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7 Best Strains for Migraines

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Migraine headaches produce severe, acute head pain that can last for hours or even days. Most people who endure migraines experience a handful of attacks per month. A chronic migraine is when someone experiences more than 15 headaches in the same period.

Cannabis has antioxidant and pain-relieving compounds that could provide potential benefits like stress reduction and pain relief associated with headaches and migraine attacks. While physicians are not sure what causes migraines, specific triggers are what set them off in sensitive individuals. As a result, there’s a growing interest in medical marijuana as a tool for migraine management, including cluster headaches.

While research is scarce, two recent studies support medicinal cannabis use as a helpful treatment and even preventative for migraines. We’ve also compiled some anecdotal evidence from medical cannabis patients on the best cannabis strains that have helped them manage their migraines.

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How Cannabis Affects Migraine Symptoms

As noted above, recent research suggests the potential of medicinal cannabis to provide migraine relief despite the hurdles scientists face due to cannabis’s illegality.

A 2016 study examined 121 adults with migraines who tried cannabis at their doctor’s recommendation. Migraine frequency decreased from 10.4 headaches per month to 4.6, a significant improvement.

A 2017 study found that cannabis use was an effective preventative for migraines and offered acute treatment. This study found that patients experienced a 55% decrease in a subjective assessment of pain after using cannabis every day for three months.

While we don’t understand the mechanism behind migraines or how cannabis acts in this process, we can speculate. Cannabis has been shown to decrease the sensory experience of pain in other pain disorders, such as chronic pain or neural pain, by slowing the transmission of neurochemicals along pain pathways. By delaying this communication process, we perceive less pain.

Best Terpenes and Cannabinoids for Migraines

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a potent anti-inflammatory that could help soothe inflammation-related aspects of a migraine headache. So, strains or cannabis products with a high CBD content may be beneficial. Minor cannabinoids such as CBG and CBC have also been studied for their anti-inflammatory benefits.

According to anecdotal reports from medical users, CBC- or CBG-rich strains work well for pain relief. High CBD strains can also be helpful for those who want to minimize psychoactive effects.

The atypical cannabinoid and terpene beta-caryophyllene could help reduce pain sensation and inflammation, providing migraine relief. Myrcene has been studied for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. When determining your migraine treatment plan, seek out strains that are rich in these cannabinoids and terpenes for effective pain relief.

If you are opting to try medical marijuana for migraines as an alternative treatment, talk with a knowledgeable healthcare provider to determine the best marijuana strains to help with your symptoms. They can suggest the best weed strains, terpenes, and cannabinoids for migraines, which will inform how you’re shown products at the clinic.

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Best Ways to Use Cannabis for Migraines

Migraines come on slowly, so the sooner you notice an attack coming on, the sooner you can take steps to prevent it. Smoking or vaping cannabis are two of the fastest consumption methods, as the cannabinoids enter the bloodstream via the lungs and quickly circulate throughout the body.

After inhaling, the effects start within a few minutes and last between two and three hours. This can be especially useful in heading off a migraine before it gets worse or soothing symptoms when you’re mid-attack. Proceed with caution. Some anecdotal reports from migraine sufferers state that smoking can make their migraines worse.

If smoking causes any unwanted side effects you’d like to avoid, edibles may be your best bet for preventative treatment. They take longer to kick in but last several hours, which can help ensure pain relief for the entirety of the episode, even if it lasts a while. Oil-based tinctures (cannaoil) are another great alternative to smoking that provides long-lasting relief for migraine patients, but with a quicker onset than edibles of around 15-30 minutes.

Medical cannabis use is highly individualized when it comes to results and best practices, and it’s important to be patient and develop a plan with a medical professional who has a good understanding of cannabis.

Sleep is also one of the best remedies for migraines, allowing the brain to reset and rest amid an attack. Cannabis can help you fall asleep more quickly and let sleep work its magic. The THC ratio may be important here. Research has found that THC decreases sleep latency (i.e., how long it takes to fall asleep) but can have negative impacts on sleep overall, where CBD has been found to help patients with chronic pain sleep better.

Best Strains for Migraines

Keep in mind that much about the use of marijuana for migraines is individualized, including which strains or doses work best. Not all cannabis strains will have a positive effect, so be sure to consult with your physician before choosing a marijuana treatment for migraines to minimize potential risks or unwanted side effects.

Grandaddy Purple

Grandaddy Purple (GDP) is a strain popular for nighttime use due to its sleepy effects. Its dominant terpene is myrcene. GDP is usually used medically to combat pain, stress, insomnia, and appetite loss. This strain can be great for pain management or nausea associated with migraines.

Girl Scout Cookies

This strain has a high THC content, so it’s best to avoid it if high THC levels have a negative impact on symptom relief for you. Girl Scout Cookies (GSC) may be a good strain for daytime use due to its reported creative effects.

The dominant terpenes in GSC are caryophyllene and myrcene. Medical patients use this strain for chronic pain, nausea, and appetite loss, which can all be symptoms of migraine.

Blue Dream

Blue Dream is notable as the most popular strain of medical marijuana and for a good reason. This THC-heavy strain (18%) has a comparatively small amount of CBD (2%) and is known for its balanced effects, both relaxing and uplifting, making it perfect for daytime use. Its dominant terpenes are caryophyllene and myrcene.

Harlequin

Harlequin contains approximately a 2:1 ratio of CBD to THC, allowing for decent pain relief from both cannabinoids but still a tempered psychoactive experience. This high-CBD strain is best used at the first sign of migraine symptoms, allowing it to kick in before the headache worsens. The primary terpenes in Harlequin include myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, pinene, and humulene.

Northern Lights

Northern Lights is an older and popular cannabis strain known for its pain-relieving, sedative properties. The cultivar contains more THC than CBD and a profile with more myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, limonene, humulene, and terpinolene. These terpenes work together to relax patients and soothe pain sensations before an attack becomes fully fledged.

OG Kush

OG Kush is a widely available cultivar with powerful sedative effects that make quick work of much migraine pain. It has higher THC content, so those with low tolerance only need a small dosage, but its slight amounts of CBD contribute to overall pain reduction. OG Kush’s dominant terpenes include myrcene, limonene, humulene, and pinene.

Purple Kush

Purple Kush is a powerful sedative strain with high THC content and sleep-producing terpenes. High levels of myrcene and linalool are highly relaxing, helping users fall into a sleepy euphoria before the worst of the migraine has a chance to appear.

Another Kush strain, Purple Kush is great for nighttime use since it produces relaxed and sleepy effects. Medical patients primarily use this strain for pain and insomnia. Its dominant terpene is myrcene.

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Published: July 2022

Updated: May 2024

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does sativa or indica help with migraines?

Sativa and indica are terms used to describe the growing characteristics of the cannabis plant and its subspecies. Colloquially, they refer to whether a strain is upper or a downer experience, but these are simplistic distinctions. Whether a strain is “up” or “down” depends on the strain’s chemovar: the collection of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds that contribute to a specific strain’s effect on someone’s system.

What strain is best for migraines?

Our list above covers a few options. However, no one size fits all, and you may want to experiment with different strains and doses to find what works best for you. The first step is to see a Leafwell provider and get your own medical marijuana card.

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