TechnologyResearch looks into cannabis as a potential migraine treatment

Research looks into cannabis as a potential migraine treatment


Migraine is the third most widespread medical condition globally, seen in more than 1 billion people globally. It affects people of all ages and genders but targets those between ages 18-44 more than any other group. Now, medical scientists are seeking yet another way to defeat it. This time, they’re turning to cannabis for migraine treatment. 

What happens during a migraine? 

One enduring misunderstanding about migraines is that they’re just “bad headaches.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Although migraines are a type of headache, they present unique physical issues, often imposing debilitating symptoms onto those suffering from the condition. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Throbbing or pulsating headaches (normally localized to one side of the head)
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Photosensitivity or noise sensitivity 
  • Temporary blind spots or color distortions
  • Vision abnormalities, including but not limited to blurry vision, “seeing stars,” tunnel vision, etc. 
  • Pain in the eyes

How cannabis can help soothe migraine pain

As you can see, migraines can get pretty severe. For this reason, many people look to cannabis as a solution to this pain and discomfort. 

Even professionals who don’t explicitly support cannabis destigmatization or sweeping legality agree that the herb can help manage pain. Research shows that this doesn’t only apply to CBD-rich cannabis but strains with more than 0.3% THC as well. 

For the latter, medical experts say that it’s best to seek a strain with <5-10% THC for neuropathic pain relief (pain that can arise from an injury or infection or occur chronically), the range that officially makes up the “low” level category. Anything above 15% THC is considered “potent.” 

Since migraines are considered a symptom of neuropathic syndromes, it makes sense why medical professionals would want to look further into cannabis’ possible uses in managing these pains.

Still, CBD has earned most of the attention related to cannabis’ application as a clinical pain management tool. Research shows that it can help “many conditions,” offering analgesic (pain-relieving) effects to people suffering from conditions like epilepsy and improve the overall quality of life. Interestingly, CBD retains a US Drug Enforcement Agency’s Schedule I or V categorization. 

Heavy federal restrictions on the drug make it difficult to study the herb in-depth. Yet, scientists continue to push forward for greater understanding, ultimately inspiring studies like that of Nathaniel Schuster, MD.

New research into cannabis for migraine treatment

Nathaniel Schuster, MD, is a pain management specialist and headache neurologist practicing at UC San Diego Health. He also works as an investigator at UCSD’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. 

Schuster told Newswise part of the reason why academic research into cannabis’ potential medicinal applications must persist: “Right now, when patients ask us if cannabis works for migraines, we do not have evidence-based data to answer that question.” 

He and many other researchers are concerned that science hasn’t quite caught up with popular use of the herb as a supplement for managing numerous medical conditions and its adoption as a sort of “cure-all” among many people. 

CBD-rich hemp certainly isn’t a cure-all, although it does contain many benefits for maintaining your health and wellness, even while living with migraines. 

To shrink the gap between public hemp use and empirical data on marketing claims like “natural pain relief,” Schuster and colleagues put together a study involving 20 participants so far. The goal is to recruit 90 participants who fit the criteria below and randomly prescribe migraine treatments using THC, CBD, both of these cannabinoids, or a placebo, all in vaporized form. Participant criteria are as follows:

  • The patient must experience migraines monthly
  • The patient must be age 21-65

At this time, the team is still actively recruiting volunteer study subjects. 

Cannabis and Migraine Treatment

The cannabis plant shows great promise in its potential application for easing migraine symptoms. Medical experts are ready to make the possibilities a reality, and Nathaniel Schuster, MD and colleagues are on the cutting edge. 

With more widespread acceptance of cannabis’ many uses in the medical field, Americans may see increased rates of destigmatization of cannabis spreading throughout the nation. 

Jazmin Murphy
Jazmin Murphy is a trained science writer & reporter who has covered a breadth of topics. She is also a strong supporter and advocate of cannabis for recreational, wellness, and medical purposes.


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