Picture this: you’re minding your own business and BAM, a migraine strikes, primed to squeeze your skull in a vice grip—and maybe you don’t have to imagine this scenario because it actually happens to you.
With a range of uncomfortable symptoms like a throbbing headache and even numbness, it is no wonder that many migraine patients are searching for relief. And that’s where cannabis comes in. Known for its potential pain-relieving properties, medical marijuana patients often say that weed helps reduce their often painful and mind-numbing effects.
So if you’re one of the many medical marijuana users on the hunt for migraine relief, it is important to know which cannabis strains may have the effects you are looking for. In this article, we have broken down some of our favorite weed strains for migraines and the science behind them, so that you can choose your medication with confidence.
What Science Says
Believe it or not, migraines affect around 12% of Americans, including many JARS patients eager to ease their migraines. Though symptoms vary, sufferers might experience up to 72 hours of pounding headaches or become hypersensitive to light, sound, and smells. If they happen to be one of the 20% of migraine-havers who experience the frightening and unpredictable, “silent migraine,” their often painless migraines feature symptoms like numbness, tingling skin, speech changes, and even visual disturbances ranging from seeing flashing dots and lines to temporary vision loss.
While more conclusive research needs to be done to determine marijuana’s exact effect on these distressing symptoms, there are a handful of studies that seem to be in support of cannabis use for migraines. For example, in one four-year study on Colorado medical marijuana patients, 39.7% of participants reported that daily cannabis use reduced both the number of migraines they experienced and the pain they felt when migraines did occur.
Another 2019 retroactive study published in Neurology found that using cannabis increased the quality of sleep for 38% of patients, giving them the rest they needed. In that same study, half of the patients who were prescribed opioids for migraines reduced their reliance on those often addictive drugs with cannabis use.
Yet another recent Washington State study let over 1,300 app users track changes in their headaches before and after smoking weed. Interestingly enough, concentrates like cannabis oil showed a slightly larger benefit than flower, and the overall study reported that inhaling cannabis reduced migraine intensity by nearly half without causing dependence.
With this promising knowledge at hand, it is clear to see why many medical marijuana patients look to cannabis as a potential treatment for their migraines. As a tool to help you determine which strains might be right for you, try getting familiar with these soothing terpenes.
Know Your Terpenes
While searching for the best strain to potentially control your migraine symptoms, try searching for strains rich in these specific terpenes. While terpenes are known to give cannabis its signature scent and taste, they also may have therapeutic properties, like banishing stress and reducing aches and pains. They all have their own unique set of strengths, but here, we’ll discuss a few that play a starring role in eliminating the effects of migraines like:
Myrcene, for example, has a rich spicy yet earthy scent that can be found in much of the weed we know and love today. After smoking myrcene-rich flower, many say that its effects may relax your muscles, reduce anxiety, and conquer pain. For an extra boost of myrcene power, try pairing a myrcene-dominant strain like Blue Dream with naturally myrcene-rich foods like mangoes and cardamom for some sweet sweet relief.
You could also ask a JARS budtender for a strain rich in caryophyllene. A peppery terpene known for giving rosemary, hops, and cloves their characteristic scents, this little molecule may also be a stellar inflammation soother. Pain is often caused by inflammation in the body, so this terpene may be able to help reduce any aches you experience from headaches and other discomfort.
Another potential terpene that may be able to reduce your symptoms, is the lavender-smelling linalool. Naturally found in citrus, mint, and of course, lavender, linalool is known as an anxiety-busting wonder with potentially powerful painkilling properties. Head splitting from a headache? Try a linalool-dominant strain like Northern Lights and let its sedative effects relax you into much-needed rest.
Pinene, the terpene responsible for the holiday cheer scent of your Christmas tree, also may have a range of therapeutic effects to defend you against pain and inflammation. Found in many indica-leaning cannabis strains, any strain rich in pinene will take your mind on a calming forest walk.
Now that you’re familiar with what terpenes may be able to ease your migraine symptoms, let’s look at some specific cannabis strains that many migraine patients turn to for relief.
Cannabis composition can vary widely from strain to strain, so ask your local JARS budtender to help you find the perfect fit. While you’re on the hunt, remember that there is evidence suggesting CBD works best when paired with a low level of THC. That might explain why users in a 2018 survey study preferred hybrid strains. If you’re looking to knock out a killer migraine while staying grounded, try an indica-dominant hybrid with plenty of CBD, which produces very little high.
But what about sativas? Are they good for migraines? Well, that depends. Some find sativa to be the perfect preventative measure and light up a joint of a sativa hybrid at their first sign of a migraine. Others find them to be too much of an upper and leave you bouncing off the walls.
As you might expect, trial and error will help users find the perfect balance, but there are a few go-to strains that may help soothe a migraine-plagued mind.
This well-balanced, fan-favorite strain is easy to find in many licensed storefronts and is a legend in the pain relief game. Known for its sedative effects, this hybrid’s high THC content may bring the immediate relief you crave in your time of need. Find a soft couch or curl up under the covers, light up a fat joint og this OG strain, let it works its sedative magic.
One of the more potent hybrids because of its high kief production, the citrus-y White Widow is known to help banish headache pain while treating users to a euphoric buzz. Down in the dumps after a migraine’s interrupted your day? Give this strain a chance to lift your mood.
Rich in both myrcene and pinene, Blue Dream is everyone’s favorite hybrid. With a balance of full-body relaxation and an invigorating head high, this strain is perfect for anyone that suffers from migraines. We suggest kicking back in a bubble bath or chilling on the couch with this tasty sativa-dominant hybrid.
If a THC-rich strain has you on edge or higher than you can handle, consider a CBD-dominant strain like Harlequin. This sativa-dominant hybrid is heavy on the terpenes pinene and caryophyllene to ease the inflammation that may be behind your migraine pain. Simply roll this strain up, and get ready for a relaxing ride without an overwhelming high.
Another CBD-rich cannabis strain, ACDC is marked by its ability to tackle pain and ease the mind. With an earthy, sweet, and skunky scent, this strain is great for smoking but can also be well-suited for at-home edibles and tinctures.
While we haven’t yet pinpointed exactly why marijuana seems to help migraine sufferers, the fact that so many anecdotally find relief makes the connection worth investigating. If you’re just dipping your toes into the great sea of medicinal cannabis, remember to start low and go slow. Begin with a small, controllable amount and working your way up to the perfect migraine relief dose for you.
If you have more questions about which strains might be right for you, come into JARS today and one of our friendly budtenders will be happy to point you in the right direction.