Growing evidence suggests cannabis could help migraine and headache symptoms. However, more research is necessary to confirm the efficacy of cannabis as a migraine treatment.

Migraine is a condition that typically involves headaches, among other symptoms. They are more than just a “bad headache” — they can be debilitating. Migraine may have a significant impact on daily life, making it difficult for people to work and perform everyday activities. While pharmaceutical interventions are available, researchers continue to investigate better treatment options and, perhaps one day, a cure.

Cannabis, also known as weed, refers to products of the Cannabis sativa plant. Two well-known components include cannabidiol and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or CBD and THC. Both of these substances interact with the endocannabinoid system and may offer a promising treatment option for treating the frequency and duration of migraine.

This article explores whether cannabis may be beneficial for treating migraine.

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A 2022 review highlights evidence supporting the use of medical cannabis for treating migraine. In particular, it may help reduce the frequency and duration of migraine and lower the severity of common symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting.

Substances such as CBD and THC are also known as cannabinoids. The body has a network of pain receptors called cannabinoid receptors, which form part of the endocannabinoid system. Many of these receptors are present in the central nervous system, including the brain. For a person with migraine, cannabinoids may bind to these receptors and help alleviate pain.

A 2016 study also found that the frequency of migraine headaches in participants reduced from 10.4 to 4.6 headaches per month with medical cannabis use. Cannabis use may also reduce symptoms of headaches. A 2020 study found that participants’ headache scores lowered by just over 47% after smoking cannabis.

Chronic pain affects between 50–116 million people in the United States. A 2016 study found that medical cannabis use related to a decrease in opioid medication use and improved quality of life in people with chronic pain. The study also suggests that cannabis may have a better side effect profile than opioid medication.

A 2020 review notes that cannabinoids such as CBD may reduce inflammation and heightened pain sensation by interacting with certain receptors, such as glycine receptor alpha 3. These receptors contribute to increased pain perception.

Cannabis use is associated with various side effects and risks. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD is generally safe and does not appear to have abuse potential or the ability to cause harm. However, THC — the psychoactive component of cannabis — is responsible for the “high” sensation that people associate with cannabis. Adverse effects of cannabis use may include:

Additionally, the liver cytochrome P450 (CYP-450) system metabolizes THC and CBD in the body. This system also metabolizes many other drugs. As such, potential side effects are likely the result of interactions with other medications a person may be taking.

Under the Controlled Substances Act and the Drug Enforcement Agency, the U.S. government classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug. This indicates that it could have a high potential for abuse and limit it for medical use. However, some state governments within the U.S. have legalized cannabis for medical and recreational use.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 37 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia allow cannabis products for medical use. Additionally, 19 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia allow cannabis products for nonmedical use.

Laws surrounding the use of medical and recreational cannabis are changing rapidly. A person considering using cannabis should check their local laws regularly.

Currently, there is no cure for migraine. However, alternative treatment options outside of cannabis products exist. Health experts typically divide medical treatment into acute and chronic treatment.

The goal of acute migraine treatment is to stop the headache from worsening. Medications that form part of acute treatment may include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These include drugs such as ibuprofen and aim to provide pain relief.
  • Triptans: This type of medication includes drugs such as sumatriptan and aims to reduce pain symptoms by constricting blood vessels in the brain.
  • Antiemetics: These include metoclopramide and chlorpromazine, which aim to reduce nausea and vomiting symptoms.
  • Ergot alkaloids: These drugs include ergotamine and dihydroergotamine. These drugs work by preventing blood vessels from dilating and causing headaches.

Treatment for chronic migraine aims to reduce or prevent future migraine episodes and reduce the disabling effects of migraine. Medications for preventive treatment may include:

Click to learn more about migraine medications and home remedies for migraine.

Migraine can be unpleasant and significantly affect daily life. Typically, they include symptoms such as frequent, debilitating headaches, as well as other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

While more research is still necessary, evidence suggests that cannabis may offer a promising option for treating and reducing the frequency and duration of migraine symptoms.