The list of marijuana’s medicinal properties is ever-growing.
As medicinal marijuana slowly becomes legalized, the list of the plant’s therapeutic benefits continues to grow. Now, a new study reveals that medical marijuana might help migraine sufferers not only with the painful symptoms of their headaches, but it might actually have the ability to reduce the frequency of them.
The study, published in the journal Pharmacotherapy, involved 121 volunteers who suffered from migraines, and amazingly, the researchers found that 103 of them reported that they had fewer migraines after they began using marijuana. Another 15 participants reported the frequency of the headaches remained the same, and only three said they’d increased.
The frequency decrease of the migraine headaches was impressive — among the 103 people who noticed improvement, the episodes reduced from 10.4 per month to 4.6 per month on average.
The researchers also looked at the number of migraines per month in patients who were recommended medical marijuana to treat and prevent their migraines by doctors in Colorado. This included data between January 2010 and September 2014 from people who had at least one follow-up visit with their doctor.
Most of the migraine patients were prescribed more than one form of medical marijuana, including smoked, inhaled, and edible forms. Interestingly, the researchers found that people prefered inhaled marijuana to treat acute migraines, but preferred to use edible marijuana to prevent the future migraines from occurring.
"There was a substantial improvement for patients in their ability to function and feel better," study author Laura Borgelt, a professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, said in a statement.
However, Borgelt also noted that marijuana has potential benefits and potential risks, just like any drug. "It's important for people to be aware that using medical marijuana can also have adverse effects," she said.
Fourteen people reported unpleasant side effects during the treatment, like sleepiness, bad dreams, and nausea, according to the researchers. Edible marijuana came with more side effects than any of the other forms as well.
The mechanisms of migraine headaches as a condition still remain somewhat of a mystery to scientists, and the researchers say they don’t fully understand how marijuana may work to treat and prevent migraines.
However, they suspect that migraines may have something to do with a problem with cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which affect various neurotransmitters like serotonin. Borgelt says that it’s possible serotonin itself plays a role in migraines, and that previous research has shown that THC may affect serotonin levels.
Although this research has yielded some exciting results for migraine sufferers, Borgelt stresses that people with migraines should stay away from self-medicating with marijuana. She told Live Science, "Any treatment decision should involve a conversation with their [health care] providers.”