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How Can Cannabis Help Your Headache?

Before we dive into why cannabis may cause headaches, it can help to understand that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can also do the opposite.

To begin, headache medication isn’t always the most resourceful. In fact, some may find they develop medication overuse headaches. For this reason, researchers have been eyeing cannabis as a potential alternative antidote.

One of the most comprehensive studies comes from the Journal of Integrative Medicines. Between 2016 and 2019, 699 participants discussed the symptoms of their headaches and how they incorporated dry marijuana flower into their treatment regimen. The changes in their pain intensity were then measured on a scale of 1 to 10.

According to the authors of the study, 94% of participants experienced about two hours of symptom relief. On average, there was a reduction of 3.3 on their pain scale. It was also found that young users experienced more relief than older users. Finally, cannabis that contains 10% or more THC seemed to be the most effective.

In another study published by the Journal of Pain, researchers pulled data from Strainprint, a medical app that allows users to track symptoms before and after cannabis use. Data was collected from 12,293 sessions for headache treatment and 7,441 sessions for migraine treatment. From this research, it was discovered that headache symptoms were reduced by 89.9% and migraine symptoms were reduced by 88.1%.

On top of these statistics, this study also found:

  • Men had a slightly better chance of experiencing headache reduction from cannabis in comparison to women (90.9% vs 89.1%).
  • Collectively, users reported a 47.3% decrease in headache intensity and a 49.6% decrease in migraine intensity.
  • Varying cannabis strains (nor cannabinoid profiles) seemed to have no impact on the results.
  • Frequent cannabis use did not seem to result in symptoms of medication overuse headaches.

With all this said, there is a general consensus that cannabis holds a lot of potential to relieve headaches and migraines.

How Does Cannabis Function to Ease Headaches?

When it comes to the development of headaches and migraines, you need to look no further than the body’s serotonin system. The number one reason people experience these symptoms is due to low or fluctuating levels of serotonin.

We know that serotonin is implicated in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). More specifically, anandamide, one of the most prominent endocannabinoids found in the body, increases serotonergic receptors. As a result, low levels of anandamide can also cause headaches and migraines.

Therefore, dysregulations in our ECS may be one of the leading causes of these symptoms. Since cannabinoids mimic endocannabinoids found in our bodies, cannabis may be of great use here.

There is some preclinical research that’s helping us get a better sense of this. CB1 receptors found within the ECS are a therapeutic target for migraines. When marijuana is consumed, THC binds to CB1 receptors and, in turn, can reduce migraine symptoms.

That said, most research agrees THC has had better results for headaches and migraines in comparison to cannabis’s other popular cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD). The primary reason is that CBD does not attach itself to CB1 receptors.

Still, it’s worth noting that there may be other contributors to your headaches outside of endocannabinoid deficiency. The most prominent of these is irregular sleep.

How Does Cannabis Function to Ease Headaches

How Does Cannabis Exacerbate Headaches?

While research may directly point in one direction, we cannot ignore the numerous claims of people self-reporting cannabis to exacerbate headaches. According to the Journal of Pain study, 2.4% of headache cases and 3.1% of migraine cases were aggravated by cannabis consumption.

Another study published by the Harm Reduction Journal found that cannabis can worsen headaches and trigger episodes. These authors conjected this to the following attributes:

  • Timing
  • Frequency of use
  • Administration method
  • Dosage

Excessive consumption of cannabis may also cause what’s known as a “weed hangover.” If too much marijuana is consumed, it can leave the user feeling brain fog and groggy the following day.

On top of this, those who consume excessive amounts of cannabis can also experience withdrawal. One study discovered that of 469 frequent users, 23.2% experienced headaches due to withdrawal.

Finally, you may experience headaches from cannabis simply because you’re sensitive to THC. If you find that small amounts of marijuana get you very intoxicated, you likely have a sensitivity and are more susceptible to developing these symptoms.

Final Word

According to the evidence, you’re much more likely to experience headache and migraine relief from cannabis rather than exacerbation. Still, this isn’t to undermine the fact that many users do experience cannabis-induced headaches.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to measure whether or not you will experience such symptoms from consuming cannabis. As of this time, you simply have to experiment with THC to get an idea of how it affects you.

If you do find yourself experiencing headaches often due to cannabis use, chances are this is not going to change with further consumption. Instead, you may need to address other areas of your life that may be causing these symptoms, which may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Inflammation
  • Muscle pain
  • Sleep disorder

If you plan on taking cannabis as a means of relieving headaches, we highly recommend consulting your primary doctor beforehand.

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