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.”