Marijuana prevents, cures migraines and cluster headaches - study

Years after it was found cluster headaches and migraines can be treated with magic mushrooms, another unlikely cure has been suggested: marijuana.

New research presented at a neurology conference in Europe has found a daily dose of THC - the stuff in marijuana that gets you high - and cannabidiol (CBD) - the stuff in medicinal marijuana which doesn't - can reduce the number of cluster headaches by up as much as 40 percent.

That's comparable to amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant, but only seemed to work if the patient previously reported also having migraines.

As for the pain, the THC-CBD combo appeared to reduce the severity of migraines by 43.5 percent and cluster headaches by 55 percent.

"We were able to demonstrate that cannabinoids are an alternative to established treatments in migraine prevention," lead researcher Maria Nicolodi from the Interuniversity Center in Florence told the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology in Amsterdam.

Just why it works isn't yet clear, but it's believed cannabinoids prevent the release of serotonin, which can narrow blood vessels. They may also have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Around 200mg seemed to be the sweet spot, with half that amount providing no benefits at all.

Side effects included drowsiness and an inability to concentrate - a short list compared to what people taking tricyclics often suffer, which includes dry mouth, constipation, urinary issues, memory loss, anxiety, hypersensitivity, weight gain, tachycardia and blurry vision.

Other benefits users of the THC-CBD combo reported include decreases in stomach pain and, for women only, musculoskeletal pain.

The results are yet to be peer-reviewed.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne earlier this year announced plans to lift some restrictions on the prescription and use of CBD products.