THC and Migraines: Study Indicates Tetrahydrocannabinol Can Help

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A recent study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology examined the use of cannabinoids as a treatment for migraines in female rats and found THC has the power to reduce migraine-like pain.

Migraine headaches adversely affect more than 4 million Americans daily. Considered the sixth most disabling illness in the world, migraines that can last for 72 hours plague 12 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.

But thanks in part to funding from the passage of I-502 in 2012 and motivation from a survey indicating 10.2 percent of those suffering from migraine headaches in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland self-medicate with marijuana, researchers at Washington State University (WSU) were given the opportunity to examine the possible correlation between marijuana and migraines.

how to make a cannabis salve for migraines

Humans have self-medicated with cannabis as a treatment for migraines throughout history.

For the study, Dr. Ram Kandasamy of WSU’s Department of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience examined the medical efficacy of the most famous cannabinoid by administering a precise dose of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to female rats, at specific times.

The study notes that female rats were selected because a “migraine is much more common in women than men (Vetvik and MacGregor, 2016).”

THC Migraine Research Methodology

“The present study tested whether administration of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) produces anti-migraine effects in the female rat. Microinjection of the TRPA1 agonist allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) onto the dura mater produced migraine-like pain for 3 h as measured by depression of home cage wheel running. Concurrent systemic administration of 0.32 but not 0.1 mg/kg of THC prevented AITC-induced depression of wheel running. However, 0.32 mg/kg was ineffective when administered 90 min after AITC.”

Note: Scientists viewed the home cage wheel activity as particularly useful in determining each rat’s stress level, and according to the scientists, only stress-free rats run for extended periods of time.

After anesthetizing and studying “48 adult female Sprague-Dawley rats,” researchers discovered a “higher dose of THC (1.0 mg/kg) depressed wheel running whether rats were injected with AITC or not. Administration of a CB1, but not a CB2, receptor antagonist attenuated the anti-migraine effect of THC.”

The results infer two intriguing points

  • THC reduces migraine-like pain when administered at the right dose – 0.32 mg/kg – and time.
  • THC’s anti-migraine effect is mediated by the brain’s CB1 receptors.

While this migraine study was conducted within the restrictive guidelines of our federally enforced Controlled Substance Act, Marijuana.com reported on an Italian study published in June that utilized 127 human subjects. During that two-phase study, 43.5 percent of participants reported a noteworthy decline in their overall migraine-related discomfort levels, thanks to the use of cannabinoids.

Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett

About Author

Born in Long Beach, raised on the central coast: I surf, dab, burn, and blog – though not necessarily in that order. I'm a husband, a father and a lifelong consumer of connoisseur grade weed. I don't drink alcohol or consume any other "drugs." I consider myself to be living proof that weed is not a gateway drug. If it were, I'd be in some serious trouble. Instead, as a 50-year-old ex-realtor that has been smoking weed for nearly 80% of my life (just did the math) ... I can only say, marijuana is safer than prescription pills or alcohol could ever hope to be for calming what stirs the savage beast.

3 Comments

  1. If you’ve been battling migraines for too long, you can try medical marijuana. Fast-acting methods such as smoking, vaping, and using tinctures are recommended for migraine sufferers.

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