39 million Americans suffer from migraines — and unluckily for us, women are much more prone to them because of our fluctuating estrogen levels. Yet, the good news is that marijuana is showing a lot of promise in terms of treatment.
THC and CBD are both cannabinoids, which are compounds found in cannabis plants. THC is the intoxicating compound known for bringing on a high, while CBD is non-intoxicating and is showing great promise with its medical benefits. When it comes to relieving migraine pain with marijuana, physicians recommend a combination of THC + CBD as the most effective treatment in the majority of cases. This combination can help reduce inflammation, nausea, vomiting, and pain relief without the “high” often associated with cannabis use.
Marijuana often is used to treat migraine headaches, but migraine sufferers can use marijuana not only to treat but also to prevent migraines. The cannabis plant contains cannabinoids believed to help relieve migraine symptoms such as sleep problems, nausea, mood swings, and pain in the head or neck area. A study has shown that marijuana may be a viable treatment for cluster headaches since it helps people control these severe headaches without the unwanted side effects of prescription medications like opioids or muscle relaxants.
Tune in to hear how one woman got her chronic migraine pain under control with weed, the combination of CBD + THC content that’s most helpful, and how to prevent migraines with CBD. Keep in mind that cannabis is not a one-size-fits-all migraine treatment, and it might take some experimentation until you find the best cannabis strain for your specific migraine symptoms.
Thank you to our guests Lisa Curiel Parker, Dr. June Chin, and Sandra Guynes.
Ellen Scanlon (00:00):
This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over.
Lisa Curiel Parker (00:05):
When you’re suffering chronic pain, you also get lost and you think, is this ever going to end? Is this my norm moving forward? And then once cannabis is involved, it just changes everything and you feel so great. You just realize, “Okay, this chronic pain isn’t forever.”
Ellen Scanlon (00:23):
Welcome to How to do The Pot. A podcast, demystifying cannabis for women. I’m Ellen Scanlon.
Ellen Scanlon (00:32):
You just heard from Lisa Curiel Parker, a California based migraine sufferer who found relief with cannabis. Migraines affect nearly 40 million Americans and the vast majority are women. Today, we’ll hear Lisa’s story of finding cannabis as a treatment and hear from two of our favorite medical experts, Dr. June Chin and Sandra Guynes, The Kush Nurse.
They’ll explain what migraines are, what combination of CBD and THC helps most with migraines and why cannabis is showing promise for patients. I’ve only had two migraines in my life when I was a kid, and I still remember them vividly. It’s hard to imagine having them every day or every week, like Lisa and a lot of other women we hear from.
This summer, we have been re-releasing some of our most popular episodes about how cannabis is helping women improve their health and treat symptoms of disease without the pharmaceuticals that can often cause really challenging side effects.
Ellen Scanlon (01:38):
If you haven’t yet, check out our episodes about how cannabis is helping with Crohn’s disease, lupus, and endometriosis. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about cannabis and Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome, also known as PCOS.
If you or someone you know has a personal story that you’d be willing to share with us, please send an email to email@example.com or DMS @dothepot. I’ve been sick a lot this year and have struggled with really slow recoveries. So I can relate to how frustrating not feeling well for a long time can be. I’m using this time to rest and recover and would really appreciate you sharing this episode with anyone you think it might help. Thank you.
Ellen Scanlon (02:31):
Lisa Curiel Parker is the client lead at consulting agency, Tajima Creative. She has been having migraines since she was a child and they started after a significant death in her family.
Lisa Curiel Parker (02:43):
The stress and the trauma from that incident caused my left ventricle to enlarge. And so doctors gave me antidepressants, steroids and sleeping aids and told me to drink little mini Coca-Cola cans daily.
And I thought, I’m 11 years old. I do not want to be on these pills. I don’t want to drink a Coke can, I don’t think that’s a solution to migraines and also a physical enlargement of my brain.
So, after about three months, I was in a totally foggy state. It was so hard, but I didn’t go to school for a year during that time because I couldn’t function every day. I couldn’t go to class and I couldn’t really socialize.
And I just learned that early on, but unfortunately there wasn’t many other solutions. I mean, some people would say water, drink more water, exercise more, acupuncture was another solution I tried for a little bit. But, because it’s been such a constant in my life, I find other ways to kind of remedy them with meditation and yoga and just calming the mind.
Ellen Scanlon (03:55):
Dr. Chin explains what migraines are.
Dr. June Chin (03:59):
Migraines, it’s a neurological condition and it can cause multiple symptoms. So you can have intense, debilitating headaches, but also following the headaches, nausea. Some of my patients will vomit. Some of my patients have difficulty speaking or numbness and tingling on their face.
Some patients that have newly onset migraines think they’re having a stroke, because there’s this numbness and tingling in the face and they lose the sensitivity. Some patients have the inability to even come across any light or sound when they have migraines. And that usually runs in families. So I always ask, if your mom have migraines, grandma, aunties, uncles, it usually affects all ages.
Ellen Scanlon (04:40):
I asked Lisa whether migraines run in her family.
Lisa Curiel Parker (04:43):
It’s my dad’s side of the family. So it’s the Polish side. My mom’s side is perfectly fine and doesn’t have migraines, but my father has them and then my grandma, and I don’t know if I can correlate it with depression, because at that point in my family, it wasn’t something that was communicated about, but I can only assume that’s what it was correlated with and kind of past along.
Ellen Scanlon (05:10):
What causes migraines? Sandra Guynes, The Kush Nurse has some insight.
Sandra Guynes (05:14):
But we don’t really understand what causes migraines. I mean, there’s thoughts that it has to do with imbalances in serotonin. It can be inflammation in other parts of the body that affect the trigeminal nerve, which is connected to your pain pathways, so it causes more intense pain.
Ellen Scanlon (05:35):
If you hear about migraines, mostly in women, there’s a reason. Dr. Chin and Sandra Guynes explain why.
Dr. June Chin (05:42):
Women suffer from migraines three times as often as our male counterparts. And it’s because of estrogen. Our fluctuating estrogen levels really contribute to chronic headaches or migraines.
Sandra Guynes (05:55):
39 million Americans suffer from migraines and 28 million are women. With women, we tend to have more episodic pain. So it’s like during my cycle, I may have these days where it’s like, “Oh, I have a migraine.” And then it goes away.
It tends to mostly be around the hormonal shifts, the stress, the anxiety, and then any other autoimmune conditions that are going on at the same time can also trigger those migraines.
Ellen Scanlon (06:23):
Since she was a child, Lisa has had daily migraines and her symptoms vary.
Lisa Curiel Parker (06:28):
My most common is just the front pressure pain and it’s a daily occurrence. And I think just having it for so long, I’ve learned to just kind of power through. But I do, about once a month, get those horrible aura feelings that people describe, where it’s just kind of a blinding light. You get so sensitive to light and sound and you just kind of want to be in a calm room for a while.
Ellen Scanlon (06:52):
Lisa kind of stumbled her way onto cannabis as a treatment.
Lisa Curiel Parker (06:57):
I was in grad school and to be honest was drinking way too much wine every night to go to sleep. And so I just thought I’m going to try smoking weed. I don’t want to combine the two. And I just want to wean off this alcohol habit, in my mid twenties and realized that there’s so many different strains and the more I experimented with each strain and the more I smoked and consumed and realized how effective it was in different ways.
That’s kind of how I found the solution. It was more natural and to be honest, it was for more recreational purposes. My maternal grandmother was a curandero in Mexico. And so that’s pretty much a plant healer. So I thought it just makes sense. It’s a plant and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t use it.
Ellen Scanlon (07:50):
On episode 147, Dr. Chin and Sandra Guynes shared their expertise about cannabis and drug interactions. The episode features a story about cannabis and lupus, but there’s a lot of information that will be relevant if you’re taking pharmaceuticals for migraines. Sandra sees a lot of patients who consume cannabis for migraines, and she has some advice.
Sandra Guynes (08:13):
One of the biggest things with migraines is knowing what your individual triggers are. So, for some people it can be lights. It can be sounds, it can be sensory.
For some people, it can be hormonal. So it’s knowing what those are. And I always say like, let’s prepare for that.
Migraines affect people very differently. I had migraines when I hurt my shoulder, that was a specific kind of migraine. It was more of like a tension headache. If it start at the bottom of the neck and go up to the top of the head.
And I found that cannabis was helpful, depending on the strains. Too much THC at times could cause it to be more painful. There are these excitatory nerves in our head that when you give it too much THC, it can fire more and those can cause more pain in some people, it’s exciting those nerves.
Sandra Guynes (09:03):
Some people find relief from Sativas for migraine, but usually that is not the norm. Usually something like Indica that can relax and turn down those receptors, is really what can help with that the most.
So does it help with migraines? Yes and no, but a lot of times what it can help with is the inflammatory response that’s causing the migraine. It can also help with the triggers. Is it stress related, to keeping your body more in balance?
And then also for some people who suffer with migraines, they can have seizures. They can have nausea. We know that cannabis helps with those as well.
Ellen Scanlon (09:43):
Dr. Chin also helps her patients try to prevent migraines.
Dr. June Chin (09:47):
If you take CBD regularly, it’s an anti-inflammatory and migraines is a neurological condition based on chronic inflammation. So, you have to take it preventatively. You actually have to take it when you don’t have migraines.
If you have an acute migraine coming on, and my patients know, it could be the humidity in the air, it could be that they slept wrong the night before. You can just feel it in your bones, that you’re getting a migraine. And that’s when you have to take extra cannabis. And what the cannabis does, it decreases the frequency, the intensity, it turns the volume down on the migraine.
Dr. June Chin (10:23):
So instead of being debilitated for three days, if you take it preventatively or early enough, you might be able to head it off and just need like six, seven hours of downtime. It really depends on the patient. You have to experiment.
I mean, I have patients that need a lot of THC when migraines come on, but I have certain patients that if they over consume the THC, they get a rebound headache and it makes it worse. And they could even feel like there’s like tinnitus or ringing in the ears. So it really, really depends. You have to just experiment and try to keep a migraine journal and see what works for you.
Ellen Scanlon (10:56):
When you smoke or inhale cannabis the effects come on quickly, between five to 15 minutes. It’s the consumption methods that migraine sufferers find work best for them.
Sandra Guynes (11:07):
The study show that inhalation is actually the best method for treating migraine headaches. And that’s probably because by the time you take something orally, you have to wait for it to metabolize.
The effects are a little bit different and when you’re inhaling, you’re getting not only the smell. And our sense of smell is connected to our brain, which instantly helps with that pain relief. But also because it’s going right into the bloodstream and getting into those cells and getting oxygen into those cells.
Ellen Scanlon (11:36):
Lisa Curiel Parker (11:38):
It’s mostly inhalables that have been the most consistent in alleviating pain and getting rid of that aura and getting rid of that tension. It just alleviates it right away. Edibles have also been efficient, but it takes a little more time.
And that took a little more experimentation, kind of the CBD to THC ratio and just understanding what worked best with my brain. Because some days if I had a type of edible, I would kind of get that brain fog the next day. And I call it the edible or weed hangover.
Mostly smoking flower pre-rolls. Concentrates have worked, but I find that it’s more of a short-lived pain relief and more of a short-lived high in my personal experience. So flower just seems to be a consistent tool and remedy for the pain.
Ellen Scanlon (12:30):
What strains work best for Lisa’s symptoms?
Lisa Curiel Parker (12:32):
For migraines, I am a huge proponent of CBD. So Harle-Tsu, which is a heavy CBD strain. It’s really hard to find, I think it’s like 0.5% THC and it ranges from 12 to 15% CBD. It gets rid of my migraines right away.
ACDC is another great CBD strain, any of the Tsunamis, but if I want to get kind of heady and fun, I love Headband. That always is a fun, euphoric head-high, where I can just feel like I’m on clouds with that one. Other than that, I’m pretty old school, like Jack Herer, White Widow and it really depends day to day.
Ellen Scanlon (13:14):
How does Lisa feel after taking cannabis medicine?
Lisa Curiel Parker (13:17):
Oh my God. It is euphoric. It’s not even a heady-high. It feels like a deep massage in your head. Someone’s massaging your head with both hands and someone’s giving you a back rub, where all tension in your body just releases. It is the most wonderful sense of relief.
That’s what I also try to tell people. And some people look at me sideways, but we have an endocannabinoid system. And so of course there’s certain cannabinoids that are just going to fit in your body so well, like a puzzle piece.
Over time, it has alleviated the occurrence of the migraines because when I was younger, the severe migraines were every day. Today they’re a lot minor and they’re not that horrible light sensitive and sound sensitive migraine that I had as a kid.
But today I kind of view CBD, yes as a vitamin, but also in conjunction with a lot of other self-help, I’ve done therapy heavily more now. And that’s been a huge lift off of migraines. It’s really just a lot of diet and fitness, but CBD has definitely … that was like everything changed in my life after that.
Ellen Scanlon (14:38):
For today’s high five, treating migraines with cannabis. Number one, studies are promising. According to a 2021 study from UC Boulder, migraine sufferers who’ve used both cannabis and prescription treatments for their migraines, reported significantly more relief from cannabis than from prescription medications, like triptans.
Ellen Scanlon (14:59):
Number two, start with CBD. Taking daily CBD preventatively has shown to help dial down the intensity of migraines by lowering inflammation and helping with stress and sleep-related symptoms.
Ellen Scanlon (15:13):
Number three, find your consumption method. CBD can be taken in an oil tincture. And that has a 15 to 30 minute onset time. Gel caplets or edibles can help with pain and getting to sleep, but have a one to two hour onset time.
Inhalation or smoking seems to bring the fastest relief to migraine patients. If you’re using a vape pen or a drier vaporizer that allows you to control the burn temperature, Dr. Chin recommends setting it to 390 degrees.
Ellen Scanlon (15:43):
Number four, be willing to experiment. Some patients get relief from high CBD strains and some prefer high THC, often the strains that help them get to sleep. When you’re buying weed, try to smell it or tell the budtender how you want to feel rather than rely solely on Indica, Sativa and hybrid classifications.
Ellen Scanlon (16:05):
Number five, keep a migraine journal. Are your migraines related to your menstrual cycle or do they seem to have other triggers? What other symptoms do you experience regularly? What are you taking and what are the effects? If you try cannabis, keep track of the strains and how they made you feel.
Ellen Scanlon (16:25):
Thank you for listening to, How to do The Pot. For lots more information and past episodes, visit dothepot.com. And that’s also where you can sign up for our newsletter. If you’d like updates on new episodes and some behind the scenes with our guests, follow dothepot on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for updates.
And if you like How to do The Pot, please rate and review us on Apple podcasts. It helps more people find the show. Thank you to our producers, Madi Fair and Nick Patri. I’m Ellen Scanlon and stay tuned for more of How to do The Pot.
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