When you’re trapped in the throes of a head-splitting migraine, you’ll do anything for relief. Visits to the doctor, medication, and anything that has a remote possibility of providing aid has been tried by countless sufferers. Now, a new treatment option is emerging – cannabis. And more specifically, cannabidiol (CBD).
In recent months, CBD has infiltrated the health and wellness industry. Buoyed by a federal law legalizing hemp, a version of cannabis with high amounts of CBD and very little THC, companies have created everything from CBD lip balm to CBD lotion. Because the cannabinoid can’t get you “high,” people’s interest revolves around its potential medical benefits.
According to a review published in Frontiers of Pharmacology, “Regarding migraine pathology, the vital characteristics justifying the proposed use of medical cannabis include anticonvulsive, analgesic, antiemetic, and anti-inflammatory effects.”  While the evidence reviewed by the researchers is promising, it was not conclusive.
Researchers presented evidence that cannabinoids “are just as suitable as a prophylaxis for migraine attacks as other pharmaceutical treatments” at the 2017 Congress of the European Academy of Neurology Conference. In their study, 79 patients with chronic migraine were either given 200 mg of a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC):CBD combination or a common migraine medication. Cannabis reduced pain intensity, and the authors suggested that it would be best to use cannabinoids to treat acute cluster headaches in people with a history of migraine. 
A more recent study looked at a large dataset of people who described how they used cannabinoids to treat migraines. These self-reported findings indicate that consuming cannabis led to an approximately 50% reduction in headache and migraine severity. Men reported greater reductions, as did concentrate users. While effective, the impact of cannabis on migaine tended to decrease over time. 
Patients interested in trying CBD are left in an uncertain spot. There is research indicating CBD can treat headaches and migraines but, since the medical community is just beginning to delve into the cannabinoid’s benefits, there is no tested protocol for patients to follow. Using CBD medicinally requires a lot of trial and error.
As always, be sure to speak with your doctor if you are interested in using cannabinoids to treat your migraines or any other condition.
- Leimuranta, P., et al., “Emerging Role of (Endo)cannabinoids in Migraine”, Front Pharmacol, vol.9, no. 420, 2018, pg. 1-7.
- Nicolodi, M., et al., “ Therapeutic Use of Cannabinoids – Dose Finding, Effects and Pilot Data of Effects in Chronic Migraine and Cluster Headache”, Eur J Neurol, vol.24, 2017, pg. 287.
- Cuttler, C., et al., “Short- and Long-Term Effects of Cannabison Headache and Migraine”, J Pain, 2019, in press.