Study Review Suggests Cannabis as a Migraine Treatment

Migraine is a condition that affects more than 1 billion people worldwide. It can manifest itself in a number of ways. However, its most common manifestation is the well-known migraine headache. Sufferers tell stories of debilitating headaches often accompanied by nausea and other uncomfortable symptoms.

Migraine is traditionally treated with OTC and prescription pain medications. Some patients find little to no relief while others take medications religiously. Still others know the pain medications work but do not take them because they don’t like the side effects. So, are there any alternatives? Perhaps.

A recently released study looking at data from a dozen publications suggests that cannabis may be an appropriate alternative to traditional pain medications. A team of researchers at the University of Arizona analyzed data covering almost 2,000 migraine patients from Italy and the U.S.

A 50% Improvement

An analytical review of the previous data found that cannabis was as much as 50% more effective at treating migraine headaches. Patients reported fewer migraine days after just one month of cannabis consumption. In addition, they reported less migraine frequency.

After six months, patients reported less nausea and vomiting associated with migraine headaches. Patients even reported noteworthy relief during acute episodes.

It all points to the possibility that cannabis may be a better migraine treatment than traditional pain medications. If this is the case, it’s time for more thorough research that looks into the mechanisms behind cannabis’ effect on migraine.

Medical Cannabis for Pain

The University of Arizona researchers pointed out in their report that chronic pain is the number one condition for which patients use medical cannabis in Arizona. The percentage there is roughly 94%. According to, a similar scenario exists in Utah. Chronic pain is the number one qualifying condition for issuing medical cannabis cards.

It should be noted that migraine tends to be a long-term condition people live with for years at a time. There are even those patients who live with migraine for their entire lives.

The thing about migraine is that it can be either chronic or episodic. In a chronic situation, headaches occur regularly. There’s very little relief without the use of strong pain medications. With episodic migraine, acute attacks come and go. Patients may see several months of recurring attacks and then go several more without any.

In Utah, the distinction between chronic and episodic would not matter much in terms of obtaining a medical cannabis card. The same holds true in Arizona. Despite the different types of attacks, a consistent history of migraine would be considered a long-term condition producing chronic pain.

How It Might Help

As for how cannabis might help alleviate migraine pain, the jury is still out on that one. What we do know is that the cannabinoids in both marijuana and hemp have distinct effects on the human endocannabinoid system. By binding to certain brain receptors, cannabinoids can affect everything from appetite to pain perception.

It could also be that certain cannabinoids help increase blood flow to the brain. This is important given that one theory explaining migraine is a lack of sufficient blood flow. Increase blood flow and you stop migraine pain. At least that’s the thinking.

At any rate, the University of Arizona researchers believe there is sufficient evidence to look further into using cannabis as a migraine treatment. Their analysis of previous data covering nearly 2,000 patients demonstrates positive reports that make cannabis too intriguing to ignore.

While we wait for additional research, we can assume that people freely self-medicate with cannabis to find relief from migraine headaches. As they say, whatever works.

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