks to its 1:1 THC to CBD ratio. The ratio also energizes a migraine sufferer with a nice, mellow high. Consumers report that the strain removes any sensations of pain for extended amounts of time, sometimes even throughout the day.
7. OG Kush Is a High-THC Option for Migraine Sufferers
OG Kush is another popular cannabis strain that’s used to deal with migraine thanks to its strong sedative effects. This is a hybrid marijuana strain that typically has 20% THC, so folks not used to too much THC should proceed with caution.
Still, the THC can help relax you, uplift your mood and carry your mind away from a migraine.
8. God’s Gift Helps Ease Pain & Boost Mood
If you’ve got a migraine and you just want to chill the pain away, then what you need is God’s Gift. This strain contains 20% THC, which is just what you need to calm your senses and boost your appetite, which is sometimes impossible in the middle of a migraine.
Some say God’s Gift has the best of a heavy-hitting indica, but with the euphoric high of a sativa. Still, the THC content will numb the body, exactly what you need when a migraine starts to take over.
9. Blue Dream Is a Well-Rounded, Balanced Marijuana Strain
Blue Dream is another popular cannabis strain for dealing with physical pain. This is a hyrid marijuana strain that soothes the body and uplifts the mind.
And don’t worry about getting drowsy or too high after taking Blue Dream. Instead, expect to experience strong psychoactive effects, but in a way that will still allow you to socialize if you feel up to it.
10. AK-47 Helps Migraine Sufferers Feel Hungry Again
The cannabis strain AK-47 won’t just remove your migraine pain, it will also give you a euphoric psychedelic effect. It’s a fast-acting cannabis strain with many delicious pungent flavours. AK-47 can help your body cope with the pain of a migraine and relax stressed muscles at the same time.
This strain is also famous for bringing on the munchies. So if a migraine has you shying away from food, AK-47 can get you back to eating, helping you regain your strength and feel more like you again.
Knowing the best cannabis strains for treating migraines is important so you consume strains that will help ease your symptoms, not make them worse. And because everyone is different, finding the strain that helps combat your migraine may take some trial and error. But a little experimentation is definitely worth it.