Weed: Your New Headache Medicine?

You’ve got a bunch of options you can take when your head flares up, whether its just a minor headache or a full-blown migraine. Now, a new study points to yet another option, which highlights a possibly major use of the cannabis plant. That’s right, it looks like weed might be the new go-to headache treatment to have in your medicine cabinet.

Did you ever consider taking some weed as your headache medicine when the pain flares up? Well, maybe you should! We are a cannabis and psychedelics news platform which specializes in covering the biggest and most important stories of today. We put out the Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter to keep readers informed, and to provide access to a host of cool deals on tons of products including vapes, smoking devices, edibles, other cannabis paraphernalia, and cannabinoid compounds like the ever-popular Delta 8 & HHC. Check out our ‘best of’ lists for details, and please purchase the products you feel most comfortable using.

What a headache!

Headaches are one of those incredibly common things that we can all expect to suffer from here or there. For some people it’s a nearly every day occurrence, while others only get a real headache once or twice a year. For some it’s a mind-splittingly painful experience, complete with migraine symptoms, and for some it’s a dull little pain that might qualify as irritating, more than debilitating.

What is a headache? Though this sounds like a simple question, with a simple answer, like, ‘when my head hurts’; the reality is that there are many different things that cause headaches, and different ways to experience them. According to the WHO, approximately half of adults will have at least one standard run-of-the-mill headache within a year.

On the other hand, a ‘headache disorder’ is characterized by the recurrence of headaches, and is one of the more common nervous system issues to experience. Along with recurrence of symptoms, these disorders are also judged by how much of a burden the pain is, if it’s enough to cause disability, if its damaging to life quality, and if it comes with a financial cost.

Weed migraine treatment

We often hear another word come up when dealing with headaches; migraines. A migraine headache is a type of headache wherein the user experiences a throbbing sensation, and only (or generally only) on one side of the head. These headaches often come with feelings of general sickness, and can cause a sensitivity to light and/or sound. Migraines have another symptom that separates them from other more standard headaches. They often come with what’s called an ‘aura’, which involves symptoms right before and during, with the most well-known being a flashing light in the sufferer’s periphery vision.

Of the 50% of adults expected to get a headache in a year, about 30% of these cases will be for a migraine headache. As much as 1.7-4% of the world’s population experiences headaches as often as 15 days or more in a single month. In fact, headaches are one of those things that affect everyone, everywhere, of pretty much every ethnicity, race, or any other dividing factor you can think of.

Since headaches are such a prevalent issue, its not surprising that there is a huge selection on the market for non-prescription painkillers. Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, Ibuprofen…, and the list goes on. Some headache sufferers find relief in standard painkillers, while others have symptoms unaffected by such medications. For some people, there really isn’t anything in the non-prescription world that helps.

What about weed as your new headache medicine?

So we’ve got a problem that nearly everyone suffers from at least sometimes, and which a pretty large chunk of the population suffer from frequently. We have a host of pain medications, but a frequent deficit in how well they cure symptoms. We also have an awful and growing issue associated with the use of stronger pain medications like opioids, making them a fundamentally bad option for this type of problem.

And finally, we have cannabis, which is the new darling of the medical world, and which offers tons of answers outside the pharmaceutical space, for a growing number of ailments. Whereas previous research shows its useful for headaches, new research helps confirm the plant as a possible new go-to headache medicine treatment.

Earlier this year, the study, Medical Cannabis for the Treatment of Migraine in Adults: A Review of the Evidence, was published. This study did not involve a specific user group, but instead took data from 12 different publications. In order to do this, researchers searched through the following platforms: PubMed, EMBASE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and Web of Science.

Headache medicine
Headache medicine

Altogether, 1,980 respondents were a part of the investigation. Unlike some research that pull from other studies to show (or, attempt to show) connections between data points, this study only used previous studies that were specifically looking into the exact same subject matter. In fact, all studies were about medical marijuana and migraines, in adults at least 18 years of age.

The results of the study didn’t show cannabis as an overall cure for migraine ailments, but it did show weed helped reduce symptoms when used as a headache medicine. Using medical cannabis greatly reduced nausea and vomiting which often accompany such headaches. It also brought down the length of time migraines lasted, when looking after the first 30 days; as well as the frequency such headaches came on within a month.

According to study results, cannabis showed to be 51% better at reducing migraines than non-cannabis medicines. And though it wasn’t a cure-all, the cannabis actually did end the headaches in as many as11.6% cases, along with reducing frequency.

This is not to say that there were no adverse effects associated. The cannabis did at times lead to what are called medication overuse headaches (MOH). On the plus side, these were generally mild, though they did occur in about 43.75% of the patients who were administered cannabis through oral preparations. This could indicate that a different delivery method might cut down on this problem.

Why this matters?

A couple decades ago, no one was bent out of shape over the idea of a growing number of people getting addicted to – and subsequently overdosing on – pain pills. Because we didn’t deal with the kind of pain pills capable of doing that. In the last couple decades, synthetic opioids grew in popularity, leading to a massive issue of addiction and death, all in the name of curing pain.

Usually something like an opioid isn’t prescribed for a headache issue, and that’s good because when considering how prevalent headaches are, the idea of doling out such strong medications could lead to some horrifying results. We already have enough of an issue with these medications being prescribed for chronic pain. But this isn’t to say they couldn’t be used for headaches in the future, and this is where it gets scary.

Weed medicine
Weed medicine

A few decades ago, opioids weren’t used for any of the issues they’re used for today. And the original uses when they did come out, weren’t as expansive as today. There’s nothing saying that doctors can’t start prescribing opioids for headaches, and if opioids ever become big for this, it could be incredibly detrimental for society.

Headaches can persist, though, and that’s a problem. The more of an issue there is, the more of an answer people want. And it’s best if that answer doesn’t cause more problems. In fact, its best if that answer doesn’t come with the detractions of basic medications like Tylenol or Advil, like toxicity and stomach issues. It’s best if something is offered to the population that won’t get people addicted.

Cannabis is currently investigated and used for a myriad of issues, and it seems that stopping that headache, is just the next in line.


Can you imagine an ad with a guy clutching his head in pain, and then smoking a joint and looking relieved? Imagine the tagline, ‘weed, it’s you new headache medicine’ right underneath the guy. Right now, these ads are for acetaminophen, or some kind of ibuprofen, and come with the image of a little round pill. Maybe this will stay as it is, and maybe it will change. Maybe in a couple years, that little round pill will be a weed vape cartridge, and it will be socially acceptable to give a little toke, when the pain flares up.

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Research Finds Cannabis Effective for Migraines

Cannabis preparations are likely effective at preventing and treating migraines, according to a recently published review of available research. The study, “Medical Cannabis for the Treatment of Migraine in Adults: A Review of the Evidence,” was published in May by the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Neurology.

To complete the study, researchers affiliated with the University of Arizona analyzed previously published scientific studies on the effects that cannabinoids have on migraine patients. The objective of the review was to assess the effectiveness and safety of medicinal marijuana in the treatment of migraine in adults.

The researchers identified 12 studies that had been published in Italy and the US involving a total of 1,980 migraine patients. The review revealed that plant cannabinoids have the ability to reduce the number of migraine days and to abort the onset of migraine headaches. The use of cannabis preparations was also associated with significant reductions of pain, vomiting and nausea caused by migraine.

Reducing Migraine Symptoms

Migraine is one of the world’s most common neurological diseases, according to information from the Migraine Research Foundation, affecting approximately 39 million people in the US and about one billion globally. Symptoms, which are often debilitating, can include severe headache, dizziness, nausea, visual disturbances and extreme sensitivity to light or sound. Migraine disease is commonly treated with strong pharmaceutical drugs, although results of treatment vary widely from patient to patient.

Researchers conducting the review of scientific literature determined that after 30 days of use, medical marijuana significantly reduced the number of days patients experienced migraines and the frequency of migraine attacks per month. After six months of use, cannabis significantly reduced the nausea and vomiting associated with migraine.

Medical marijuana was 51% more effective in reducing migraines compared to products that didn’t contain cannabis. Compared to amitriptyline, medical marijuana aborted migraine headaches in 11.6% of patients and reduced migraine frequency. The researchers concluded that there is substantial evidence to support claims that medical cannabis (MC) can be effective at reducing the frequency of migraine and aborting migraine attacks when they occur. The authors of the study also called for more rigorous studies of the effect that cannabis can have on migraine and associated symptoms.

“There is promising evidence that MC may have a beneficial effect on the onset and duration of migraine headaches in adults,” the authors wrote in their conclusion of the study. “However, well-designed experimental studies that assess MC’s effectiveness and safety for treating migraine in adults are needed to support this hypothesis.”

Findings Supported by Previous Research

The new study is consistent with previous research that has shown cannabis can have a beneficial effect for migraine patients. A 2018 study found that cannabidiol (CBD) has several pharmacological properties including acting as an anti-inflammatory, while numerous anecdotal accounts of CBD oil successfully being used for migraine have been reported. Last year, data from a clinically validated survey showed that 86% of respondents reported a decrease in headache impact after using a cannabidiol (CBD) formulation for a 30-day trial period.

The survey was taken by customers using a CBD oil product designed by Axon Relief, a company that creates supplements specifically for migraine sufferers. Known as the Headache Impact Test (Hit-6), the clinically validated survey measures the impact that headaches have on a respondent’s daily life and ability to function.

Participants completed the Hit-6 survey both before and after using the CBD oil. During the 30-day trial period, respondents experienced an average of 3.8 fewer headache days than before using Axon’s CBD oil, a reduction of 23%. Chronic migraine sufferers, defined as people who experience 15 to 29 headache days over a 30-day period, saw a 33% reduction in their headache days.

A participant in the informal Axon study identified only as Glen reported that since “the ’90s I’ve been on constant high doses of carbamazepine and gabapentin. The periodic pain breakthroughs were only controlled by hydrocodone, which always made me feel…uncomfortable,” Glen wrote in a statement from Axon. “What a change CBD oil has made: no more carbamazepine or hydrocodone, and only half the gabapentin—and far better pain control. Pain breakthroughs still happen, but another squirt of Axon CBD, and the pain is gone within 15 minutes. I have no side effects.”

Of the 105 people who participated in the trial for Axon, 15 reported that they were experiencing daily headaches at the beginning of the study. By the end of the 30-day trial period, the number had dropped to 10, a reduction of 33%.

Another review of available research published by the journal Cureus last year also found that medical cannabis could be an effective treatment for migraine. The authors of that study found “encouraging data on medicinal cannabis’ therapeutic effects on alleviating migraines in all of the studies reviewed.”

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The Feds Request Info on Cannabis & Migraines

The federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is putting out a call for research on marijuana’s impact on migraines.

The request comes as part of a wider call from the AHRQ seeking scientific information submissions from the public for review on treatments for Acute Episodic Migraines. The review is currently in progress and being conducted by the AHRQ’s Evidence-based Practice Centers (EPC) Program. The agency said any scientific materials, published or not, that could inform the review are welcome.

A big part of what the AHRQ is trying to do is compare the effectiveness of opioid therapy versus an array of non-opioid pharmacologic therapies. In addition to marijuana, they’ll look at more traditional pharmaceutical options for migraine relief like acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, triptans, muscle relaxants and anti-nausea medications, among others. So needless to say, cannabis sounds the most user-friendly of the bunch for sure.

The AHRQ will also be comparing non-pharmacologic therapy options, like exercise or acupuncture, and their impacts on migraines.

For all the treatment options, they’ll be looking for results and info related to things like starting pain, how the person is able to function during treatment, how satisfied the patients are with the pain relief and how their general quality of life is with the treatment. They’ll also look at potential to abuse treatment and overdoses. We imagine cannabis will score well against other treatments in this category, but we can’t imagine anyone has ever overdosed from acupuncture either.

Looking at how effective cannabis is as a treatment for migraines is certainly not a new idea. In 1998, the International Association for the Study of Pain accepted a paper from the long-time cannabis researcher and neurologist Ethan Russo on the subject.

“Cannabis, or marijuana, has been used for centuries for both symptomatic and prophylactic treatment of migraine,” Russo wrote. “It was highly esteemed as a headache remedy by the most prominent physicians of the age between 1874 and 1942, remaining part of the Western pharmacopeia for this indication even into the mid-twentieth century.”

Russo noted that anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabis is still an effective treatment for migraines, and said that he “believes that controlled clinical trials of cannabis in acute migraine treatment are warranted.”

Russo went on to note it’s hard for physicians to simply wrap their heads around how prominent cannabis was as medicine before prohibition. Russo said that research from before 1974 examined five case studies of patients who voluntarily experimented with the substance to treat painful conditions. Three of the people taking part had chronic headaches and found relief by smoking cannabis “that was comparable, or superior to ergotamine tartrate and aspirin.”

In recent times, there is still plenty riding on the quest to understand why people with migraines get relief from cannabis, so much so here we are talking about the federal government trying to figure it out.

Last month, we noted why migraines are such a big deal — not only for women who are two to three times more likely to suffer from migraines than men, but for all people suffering. Research published by Washington State University in November showed that in the 20,000 cannabis use sessions they tracked where people were trying to get relief for a headache, they were successful 90% of the time. Sounds like it’s worth a shot before diving down the rabbit hole of Big Pharma.

TELL US, do you use cannabis to treat any of your medical problems?

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Cannabis for Migraine-induced nausea

We recently explored a possible lead to some migraine headaches and how deficiencies in the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) can be responsible for them. The brainstem both triggers and responds to migraine, which is how the gut’s nervous system becomes connected not only as an effect in the form of nausea but a cause as well. […]

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Migraines and Cannabis – Introducing Beauty and the Beast

Not all of us have suffered a serious headache and even fewer have experienced the power of a severe migraine. That faint sense of disorientated nausea begins to emanate from an uncomfortable pressure throughout the forehead. This familiar warning of the impending threat brings forward a panic of defenses. Once the episode has been realized […]

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