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Cannabis has a well-documented history of medical and recreational use. While in-depth, peer-reviewed research into the plants has been stifled in the past century, primarily due to the legal standing of cannabis in Western countries since the late 1930s, the times are changing. Finally, we are seeing a political and cultural shift towards understanding the potential medical benefits of cannabis, and with it, much-needed research.
Headaches are classified as any pain or discomfort in the head or face area, and sorted into three main categories – migraines (the worst of the bunch), tension headaches, and cluster headaches. They can be caused by a wide range of factors including (but not limited to) stress, fatigue, allergies, and neck injuries.
Recent research points to cannabis possibly having a marked effect on the severity and length of headaches. Cannabis is split into two genetic groups, Sativa and Indica. Sativa plants are known for their more cerebral effects that can help reduce anxiety and stress while boosting feelings of creativity and focus. Indica-dominant strains are more closely linked with full-body effects and are recognised as helping patients achieve a more relaxed state. This is fantastic news for people battling chronic headaches, as the only other options (right now) are possibly addictive and dangerous medications like opioids.
With the right cannabis strain, people can find relief from their headaches without having to rely on potentially harmful drugs, and now have the choice to go down a more natural pain management route.
But which option is better for the treatment of headaches? Sativa, Indica, or a mix of both (known as hybrids)?
Let’s find out…
Indica For Headaches
Pure Indica strains originate from the Hindu Kush mountain range stretching from Afghanistan into north-western Pakistan and far south-eastern Tajikistan. Known for their shorter, bushier growth patterns, pure Indica plants produce flowers with slightly lower levels of THC and somewhat higher CBD percentages than most of their Sativa kin.
The relaxing and sedative characteristics that Indica options offer, along with the more full-body effects, may make them more suitable for night usage when battling headache-related issues, but this is subjective. Indica-dominant strains are known to bring on a more tranquil feeling and can help with sleep, making them suitable for fighting the pain of headaches.
Best Indica strains for headaches
Except for pure Indica landrace strains, Northern Lights is about as close as we now find to 100% Indica genetics (95% Indica). Thought to be a cross between Afghan and Thai (true origins are unknown), this strain offers users a relaxed and sedated feeling, making it suitable for treating headaches that often come with feelings of anxiety or stress.
Praised for its pain-relieving effect, Granddaddy Purple (or Granddaddy Purps) is a 75% Indica dominant Hybrid. A cross of Purple Urkle and Big Bud, this wonderful strain is a favourite among headache sufferers, thanks to its stress-relieving and insomnia-fighting properties.
Sativa For Headaches
Indigenous to the plains and mountain ranges of Central Asia, Cannabis Sativa strains are taller growing and more uplifting in character than their Indica counterparts. Generally, Sativa varieties display higher levels of THC and lower CBD percentages, which may lead some patients to believe they have a lower medicinal value. This is far from true, with Sativa options providing medicinal benefits to patients battling persistent headaches.
While CBD does play an essential role in the effectiveness of cannabis pain management, the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes working hand in hand is what really brings medicinal value to patients.
Best Sativa Strains For Headaches
Durban Poison is a pure Sativa cultivar from South Africa, one of the few actual landrace strains still available. Highly invigorating, this strain is more suited to daytime use. Perfect for those looking to combat morning to early afternoon headaches.
Holding 90% Sativa genetics, Sour Diesel is a popular choice among those looking for a Sativa-based headache management strain. A true fatigue fighter, Sour Diesel is known to provide a strong energetic feeling while lifting the mood, making it suitable for those dealing with headaches caused by stress.
Green Crack has long been a favourite of medicinal cannabis users thanks to its lower THC content (around 16%) while still providing a potent head buzz. Perfect for treating mild headaches without the overly sedative feeling associated with higher THC content strains.
Indica vs Sativa For Headaches
So, are Sativa or Indica options best for preventing headaches in the first place, and for fighting off any signs of a headache when they appear?
Well, as far as the current research shows, hybrid options seem to work best for all pain groups.
That’s right, it appears that a mix of Sativa and Indica genetics in one strain relieves the most pain, but the study does go into more depth.
“When compared to insomnia/sleep disorder patients, headache as primary illness patients were 7.7 times as likely to prefer 3:1 CBD:THC over Indica” and “When compared to arthritis patients, headache as primary symptom patients were 3.4 times as likely to prefer Sativa over 1:1: CBD:THC”.
The conclusion of this one study states that for the vast majority of ‘headache as primary illness patients’, hybrid strains were preferred.
It is essential to remember that cannabis is not an over-the-counter pharmaceutical, so the effects are more subjective. What works for some people may not work for you. We encourage you to try some different options and see what helps prevent your symptoms most effectively.
Other tips for treating headaches with cannabis
In terms of dosage, the same applies. It is again subjective, and considerations like tolerance, age, gender, and body weight must be considered. It is always best to speak to your doctor before making any dosage decisions and start slowly with any new medical cannabis product to see how it affects you.
When it comes to methods of consumption, that is solely dependent on what product you have been prescribed, and also on your preferences. The range of different options now available on the medical market is huge.