Headaches are a common form of chronic pain and affect many people worldwide. There is quite a difference in the levels at which a person can experience headaches, and how often they can occur. This article explains how different types of headaches may be affected by cannabis use to see whether the plant really can or can't work as a remedy.
There are plenty of pharmaceutical products that claim to relieve headaches, but it may be that your looking for a more natural route (the side effects from medications can often cause further headaches). In its many forms, cannabis may be able to provide the ideal solution as it has been shown to be an effective pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. At the same time, using cannabis for medication can help you avoid putting other potentially harmful chemicals into your body just to deal with the pain.
The problem with many of the pharmaceutical products on the market is that they contain substances that can be harsh for the body. The symptoms of a bad headache may be relieved after taking, for example, Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, however the way these chemicals interact with our body may be detrimental to its functions in the long term.
Before we get started, it's important to understand how different headaches occur. There are many different kinds of headaches that can affect a person, but here we are focusing on the common primary headaches that aren't associated with other medical conditions or disorders (secondary headaches).
|As a powerful anti-inflammatory, cannabis can help to alleviate symptoms of tension headaches.
|Cluster headaches may even be caused by consuming marijuana frequently, which increases heart rate and blood flow.
|Cannabis has shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines in medical users.
From this we can gather that cannabis may help with headaches in some cases, but may make them worse in others.
Cannabis has been used to treat headaches for a long time, with findings that date back as far as 200 BC. Unfortunately, its benefits have been forgotten by many due to its legality, which has prevented thorough study. Before it became illegal, there are many reports of physicians and doctors who treated headaches successfully using cannabis.
Today, there is a lack of research due to the study of cannabis still being prohibited in many countries, however, professionals are beginning to recognize its medical potential once again. There have been some notable cases over recent years that are worth mentioning, which we get into more detail below.
Let's take a look at some of the studies that have been recently conducted regarding cannabis use and how it can work for headaches. Nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid, has been the drug used up until now for some clinical studies. Cannabis has even shown to be more effective at reducing headaches than ibuprofen, although this particular study did involve the use of nabilone.
A study conducted at the Washington State University in 2019 found through user-reported data (from an app specifically for medical cannabis users to report results from consumption of over 1000 different strains) that inhaled cannabis flowers, taking into consideration factors such as the type of cannabis, age, gender, cannabinoid content (THC or CBD) and dose.
Researchers found that of all the participants, cannabis both reduced headaches and migraines in men and women, but not in every single case. Overall, cannabis reduced headaches in men and women by about 47%:
Further details of the study indicated that cannabis concentrates and extracts showed higher rates of reduction in headaches than the buds.
In another report, 40% of the patients in the study claimed that medical marijuana helped reduce their migraine frequency by over half each month, reporting an overall positive effect and result.
Tip: Repeated cannabis consumption may reduce the effectiveness (increased tolerance) of treating headache pain, meaning users often need to up the dose after multiple uses.
CBD (cannabidiol), the primary, non-intoxicating cannabinoid present in the cannabis flower, is known for the variety of health benefits it can provide. Medicinal users often do not want the psychoactive high associated with THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), and CBD extracts provide a good alternative.
Because CBD more widely accepted with fewer restrictions, it is well studied and becoming more common for treating all kinds of pain-related problems, including headaches.
Many users report fast, effective relief from inhaling cannabis. Both flowers with high THC content and concentrates or extracts can work quickly to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Vaporizing may be the way to go as vaporizers provide an easy, safe way to medicate and strip the beneficial compounds from the flower. There are also vaporizers designed for concentrates and extracts.
You can also take THC and CBD extracts orally. Drops of CBD extracts can be placed under the tongue for fast relief.
Tip: Smoking cannabis may not be the best solution as combustion of the herb can produce harmful chemicals that may exacerbate headaches.
Suffering from persistent headaches can really set a person back in their life and prevent them from being at their best. Cannabis may offer a solution for those looking to treat their headache the natural way.
If you found this article useful or have had any success treating headaches with cannabis, we'd love to hear your thoughts! Please feel free to leave a comment down below.
Cannabis reduces headache and migraine pain by nearly half Sara Zaske ( 2019 )
Short- and Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on Headache and Migraine Carrie Cuttler | Alexander Spradlin | Michael J. Cleveland | Rebecca M. Craft ( 2019 )
Patterns of medicinal cannabis use, strain analysis, and substitution effect among patients with migraine, headache, arthritis, and chronic pain in a medicinal cannabis cohort Eric P. Baron | Philippe Lucas | Joshua Eades | Olivia Hogue ( 2018 )
The Use of Cannabis for Headache Disorders Bryson C. Lochte | Alexander Beletsky | Nebiyou K. Samuel | Igor Grant ( 2017 )
Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
This article was updated April 2021.