People who don’t have to deal with them often think migraines are just “bad headaches.” They can’t understand how sufferers could be incapacitated by such a minor and temporary problem.
That’s because those people have never had a headache that’s so painful, and so persistent, that they can’t open their eyes for hours. Or have to wear dark sunglasses indoors for days. Or can’t get out of bed to make it out of the house because of nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. Or can’t endure a sound as innocent as the furnace turning on.
Almost as disabling: the feeling of impending doom once the headache is gone, since there’s no telling how long it will be before the next one starts. Usually, it won’t be long at all.
Chronic migraines are so much worse than the tension headaches most people occasionally deal with, that their severity is impossible to explain. Sufferers will do almost anything to make them stop; some patients respond to prescription medications or alternative treatments like botox, but many don’t.
What does often help ease stubborn migraines, though, is medical marijuana.
And some strains work much better than others.
CBD Cannabis Strains and Migraines
There have been several major research studies on the effect that cannabinoids like THC and CBD can have on migraines. One respected study which is cited regularly was done in Italy in 2017. It showed that patients’ acute migraine pain decreased by more than 50% when given the THC and CBD orally, and that daily dosing for three months (whether the patient was suffering migraine or was between attacks) cut the number of episodes by 40%.
Those findings and similar research was done at the University of Colorado, back up concurrent self-reporting in a large Canadian survey. In that project, sufferers reported that migraine severity was cut in almost half by the use of marijuana.
There’s been no conclusive research to determine whether that’s a better outcome than patients experience when taking prescription medication, nor is there definitive research on whether pot works on migraines because of its THC, CBD or terpene content. Experts speculate that weed’s natural anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-epileptic properties, and its ability to lower blood pressure, may all play a role – and that argues for CBD playing a prominent role.
But even though much still has to be learned, academic studies – and lots of anecdotal evidence – confirm that cannabis can be an effective weapon against chronic migraine.
Answering the THC/CBD question could provide much more information on the characteristics of the best marijuana strain to fight the often-disabling effects of migraines. What we can do, though, is consider the general pain-relieving properties of various strains, combined with the personal experiences of many, many users (including us).
Here are the best strains for migraines to consider trying.
Best Strains for Migraine
If you’re not familiar with the legendary OG Kush, you’re probably either a newbie or you don’t pay much attention to what you’re smoking. It leans slightly Sativa with a relatively high THC level, usually at least 20%, and it’s considered one of the best green weapons against really serious migraines. Several related strains like Purple Kush and Sour Diesel, and one of the parent strains they all have in common, Chemdog, are also considered good choices to battle migraine headaches.
Potent THC content allows OG Kush to work quickly, as the pain subsides and the high builds to a euphoric feeling with noticeable mood improvement. Since there’s significant indica presence in the strain, there’s some possibility of a body lock, but it’s normally not overwhelming. And because there’s significant CBD content as well, OG Kush will contribute to longer-term pain relief and perhaps address some of the migraines’ root causes.
The debilitating effects of migraines often keep people in bed – but that doesn’t mean they can fall asleep to avoid the pain (and hopefully better when they wake up). Northern Lights is heavily Indica-dominant and one of its primary effects is to numb the body and put the mind into a happy, dreamy place, with sleep likely to follow (after satisfying the inevitable munchies).
There’s a THC-to-CBD ratio of nearly 1:1 in this strain, with the THC content low enough (usually somewhere around 10-15%) that Northern Lights is a decent choice for those who suffer from anxiety, as well as those with chronic pain in addition to their migraines. It’s also perfect for those who want to feel better without feeling too high or waking up with a hangover the next day.
Harlequin is Sativa-dominant, but it’s another strain known for its high CBD and low THC content. That makes it a favorite of those who suffer all sorts of long-term pain but can’t take the day off to lie in bed or chill on the couch. The head high (such as it is) takes the form of focused alertness without the impediment usually created by high-THC sativas.
Your mileage may vary, of course. But most users find that even if Harlequin doesn’t completely eliminate their migraine pain, it provides enough relief to make it to work or the store since it’s non-sedating and easy on the body. It’s an anti-inflammatory as well, so it works well for conditions like fibromyalgia which affect migraine sufferers disproportionately.
You’ll notice that there are a number of CBD-heavy strains on this list. That’s because most migraine sufferers have little interest in getting wasted; they simply want to feel better and be able to function. Remedy takes the CBD-THC ratio to an extreme, as this Indica-dominant strain is purposely bred for extremely high CBD content (up to 15%) with almost no THC at all. If you couldn’t tell from its name, Remedy was created specifically for pain relief.
After a few hits, you’ll start to notice a lifting of stress and heaviness, followed by deep relaxation and an easing of migraine and other body pain. And its extremely small THC content makes Remedy the very best option for those who also suffer from anxiety since that problem won’t be exacerbated in any way. It’s good for setting a chill mood in general but is a revelation for those in a lot of pain.
This strain is a hybrid of Cannatonic and Sour Tsunami, two other CBD-rich varieties that also do a nice job of relieving migraine pain. Canna-Tsu is truly balanced, both between Indica and Sativa and between CBD and THC; it certainly packs more of a punch than Remedy (its THC content is between 5-10% THC), but is mellow enough to calm the body and lessen the effects of migraines, while also fighting inflammation and general body pain.
The head high is a happy and focused one, so the depression often suffered by migraine patients is ameliorated while the pain is eased. Canna-Tsu can be somewhat difficult to find if you’re not on the West Coast, but Cannatonic or Sour Tsunami are similar enough to be good substitutes.