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CBD Guides: Can CBD help headache pain?

We examine the science to see if CBD could help with reducing the intensity and frequency of headache pain



Headaches can be a debilitating experience that can mean days off school or work. They can leave us in bed unable to function.

We examine the science of whether CBD could help to reduce headache pain and what is the best way to take it.

What are headaches?

Headaches are usually a pain in your head which is usually described as throbbing. They can be caused by a number of different things such as stress, colds, hangovers, dehydration and missing a regular mealtime. They can also be a side effect of medications or a symptom of a condition.

Headache: A banner article advertising the Medical Cannabis Clinics

They usually go away on their own but if a headache starts to linger, could CBD help?

It is important to note that if a headache is caused by a fall where a person has hit their head, the NHS recommend that you visit a hospital immediately.

What are the different types of headaches?

There are a number of different headache types which can have their own set of symptoms. The most common are:

Migraine headaches:

Migraines may feel like a throbbing pain on one side of the head. The pain may also be accompanied by feeling sick and sensitivity to light.

Tension headaches:

A tension headache includes pain on both sides of the head potentially accompanied by neck pain. It can be mild to moderate pain.

Cluster headaches:

Cluster headaches are usually excruciating pain felt on one side of the head and the eyes. Sometimes they can be triggered due to strong scents such as perfume although the exact causes are unknown.

How can CBD help?

The American Migraine Association has said that CBD “may still be a viable topical option for some patients with joint and muscle pain associated with migraine.” But what do the studies reveal when it comes to headache pain?

A review of studies on headache disorders in 2017 revealed that CBD was found to be helpful in potentially managing pain.

A study from 2016 found that CBD may help with migraine pain relief. The study took place at two medical cannabis clinics in Colorado. The patients used medical cannabis that had a percentage of CBD but also contained THC. The results showed that 48 patients reported that it had helped to reduce the number of headaches they experienced and the frequency. A further 24 patients found that it stopped their headaches.

Another phase 1 study from 2017 found that higher doses of CBD and THC may help to reduce the pain. Two groups of migraine patients were given two different oral formulas of cannabinoids. One group had a 19 per cent THC concentration with low CBD while the other patients were given 9 per cent CBD with virtually no THC. The groups reported that doses at 100 mg had no effect on their pain but 55 per cent of patients reported pain reduction at 200 mg. The second phase of the study included cluster headache patients and introduced some prescription medications.

After three months of monitoring, the results showed the THC: CBD combination reduced the attacks by 40.4 per cent and the intensity by 43.5 per cent.

Another review from 2020 revealed that CBD may help with reducing chronic pain and help with sleep issues. Sleep may be difficult for those with headaches due to the pain. Although researchers noted there needs to be more studies into this.

Headache: Two people sitting on the ground with headache pain

Can CBD help with tension headaches?

Stress, anxiety and tiredness may be contributing factors to tension headaches.

CBD may help to reduce stress and anxiety.

A study from 2011 on patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD) revealed that CBD may help to reduce anxiety. Patients were given 400 mg of CBD or a placebo. Those who were given CBD reported lower levels of anxiety.

Reduced levels of anxiety may help with a lack of sleep and also with tension held in the body.

What is the best way to take CBD for headaches?

There is no right or wrong way to take CBD for headache pain. Some people prefer oils or tinctures so they can measure the amount of CBD they are taking.

However, some people may prefer to take edibles due to the taste. It is worth trying a few different options and brands before deciding what works best for your headache pain.

Some people use creams or balms that contain CBD. This has to be absorbed through the skin before being added to the bloodstream. Oils and vapes may be absorbed faster so if the pain is bad, they may be a better option. This is much the same with edibles due to the first pass system which means they have to be broken down by the digestive system first.

Roll on CBD muscle tonics may help if applied to pressure points on the head. These include between the eyebrows, the base of the neck and the shoulder well. However, there are very limited studies that show this to work and most are on tension headaches combined with massage.

Can CBD give me a headache?

If you are using a lab-tested, regulated and reputable CBD then it should not cause headaches. If you do experience headaches, stop taking CBD to determine if this may be the cause. All examine if there has been any new stress, medications or concerns that could contribute to developing this pain.

How much CBD do I take for a headache?

Every person is different so there is no set amount of CBD that works for all of us.

The best way is to ‘start low, start slow’ when taking any supplement so you can monitor what works best for you over time. Keeping a CBD log or diary may help to record any changes you experience.


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.

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