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If you're not sure if you've had a migraine, you probably haven't. Those who suffer from the condition know a migraine is more than just a headache – it's a multi-symptom ordeal that seriously affects a person's quality of life.

Luckily, new research has revealed that cannabis can provide relief from the debilitating pain and nausea that accompany migraines without the side effects of prescription drugs.

How do I know if I've had a migraine?

Migraines usually progress through several stages. The first phase, prodrome, starts with neck stiffness and mood swings a few days beforehand. Some people experience flashes of light or vision loss, called an aura, just before the headache kicks in. The actual migraine is often marked by throbbing pain on both sides of the head, sensitivity to light and sound, vomiting, and blurred vision. This misery can last anywhere from four to 72 hours if it's not treated. The final phase, postdrome, happens the day after a migraine and brings confusion, dizziness, and weakness.

While medication is available to soothe migraine symptoms, the drugs have unpleasant side effects such as fatigue, tightness in the chest, nausea, dizziness, and tingling or numbness in the toes. What's more, taking these drugs too often can lead to rebound headaches which require additional medication to treat. Fortunately, prescription drugs aren't the only option for treating migraines. It turns out that sufferers may only need to reach for the nearest joint or vape pen to find relief from the pain and nausea that accompany migraine headaches.

How marijuana alleviates migraine symptoms

The research on cannabis and migraines is limited, but the studies that have been published are promising. In 2016, an analysis of 121 adults with migraines published in the journal Pharmacotherapy found that the frequency of migraine attacks decreased from an average of 10.4 to 4.6 headaches a month with marijuana use. Another study presented in 2017 at the third Congress of the European Academy for Neurology in Amsterdam found that migraine sufferers given a daily 200mg dose of a THC-CBD drug for three months experienced 55 percent less pain.

How does it work? Research suggests that migraines could be caused by an endocannabinoid deficiency. Endocannabinoids are chemical messengers in the body responsible for regulating appetite, pain sensation, mood, and other physiological processes. Consuming marijuana may relieve migraine symptoms by replenishing the body's natural store of endocannabinoids.

CBD, one of the active compounds in cannabis, has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. When consumed, it helps reduce pain without causing a psychoactive reaction, making it possible to squash migraine symptoms and remain alert throughout the day. On the other hand, THC, the compound in marijuana responsible for making you feel high, can provide instant relief by lessening the intensity of a migraine and reducing nausea.

Best marijuana strains for migraine relief

If you're an experienced smoker, you know that some marijuana strains make your heart race and cause anxiety, which can actually lead to a migraine. This is obviously not the stuff you want to reach for when attempting to stop a headache in its tracks. Typically, Hybrids that offer an uplifting, yet relaxing effect provide the best relief from migraine symptoms. Strains to explore include:

  • OG Kush – best to smoke when you're ready to wind down for the night
  • ACDC – has a low THC content, perfect if you need to get stuff done
  • Dream Queen – great for migraine suffers who experience nausea
  • Purple Kush – when you just want to knock out and sleep it off
  • Harlequin – has a balance of THC and CBD, making it relaxing but non-sedative

As always, whenever you're trying a new marijuana strain, talk to your budtender — or your doctor — and start slowly for the best effect.

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