Connect with us


Cannabis and migraine: What does the latest research say?



An estimated six million people suffer from migraine in the UK

With an estimated six million people suffering in the UK, migraine is one of the common chronic pain conditions. 

A migraine is usually a moderate to severe headache felt as a throbbing pain, however many also experience symptoms including feeling or being sick, and increased sensitivity to light or sound. 

With recommended treatments such as painkillers and triptans having little effect for many, sufferers are turning to new methods to alleviate symptoms – including CBD. Here, Cannabis Health explores the latest research. 

According to a US survey, more than 86 per cent of CBD users saw an improvement in their chronic headaches. 

Results from the clinically validated survey, conducted by Axon Relief in late 2020, showed an overwhelming majority of headache sufferers benefitted from taking CBD oil. The survey asked participants about their headache impact both before and after using the remedy, with positive results at the end of the 30-day trial period. 

During this period, participants reported experiencing an average of 3.8 fewer headache days, when compared to before they used the oil. The number of participants suffering from daily headaches also dropped significantly from 15 to ten. 

Supporting these findings, a study published online in the Journal of Pain in 2019 found that inhaled cannabis reduces migraine severity by 49.6 per cent.

This study is a trailblazer in the field, having been the first to use big data from patients using cannabis in real time, rather than asking patients to recall the effect of cannabis in the past. 

Experts at Integro Medical Clinics have also recently backed up findings, explaining how cannabis medicines can manage and alleviate the pain of migraine.

Discussing its effect, senior clinical advisor and hon. clinical director Dr Anthony Ordman said: “It is likely that substances in cannabis medicines all have roles to play and that they supplement the activity of the brain’s naturally occurring endocannabinoid system. 

“There are three likely mechanisms by which cannabis medicines may be effective. Firstly, the natural stabilising effect of the cannabinoids suppresses the spreading abnormal wave of voltage depression in the brain’s cortical neurones. This wave precedes all migraine attacks.

“Secondly, in migraine, mast cells are involved in dilatation of the blood vessels of the brain’s lining, causing that pulsating headache. Cannabis medicines may prevent this process from occurring.

“And finally, if a migraine does occur, cannabis medicines are likely to block the transmission of pain messages in nerves, to reduce pain itself.”

Recent developments aren’t all positive, however – new findings from the US suggest cannabis could lead to ‘rebound’ headaches in patients living with chronic migraine. 

‘Rebound’ headache, also known as medication overuse headache, occurs when pain medication is overused by patients who have an underlying primary headache disorder such as migraine. 

The preliminary study by a team of researchers at Stanford University, released on March 1st, 2021, looked at the records of 368 people who had chronic migraine – 15 or more headache days per month – for at least a year, with 150 people using cannabis. 

The study found that those using cannabis were six times more likely to have medication overuse headaches than those who did not use cannabis. 

While many sufferers are already feeling the benefits of using medical CBD to alleviate pain from migraine, it is clear more research is needed to determine its exact effects.


Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


Cannabis Health is a journalist-led news site. Any views expressed by interviewees or commentators do not reflect our own. All content on this site is intended for educational purposes, please seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about any of the issues raised.

Copyright © 2023 PP Intelligence Ltd.