“We were motivated to do this study because a substantial number of people say they use cannabis for headache and migraine, but surprisingly few studies had addressed the topic,” Carrier Cuttler, Ph.D. reports Science Daily. Cutler is an assistant professor at WSU and the lead author on the paper. (1)
The study used archived data from StrainprintTM, which is an app that lets patients track their symptoms before and after using medical cannabis. StrainprintTM also records the strain and dose of cannabis they use. (2)
The data included more than 12,200 sessions of over 1,300 patients using the app to track changes in a headache before and after using cannabis. It also included more than 7,400 sessions of 653 people using the app to track changes in a migraine before and after using cannabis. (1, 2)
“We wanted to approach this in an ecologically valid way, which is to look at actual patients using whole-plant cannabis to medicate in their own homes and environments,” Cuttler said. “These are also very big data, so we can more appropriately and accurately generalize to the greater population of patients using cannabis to manage these conditions.” (1)
The analysis of the data found that inhaling cannabis can reduce the level of headache and migraine pain by approximately 50%. That being said, the study mentioned that the the effectiveness of cannabis seemed to decrease over time, and that patients also used larger doses over time which may have lead to the development of a tolerance towards it.
The team also analyzed whether other factors such as gender, type of cannabis (concentrate vs. flower), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), or dose affected the change in pain severity. They observed that more men than women reported headache reduction, and more women than men reported headache exacerbation. However, these differences were small. The differences between men and women who reported headache reduction and exacerbation were just 1.8% and 1.9%, respectively. (2)
The use of cannabis concentrates contributed to the greatest reduction in headache ratings. However, the use of the cannabis flower still significantly reduced pain. In their study, the researchers commented that cannabis concentrates’ effectiveness was likely related to their potency. (2)
The data did not reveal significant differences in pain reduction between cannabis strains with higher or lower levels of CBD or THC. Cannabis includes many other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. It is likely that some of these other components are involved in headache and migraine reduction. (2) (source)