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Study finds cannabinoids effective for preventing migraine
Regular cannabinoid administration significantly reduced the frequency of migraine headache in a new clinical trial.
Findings in a new study suggest that daily cannabinoid treatments can effectively reduce the frequency of migraine headache. A team of Italian researchers presented the findings of their new clinical trial at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology in Amsterdam earlier this summer. Regular cannabinoid treatments were found to reduce the frequency of migraine by over 40 percent.
The 19th leading cause of disability worldwide, migraine involves severe head pain, and is commonly accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. The condition typically begins in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, approximately 12 percent of the United States population is affected by migraine headaches. About 5 million Americans are estimated to experience at least one migraine attack per month.
In the study, headed by Dr. Maria Nicolodi, the efficacy of oral cannabinoids was compared to amitriptyline, an antidepressant commonly prescribed for migraine. For three months, the 79 study participants, each diagnosed with chronic migraine, were given daily treatments of either a 200 mg dose of a cannabinoid combination including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), or 25 mg amitriptyline.
Both substances were effective for reducing migraine frequency, but the THC-CBD combination “yielded slightly better results than” the pharmaceutical drug (40.4 percent vs. 40.1 percent).
“We were able to demonstrate that cannabinoids are an alternative to established treatments in migraine prevention,” said Nicolodi.
The study also found the THC-CBD combination to be effective for treating acute pain brought on by migraine, reducing pain intensity by 43.5 percent. The cannabinoids provided that same level of pain relief to patients diagnosed with cluster headache, a condition involving a series of short but extremely painful headaches, provided the patients had experienced migraine earlier in life. The cannabinoids were found to have no effect, however, on cluster headaches in patients with no previous migraine history.
The cannabinoids were also well-tolerated, with reported side effects including just drowsiness and difficulty concentrating. In female subjects, the incidence of stomach ache, colitis and musculoskeletal pain decreased.
Previous studies have also found cannabinoids effective for reducing the frequency of migraine in humans. Just recently, a published research review concluded that preclinical evidence suggests cannabis could effectively treat headache disorders.
The efficacy of cannabinoids for migraine could be related to their interactions with the endocannabinoid system’s CB1 and CB2 receptors. Migraine is thought to be associated with an abnormal fluctuation in brain neuronal activity, which activates the trigeminovascular system and leads to an inflammatory response that causes pain. Studies have found evidence that cannabinoids act upon these cannabinoid receptors to elicit a response that inhibits the trigeminovascular system and restricts inflammation.
You can access an abstract of the study, “Cannabinoids suitable for migraine prevention,” through the European Academy of Neurology.
Learn more about the research investigating the efficacy of cannabinoids for migraine and other pain conditions by visiting our education page. Keep up with the latest cannabis-related scientific research through our news feed