Can marijuana help treat or prevent migraines? WebMD explores how pot works for headache pain and the possible side effects. Find out what the most recent research says about the safety and effectiveness of CBD oil for migraines. CBD is a popular option for people looking for natural ways to treat pain and discomfort, including chronic headaches and migraines.
Medical Marijuana and CBD Oils for Migraines
Migraine headaches can be tough to treat. If your pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light or noise don’t get better with over-the-counter or even prescription drugs, is there another option?
Marijuana might be one under-the-counter remedy for migraine relief. Some research shows that it may help ease migraine symptoms or possibly keep them from starting. But most studies haven’t found solid proof of that.
And in some states, it isn’t legal to buy, grow, own, or use marijuana, even for medical reasons. Make sure you find out about your state’s laws before trying it.
How Does Pot Ease Pain?
Marijuana is another name for cannabis, a bushy plant that’s used to make paper, rope, and other products.
Inside your brain and other parts of your body, you have a network of cannabinoid receptors. These are tiny loops of protein that affect how you feel pain.
Marijuana has natural compounds called cannabinoids. When you use it, these cannabinoids go into your body and look for the receptors. They change how the receptors work, and they may calm down pain signals.
Cannabinoids may also help with nausea, anxiety, muscle spasms, or other health problems.
THC is the cannabinoid in marijuana that gets most of the attention. It’s what makes you feel high or relaxed. But another product made from cannabis called cannabidiol (CBD) doesn’t make you feel intoxicated and may help ease pain. Several states have made it legal for CBD to be used for medical reasons.
Does It Work for Migraines?
There’s not a lot of research on this. In a study at the University of Colorado, 121 people who got regular migraine headaches used marijuana daily to prevent attacks. About 40% of them said the number of migraine headaches they got each month was cut in half.
The people used different types of marijuana, but they mostly inhaled it to ease a migraine in progress and some found that it did help stop the pain. Edible products didn’t seem to work as well.
The people who inhaled or smoked marijuana also said it was easier to control the amount of the drug they took in, and they had fewer negative reactions.
What Are the Risks?
If you smoke or eat marijuana, it can make you feel dizzy, weak, confused, sleepy, or moody. And smoking it on a regular basis could harm your heart and lung health over time. Regular use could also lead to addiction and other problems. Short-term use doesn’t seem to be bad for your general health.
Marijuana is legal for medical use in more than half the states in the U.S. But each state has different laws about how you can buy it or how much you can have. In several states, it’s still illegal to have it even if you have a medical problem that it could treat.
If you have a job, it’s a good idea to know your employer’s rules around drug testing and use, even if it’s legal for medical use in your state. Tests can tell if you have marijuana in your system. And it can stay there up to 30 days after you’ve used it.
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University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health: “Medical Marijuana for the Treatment of Migraine Headaches: An Evidence Review.”
National Conference of State Legislatures: “State Medical Marijuana Laws.”
Manzanares, J. Current Neuropharmacology. July 2006.
Benbadis, S. Expert Reviews of Neurotherapeutics. Published online Nov. 2014.
Project CBD.org: “What Is CBD?”
Rhyne, D. Pharmacotherapy. Jan. 2016.
Americans for Safe Access: “Guide to Using Medical Cannabis.”
Degenhardt, L and Hall, WD. Canadian Medical Association Journal. June 2008.
National Association of Attorneys General: “The Effects of Marijuana Legalization on Employment Law.”
National Institute on Drug Abuse: “The Biology and Potential Therapeutic Effects of Cannabidiol.”
State of Oregon: “Frequently Asked Questions About Marijuana in the Workplace.”
Can CBD Oil Treat a Migraine?
Sherry Christiansen is a medical writer with a healthcare background. She has worked in the hospital setting and collaborated on Alzheimer’s research.
Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Huma Sheikh, MD, is board-certified in neurology and specializes in migraine and stroke. She co-founded the migraine and vascular section for the American Headache Society.
With the laws governing the legal use of medical marijuana beginning to loosen up, there’s quite a bit of focus on the use of CBD oil—a component of the marijuana plant—for treating everything from arthritis to chronic pain, including migraines. But what is CBD oil, and does it really work to relieve migraine headaches?
Verywell / Ellen Lindner
Cannabidiol (CBD) is just one of over 100 different substances found in the the Cannabis sativa plant. The portion of the cannabis plant that produces a high (the psychotropic effect) is called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Depending on how it’s processed, CBD oil contains very little (or is completely void of) THC.
Due to the pervasiveness and debilitating effects of migraine headaches, there’s been a lot of clinical research aimed at trying to find an effective treatment to minimize the frequency of migraines and alleviate the pain.
Medical experts currently consider the pain from a migraine headache the result of intense stimulation to sensory nerves—a response to inflammatory agents which are released when a migraine occurs. This would explain why powerful analgesic and anti-inflammatory agents, such as CBD oil, may be effective in the treatment of migraines.
Properties of CBD Oil That Relieve Migraine
- Potent analgesic (pain relieving) properties
- Antiemetic (preventing nausea and vomiting) properties
- Powerful anti-inflammatory effects
CBD oil has gotten a lot of attention for its powerful pain-relieving properties, particularly since cannabis use is becoming legal in many states (33 as of October 2019, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but details vary). In June 2018, the FDA approved CBD for the first time for a new seizure medication called Epidiolex (cannabidiol) [CBD] oral solution.
According to a study published in Frontiers in Pharmacy, while there are many experts who advocate for the use of CBD oil for migraines, there is still not enough evidence to prove that treatment will CBD oil will be completely effective for alleviating migraine headaches.
The researchers add that given time, as the legalities around medical marijuana and CBD oil change, more research may be able to show that CBD oil works well enough and consistently enough to treat migraines.
“Cannabinoids—due to their anticonvulsive, analgesic, antiemetic, and anti-inflammatory effects —present a promising class of compounds for both acute [short-term, severe] and prophylactic [preventative] treatment of migraine pain,” explained lead study author Pinja Leimuranta, of the University of Eastern Finland. Although the researchers say that we are not completely there yet, they add that CBD oil can “absolutely help relieve some symptoms related to migraines.”
While few clinical research studies have examined the use of CBD to treat migraines, a 2016 study, published in Pharmacotherapy, found that the frequency of migraines was reduced from nearly 10 per month to only approximately four per month in a group of medical marijuana users. Research presented in 2017 at the Congress of the European Academy of Neurology showed that cannabinoids might help prevent migraines as well as easing the pain of migraine headache.
Additionally, a 2017 review of cannabis treatment for headaches outlined existing research, patient surveys, and case reports showing the efficacy of cannabis for migraine and other headache disorders. A 2018 review described experimental evidence for the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of migraine as well as other headaches and chronic pain.
Uses and Safety
Previous research studies have shown that CBD oil, unlike THC, does not cause a euphoric high or psychotropic effects, and is typically less controversial and safer for medicinal use. CBD oil has been shown, in a limited number of studies, to be effective in the treatment of many disorders, including diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and migraines.
The type of cannabis that CBD is composed of is well tolerated and safe in humans. In one study, when cannabis with THC was given to study subjects, they experienced an increased heart rate, anxiety, and psychotic symptoms. However, participants who took CBD oil—lacking THC—did not experience side effects (including psychotic symptoms).
Should You Use It?
Anyone considering the use of CBD oil for migraines should consult with their healthcare provider before taking it. It’s important to note that not all sources of the product are reputable.
Prescription drugs with CBD do not have any THC at all. But many over-the-counter CBD oil products, such as those sold online, contain trace amounts of THC.
Another important action step to take before deciding to use CBD oil is to check to ensure that it is legal in your home state. Many states still consider even the prescribed use of CBD oil illegal, due to its link to marijuana. And the FDA has not approved any CBD products (prescription or over-the-counter), aside from Epidiolex.
This certainly does not indicate that people with migraines should stop searching for an effective treatment to alleviate pain and discomfort, nor should they give up hope. There are many proven effective solutions available for those who suffer from migraine headaches.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Lochte BC, Beletsky A, Samuel NK, Grant I. The use of cannabis for headache disorders. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):61-71. doi:10.1089/can.2016.0033
Leimuranta P, Khiroug L, Giniatullin R. Emerging role of (endo)cannabinoids in migraine. Front Pharmacol. 2018;9:420. doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00420
Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909
Nicolodi M, Sandoval V, Terrine A. Therapeutic use of cannabinoids – dose finding, effects, and pilot data of effects in chronic migraine and cluster headache. Abstract presentation at 3rd congress of the European Academy of Neurology (EAN), Amsterdam, 2017.
By Sherry Christiansen
Sherry Christiansen is a medical writer with a healthcare background. She has worked in the hospital setting and collaborated on Alzheimer’s research.
The Ultimate Guide for Using CBD for Headaches
CBD is a popular option for people looking for natural ways to treat pain and discomfort, including chronic headaches and migraines. When creating a CBD oil for headaches treatment plan, you’ll want to follow the steps outlined below:
How to Use CBD for Headaches
- Decide on Topical or Oral CBD
- Figure Out Dosage
- Rest and Evaluate
CBD is a medicinal cannabis compound extracted from hemp plants (genus cannabis) with minimal or no THC content. It works in the body by regulating and protecting the endocannabinoid system, which influences inflammation, pain, sleep, and more.
Studies have shown that the therapeutic benefits of CBD for headaches could be more than previously thought, as it may help to reduce the pain associated with headache and migraine conditions. In a recent medical study , those who received CBD reported a significant reduction in the amount of headache pain than those who were not given CBD.
Can CBD Help with Headaches?
Because a migraine headache is so common and debilitating, there have been many clinical trial research studies performed to find an effective treatment for reducing the incidence of migraines and lessen the migraine pain. One therapy that’s becoming increasingly popular is using CBD for headaches.
A study on the use of medical marijuana for a chronic migraine was published in the journal Pharmacotherapy in 2016. Researchers discovered that 39.7 percent of the 48 persons polled said they had fewer migraine bouts overall. The research reported that the frequency of chronic migraines in a group of medicinal marijuana users was reduced from about 10 per month to only around four per month. And according to research presented at the European Academy of Neurology’s Congress in 2017, CBD may reduce migraines and relieve the agony of migraine headaches, according to research
How Does CBD Oil Help with Headaches?
A tension headache is a common condition that causes severe pain behind the eyes, around the temples, or in the back of the head. It can be triggered by anything from stress and lack of sleep to sinus problems and menstruation. The pain can vary from mild to severe, and sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s causing it in the first place. CBD is thought to lessen the nerve pain by attaching to glycine receptors in the brain, which control how quickly nerve signals flow between nerve cells.
The benefits of CBD for a severe headache are many, and range from mild to long-term relief. Individuals with a history of addiction to other substances may also take advantage of CBD for a headache as it’s not addictive, making it a safe option to consider if you need to stop taking an over-the-counter or prescription medication for pain.
There have been studies of the dulling effects CBD has on pain. By interrupting the messages from the brain to the body, the user doesn’t feel the pain as an acute migraine. Not surprisingly, roughly four out of 10 men and women who use CBD products, say they use them for migraine relief.
CBD oil may also help with long-term relief by reducing migraine symptoms that have been long-term triggers for the individual. For example, people who regularly experience chronic pain tend to have a heightened sense of anxiety; this is not only unpleasant, but it can take a serious toll on overall mental health.
CBD oil has been shown to be an effective anxiety treatment. This is because CBD may help balance out the brain’s endocannabinoid system, producing naturally occurring chemicals, like anandamide. CBD oil may also positively affect certain types of headaches, such as a chronic migraine or cluster headache.
Is CBD Safe for Headache Use?
CBD, unlike THC, doesn’t produce a euphoric high or psychoactive effect, making it less contentious and safer for medical use. CBD oil has proven to be useful in treating a variety of conditions; detailed in a number of health studies.
CBD is a great, natural alternative to traditional medication because it has minimal side effects. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of using marijuana, CBD oil is a great option because it can give you similar migraine relief without the psychoactive high. It’s available in various strengths from different CBD brands or health stores.
CBD oil products made from CBD have become increasingly popular in the medical market because of their functional wellness benefits. CBD has a calming effect on the nervous system, and some users of CBD oil have reported benefits like relief from chronic headaches.
Just like any other type of natural medication, CBD oil does not have to be taken in large quantities to be effective. You need just the right amount of CBD in your system for the proper dose to work.
How to Use CBD for Headaches
1. Decide On Topical or Oral CBD Usage
Oral applications and topicals are the two of the most popular ways people take CBD. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people can take CBD by ingesting it in beverages or edible CBD products, like CBD gummies , tinctures , or soft gel capsules . There are also topicals you can apply directly to your skin, such as salves and lotions.
Topical CBD creams are one of the most popular ways to enjoy the therapeutic effects of CBD. After you apply the lotion or salve, your body absorbs the CBD oil through its skin.
CBD topicals deliver the primary benefits of CBD to your body through two main mechanisms:
- Cannabinoids bind with receptors near pain pathways and block out pain signals.
- CBD works on many levels, including reducing swelling and inflammation.
When applied topically, substances that interact with the CB2 receptors in our bodies can help relieve pain, which is why many people often use topical CBD creams for arthritis pain, soreness, or other chronic conditions.
When you apply CBD topicals directly to the skin, it can help reduce swelling and other migraine symptoms associated with inflammation.
Oral CBD Usage
CBD can be prescribed by a doctor in pill form or taken through a tincture oil. Taking CBD orally implies consuming CBD through the mouth. There are two ways to orally ingest CBD for headaches:
This approach, often known as “under-the-tongue,” involves placing droplets of CBD oil tinctures beneath your tongue and holding them there for 30 to 60 seconds before swallowing. CBD is absorbed through the capillaries in your mouth, entering the circulation and finally reaching the ECS’s cannabinoid receptor.
Compared to other CBD applications, this CBD consumption technique offers one of the greatest bioavailability percentages. Because CBD molecules are delivered directly into the bloodstream through the mouth’s mucous membranes, they avoid being processed through the first-pass metabolism.
Directly swallowing CBD in the form of a pill, candy, soft gel, or other edible ways is referred to as ingesting CBD. When you consume CBD, the molecules must first go through your digestive system and make their way to your liver, where they are first broken down; this is referred to as the first-pass metabolism.
The remaining chemicals are then delivered to the bloodstream once the liver has metabolized the CBD. Therefore, CBD has slightly lower bioavailability when consumed; digestive enzymes break it down into useless components before it reaches the bloodstream. Ingested CBD, on the other hand, appears to still have a long-lasting compared with any other application route.
Which Type of CBD Oil Should I Use for my Headache?
If your migraine pain or discomfort is localized to the temples or the base of your neck, a topical CBD product could be very effective, but if you have whole-body pain or the affected pain area is covered by your head hair, an oral CBD product may be a better option. Don’t be afraid to try both, though, and decide for yourself which one works best for your headache pain.
2. Figure Out Dosage
Your optimal dosage amount of CBD oil will depend on a variety of factors, including weight and metabolism. It is always recommended to start low and go slow when using new medications or supplements. Everyone has an individual tolerance level, which is why the recommended CBD Dosage may range from person to person.
The most common CBD oil dosage is between 25mg to 50mg per day. The amount you take can vary based on the severity of your headache and the length of time you’ve been experiencing migraine symptoms. Keep in mind that you should take it consistently to be effective if you are taking CBD oil for chronic pain.
The effects of CBD may also depend on what type of CBD you are using. For example, if you start with a product at a lower concentration, such as 15 mg per day for three days, and then increase to 30 mg per day for another week or so before increasing again, this will help your body adjust to the effects.
3. Rest and Evaluate
Now that you’ve determined which CBD product to use and how much to consume, it’s time to sit back, rest, and evaluate.
If the CBD treatment is effective, your headache pain will begin to subside and you’ll start feeling more relaxed. If you can, take a nap—the CBD will help you sleep, and it’s a great way to let your brain rest as much as possible.
If you don’t feel much of anything after a couple hours, you may need to try a stronger dose or different consumption method. You may also consider rubbing CBD salve or CBD balm on your temples and neck, which can help relax the muscles and give you relief.
Are there any CBD side effects to watch out for?
CBD has very minimal side effects, but there are a few you might experience if you consume too much or are particularly sensitive to cannabinoids.
The most likely side effect you’ll experience is feelings of sleepiness or lethargy. However, CBD can also cause nausea and diarrhea. Because nausea and diarrhea are common side effects of many other drugs, patients may consider consulting with their doctor if they experience any of them.
You can also minimize side effects by drinking adequate water, eating enough protein, and getting sufficient sleep. Patients who suffer from frequent migraine attacks might need to take more than one dose per day and receive continuous therapy.
Where to Buy CBD Products for Headaches
More and more people are turning to CBD oil to manage chronic headaches and migraines, and for good reason: CBD is an effective treatment for headaches due to its anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving properties. It’s also natural, making it a great alternative to prescription medications.
If you’re ready to try CBD oil for headaches, shop FarmerandChemist.com ’s wide selection of CBD products. We carry only the highest-quality, premium CBD products, and have a team of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians ready to answer any questions you may have about using CBD to treat headaches or migraines.