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Can Marijuana Help Your Migraines?

Can Marijuana Help Your Migraines?

In November 2019 a study was published in the Journal of Pain. The study reports that using cannabis can help reduce the severity of migraines and headaches by up to 50%.  It also noted that using concentrates appeared to offer more pain relief than cannabis flowers.

In another study published in Neurology, they found that 88.3% of 279 patients experienced an improvement in their headaches and pain after they consumed cannabis. Of those, more than 50% also mentioned they had a reduction in headache frequency, and almost 40% found an improvement in their sleep.

What are some of the best ways to take advantage of these benefits cannabis has to offer those in pain?

The endocannabinoid system and migraines

Dr. Jim Polston holds a PhD in neuroscience and is the Chief Science Officer at Helius Therapeutics. According to his research, cannabis works on migraines via the endocannabinoid system in our body.

“There is mounting evidence that the endocannabinoid system can directly reduce migraine pain when activated by naturally produced cannabinoids or medical cannabis taken by patients,” said Polston. Cannabis can also reduce inflammation in the dura mater tissue covering the brain and helps minimize the release of pro-inflammatory substances. Both of these tend to contribute to migraines.

When do you dose if you feel a migraine coming?

Although the science that supports using cannabis for migraine treatment continues to grow, there still isn’t much information regarding how to dose and when. Luckily there are experienced individuals that have been sharing their experiences to help us all along the way.

“I use cannabis both as a prophylactic, to prevent migraines by reducing stress and relaxing muscles, and as a rescue remedy once migraine hits, to reduce intense pain and nausea,” Boston Marathon survivor Lynn Crisci was quoted as saying.

Dr. Debra Kimless, MD, who is Chief Medical Officer at Pure Green said “The patients I have treated using cannabis enjoy tremendous success in reducing and eliminating the acute onset of their migraine symptoms, especially if they can dose when they first experience symptoms,”.

Evidence shows that cannabis can work in both preventative treatment and reduction of symptoms.

What is the most effective delivery method?

Most studies involving cannabis for treatment of migraines are based on consuming cannabis orally and by inhalation.

“Though more research comparing methods is needed, we can theorize from the current research that oral cannabis use may be sufficient and should be attempted first to avoid smoking in certain patients,” states Polston. “However, some patients may find inhalation useful for more rapid pain reduction as the onset of effects is faster.”
“The complexity of migraines means that patient variability may lead to various methods being successful, but in a patient or symptom-dependent manner,” mentioned Polston.

For Dr. Kimless, she her patients have found dosing tinctures under the tongue to be successful. “Most of my patients prefer to use a sublingual delivery method; it is fast, effective, and discreet,” she said.

Lynn Crisci prefers vaping to dose her cannabis. “I prefer vaporizing cannabis oil, preferably in a vape pen,” Lynn said. “Vape pens allow me to microdose and control exactly how much medicine I am ingesting, while avoiding inhaling smoke into my lungs.”

Final thoughts

A 2018 review, suggest cannabis may reduce or replace addictive opiate medications for treatment. This is something Crisci has experienced herself. “When I started to use cannabis to treat my migraines, I found I was able to stop using many of my prescription medications: no more opioid painkillers, muscle relaxants, or anti-anxiety meds,”

If you are currently taking prescription meds for migraines or headaches and have been thinking about cannabis as an alternative, the best advice is to speak to a medical professional who has experience with cannabis medicine. Dr. Kimless endorses the “start low, go slow” saying when it comes to cannabis.  “A little bit goes a long way with cannabis medicine. The sublingual or inhalational method allows for incremental dosing, which will help patients learn how much is needed to be effective,”