The present review has four unique aims: (1) Highlight common historical trends in the use of cannabis in the treatment of headache to inform future clinical guidelines. (2) Briefly present the current clinical literature on this topic, with a focus on more recent publications that have not been discussed in past reviews. (3) Compile various preclinical studies into a prospective integrated model outlining the role of cannabinoids in the modulation of headache pathogenesis. (4) Outline several 19,32–35 future directions that warrant exploration based on the limited, but promising findings on this topic.
Many individuals are currently using cannabis for the treatment of migraine and headache with positive results. In a survey of nine California clinics (N=1746), physicians recorded headaches and migraines as a reason for approving a medical marijuana ID card in 2.7% of cases, and 40.7% patients self-reported that cannabis had therapeutic benefits for headaches and migraines. In another California survey of 7525 patients, 8.43% of patients reported that they were using medical cannabis to treat migraines. Another survey of 1430 patients found that 9% of patients were using medical cannabis to treat migraines (subdivided into 7.5% for classical migraines, 1% for cluster headaches, and 0.5% for others). Other studies have reported the use of cannabis for migraine or headache relief, with specific estimates including 5% (N=24,800) and 6.6% (N=128) for migraines and 3.6% (N=128) and 7.4% (N=217) for headache.
Historical Use of Cannabis for Headache
Historical reports, though not ideal forms of evidence, are important resources for understanding the potential use of cannabis in the treatment of headache disorders. Clinical publications between 1839 and 1937 provide valuable insights into the most effective practices, challenges, and benefits during an era when cannabis was commonly used to treat headache. A summary of historical treatment practices using cannabis for migraines can be seen in Table 1 . Historical sources indicate that cannabis was used as an effective prophylactic and abortive treatment for headache disorders. Although dosing varied among physicians, most prescribed alcohol extractions of the drug in the range of ¼ to ½ grain (16–32 mg). 28,32,36–40 This dose was likely chosen to minimize the effects of intoxication while also providing effective therapeutic relief. Other providers suggested that doses should be progressively increased until modest effects of intoxication were felt. 19 For prophylactic treatment, these doses were usually administered two to three times daily for weeks or even months. 28,32,36–38 Acute treatment often involved higher doses taken as needed and, in some cases, smoked cannabis was recommended. 19,41–42
Other studies have looked specifically at the change in the occurrence of headache disorders with use of cannabis. 52 One retrospective study described 121 patients who received cannabis for migraine treatment, among whom 85.1% of these patients reported a reduction in migraine frequency. 47 The mean number of migraines at the initial visit was 10.4, falling to 4.6 at follow-up visits after cannabis treatment. Moreover, 11.6% of the patients found that, when smoked, cannabis could effectively arrest the generation of a migraine. These results indicate that cannabis may be an effective treatment option for certain migraine sufferers.
When cannabis was deemed illegal by the U.S. government, its therapeutic use and research into its medical potential was largely discontinued. To this day, there are few clinical investigations of the use of cannabis for headache; however, the studies that have emerged demonstrate potential efficacy. In addition, numerous pre-clinical investigations 18 have validated the role of endocannabinoids in preventing headache pathophysiology, which suggests a mechanistic role of cannabis in the treatment of these disorders. Although the cannabis plant comprises more than 100 cannabinoids, there has been little study of the individual effects of these cannabinoids on headache disorders; therefore, the present review will focus largely on the clinical potential of the cannabis plant as a whole.
Prevention methods include a generally healthy lifestyle, reducing stress and tiredness, quitting smoking, and medication in the case of cluster headaches.
If you prefer, CBD Capsules are also available, and our 1.5% capsules are vegan friendly, and infused with Turmeric and Black Pepper.
Migraines are common, affecting roughly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 15 men in the UK. Cluster headaches are thankfully rarer, and tend to occur more for men, in their 30s and 40s.
Is CBD good for migraines and cluster headaches?
If you suffer from frequent or severe migraine symptoms, you should see a GP.
There are different types of migraine, but they are generally categorised as a moderate or severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head, often accompanied by feeling sick, vomiting or increased sensitivity to light or sound. A cluster headache is a sharp, excruciating pain often felt around the eye, temple and sometimes face on one side of the head.
Useful migraines/cluster headaches links
Currently there are relatively few studies looking at the role of CBD for migraines and cluster headaches. One study looked at cannabinoids as “Effects of Medical Marijuana on Migraine Headache Frequency in an Adult Population” ( link )
The studies that do exist suggest that CBD may help to relieve the pain of migraines and cluster headaches. For example, “Medicinal Properties of Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Flavonoids in Cannabis, and Benefits in Migraine, Headache, and Pain: An Update on Current Evidence and Cannabis Science” ( link ), “The Use of Cannabis for Headache Disorders” ( link ), and “Emerging Role of (Endo) Cannabinoids in Migraine” ( link ).