Can Medical Marijuana Help Ease Migraine Symptoms?

We live in an era of medical discovery and advancement.  What I always find interesting is when our modern medical science finds its way back to it’s roots.

marijuana and migraine

Marijuana has been used for more than 12,000 years in cultures around the world for its medicinal, commercial, and spiritual value.  In fact, did you know the first recorded use of medicinal marijuana was in 2737 BC by Shen Nung, the Chinese Emperor?  He had a terrible case of gout and rheumatoid arthritis.  Emperor Nung is well known for his cultivation and use of cannabis to successfully treat his symptoms.

In this post, I’d like to touch on the modern developments of using medical marijuana to treat painful conditions like migraine.  We’ll look at current uses, how it works, what the current research shows us, risks, and legal considerations.

Medical Marijuana Uses

At the time of writing this post, 29 states have legalized medical marijuana for specific conditions.  Each state has a list and regulations, which you can find here.  Broadly speaking, marijuana has the following medicinal uses:

  • Increasing appetite, especially in cancer and chronic disease patients
  • Easing HIV symptoms
  • Reducing nausea in cancer patients
  • Decreasing eye pressure in glaucoma patients
  • Relieving pain
  • Lowering anxiety levels
  • Relieving muscle spasms

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How Medical Marijuana Relieves Pain

Cannabis sativa is a bushy plant that grows wild in virtually any climate. Your brain and body have a network of cannabinoid receptors, which affect your pain threshold. The natural compounds in the cannabis plant are called cannabinoids, and they help calm the pain signals.

There are 2 active cannabinoids in the plant:

  1. Delta-9 tetrahydro-cannabinol (THC), which produces a psychoactive “high” response
  2. Cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychoactive response, but helps to ease pain

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What the Research Shows

Cannabis has been used for millennia to treat headaches and migraine symptoms, but it wasn’t until recently (within the last few years) that medical research has attempted to prove the medical benefits of marijuana.

At the University of Colorado, researchers reviewed 121 patients using medical marijuana for migraines.  The following findings were notable in this study:

  • Migraines decreased from 10.4 to 4.6 episodes per month
  • Approximately 40% of patients reported positive effects
  • Only about 2% of patients had increased migraines
  • About 12% of patients reported no changes
  • Almost 20% of patients stated medical marijuana prevented their migraines
  • Around 85% of patients reported having fewer migraine attacks each month
  • Nearly 12% said medical marijuana stopped symptoms mid-attack

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Smoking marijuana or vaping proved to have the fastest effect and was more likely to stop symptoms in mid-attack.  Edible versions were more likely to have reported side effects and had a far slower effect.

Risks and Side Effects of Marijuana

For the most part, strength and purity of marijuana are not federally regulated; however, medical marijuana manufacturers do provide facts for the different strains.  Even still, use of medical marijuana comes with risks and side effects, including:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Dry mouth
  • Coughing
  • Lowered immunity
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Memory impairment
  • Possible addiction
  • Fatigue
  • Red eyes
  • Loss of coordination

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Legal Considerations

More than half the states in America have legalized medical use of marijuana for specific conditions; however, each state has different regulations, and none of them apply to federal rules.  State laws govern eligibility, how much you can have at a time, and how you can purchase products.  It is still illegal to have marijuana in a non-legalized state, even if you have a medical card from your state. You should also consider employer rules regarding drug testing if this is a treatment option for you.

It’s time we open the floor for discussion about how we can incorporate ancient medicinal practices into our modern world and accurately monitor effects.  This is a controversial subject, I know, especially now; however, whether you are for or against the use of medical marijuana, there are facts and opportunities for the growth and development of pain and migraine research.  If you’re considering the use of medical marijuana for migraine, remember to talk to your doctor first.  If your doctor is not a forward-thinking individual, you may need to consider consulting a different physician.

Sources:

  1. WebMD – Under-the-Counter Migraine Remedies
  2. Migraine.com – Marijuana for Migraines
  3. Leafly – New Study Confirms Cannabis Can Help Migraines
  4. Ancient Origins – Cannabis Journey Through the Ages

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