The Journal of Pain has published a study which found that using cannabis reduced the severity of migraines and headaches on average by nearly 50%.
Researchers at Washington State University collected data on the effects of smoking cannabis or cannabis concentrates on migraines and headaches among 1,959 anonymous adults in Canada who participated via the medical cannabis app Strainprint.
Importantly, those who suffered the most pain – people who often find it impossible to find relief with standard medication – experienced the most relief.
Effectiveness was found not to be dependent on the cannabis strain, ratio of THC to CBD, or dosage. “Results indicate that cannabis reduces migraine severity regardless of the type, dose, THC or CBD content,” the authors wrote, indicating that factors other than cannabinoid ratio and concentration could be at play.
While patients smoking cannabis flower found they needed higher doses over time to achieve the same results, patients smoking cannabis concentrate found their necessary effective dosage actually decreased over time.
The researchers attempt to explain this, saying “evidence that other phytocannabinoids and terpenes present in cannabis flower are reduced in some concentrates”, and suggest that the absence of these compounds in concentrates prevents them from blocking the effects of migraine-targeting cannabinoids from supplemental ingested cannabis.
The difference in effect between smoking flower and concentrate might not be due to users developing dosage tolerance, “but rather a differential ‘dialing in’ process between those who use flower and those who use concentrates.”
As little research exists on the medical effects of cannabis concentrates, the authors noted that their finding is “entirely novel” and urged scientists to take up further research in this area.
A 2014 animal study enlightened the therapeutic potential of supplementing the endocannabinoid system with cannabis to treat migraines. Migraines have been found to effect people with deficiencies in anandamide, a primary endocannabinoid (ie, cannabinoids made by the human body) which serves, among other functions, to block the triggers that cause migraines. Researchers working with rats found that supplementing the animals’ anandamide deficiencies with cannabinoids reduced migraine symptoms.