CBD Oil for Migraines

Julianna Carbonare
February 25, 2021

The information is provided for informational purposes only and does not relieve readers of their obligation to obtain qualified medical, legal or other professional advice.

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Anyone who is a migraine sufferer knows the reality of just how debilitating a migraine headache can get. The most common symptoms that migraine sufferers deal with are extreme nausea and light sensitivity. The pain can often force the victim to lay down in a dark room until the migraine finally passes.

Treatment options leave much to be desired. Many of the available treatments for migraines today leave patients with additional symptoms that are even less desirable than the migraine itself. Due to this, patients are often left to suffer with no hope on the horizon for lessening their migraine symptoms.

Many migraine sufferers have found CBD oil to be exceptionally helpful in reducing migraine pain without side-effects. In this article, we will explore all the ways that CBD oil might help with migraines, the research behind it, and if CBD oil for migraines could be a good fit for you.

What Are Migraines?

A migraine is a type of headache that causes severe pain of varying intensity in its sufferers. This intense pain is often accompanied by other extreme symptoms like

  • sensitivity to light,
  • nausea,
  • dizziness,
  • fatigue,
  • and sometimes auras.

Auras are one of the most bizarre symptoms the migraine sufferer can experience, and can affect any of the 5 senses. Most commonly, migraine auras cause flashing lights or hallucinations. But sometimes an aura will occur without a migraine, and sometimes the migraine will hit with no warning aura at all.

The total experience of migraine symptoms is often debilitating and leaves sufferers without the ability to complete their normal day-to-day activities. Many times, the sufferer will go to a quiet room and turn out the lights until the headache subsides. 

Migraines are a very common problem. Roughly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 15 men suffer from some form of migraines. Some people have them several times a week, and some only have occasional migraines. Some of the luckier sufferers will have several years pass between attacks. 

CBD oil for migraines
Migraine sufferers may benefit from marijuana - Sasha Wolff from Grand Rapids / CC BY

How To Tell The Difference Between A Migraine And A Headache

Visualization of migraine aura
Visualization of migraine aura - Tehom / Public domain

There are a few ways to distinguish the difference between a headache and a migraine. 

A typical headache usually only causes head pain. Migraines are usually associated with multiple symptoms in addition to the head pain. The sensation of the pain is also different. A typical tension headache causes pain that is almost like a squeezing sensation. This pain usually will last up to a few hours. With a migraine, the pain is a throbbing sensation that is localized to the front or side of the head. It's usually on one side of the head, although it occasionally affects both sides. And the pain can be relentless, lasting up to several days.

The pain and other symptoms experienced with a migraine is often debilitating, leaving the victim unable to attend to normal daily tasks and activities. 

Migraine Pain Management

Migraine pain management
Paracetamol is a common migraine prescription - Mk2010 / CC BY-SA

The pain management options available for migraines are fairly similar to those for treating tension headaches. Sufferers usually start with over the counter medication and by avoiding certain triggers. However, once the pain grows too much, a doctor’s visit and prescription are usually in order.

Prescription medications can help alleviate symptoms for some patients but often come with a host of unwanted side effects. Most migraine sufferers end up trying to manage symptoms on their own for this reason by staying aware of the warning signs that bring on a migraine attack.

For these reasons and more, migraine sufferers are very much in need of an alternative and effective pain management option. Cannabis is becoming a more prominent option in this search, and the recent influx of anecdotal evidence is leading researchers to increase their experimentation with cannabis and migraines.

CBD Oil for Migraines

CBD cold brew
CBD oil can be found in many specialty food products - Deceptitom / CC BY-SA

CBD oil is becoming a hot topic as an alternative treatment for migraine pain. The biggest question in everyone’s head is just that; is CBD oil effective for managing migraine pain and symptoms? 

CBD oil as a treatment method for migraines isn’t a new discovery. Although its usage and effects lack the long-term and in-depth research that is warranted to make it a definite yes in terms of effectiveness, many migraine sufferers have experimented with CBD oil and found success in managing their symptoms. It has even been reported to shorten migraine attacks in addition to minimizing symptoms. 

With promising testimonials and results being recorded, you’re probably wondering if CBD oil could be the treatment solution for you or a loved one’s migraines.

CBD vs THC for Migraines

CBD vs THC both are cannabis molecules that may have an effect on treating migraines
Different types of cannabinoid molecules that may help migraines - Madkamin / CC BY-SA 

It’s worth looking at the effects of both THC and CBD to determine which kind of product can help your migraines.

To date, most of the research on migraine pain with CBD and other cannabis products, has looked at the combination of the two substances, CBD and THC.

While CBD is the substance from cannabis that will not produce any sort of high effect, it has still shown promise for managing many kinds of general pain and inflammation. THC has even stronger pain-managing properties and potential. 

Ideally, experimenting with a product that has a combination of both the compounds to find the most effective mix of CBD to THC would produce the best result, since everyone's individual chemistry and tolerance is different. 

How CBD Oil Affects Migraines

the active ingredient in CBD
The CBD molecule, the active ingredient in CBD oil - Cacyle assumed / CC BY-SA

No one knows for sure how CBD oil affects migraines, or even if it does, but there are theories. One theory is that CBD works with the body’s cannabinoid receptors to maintain homeostasis, but this is just a theory. There really isn't any scientific proof of effectiveness yet. 

Another theory is that CBD helps maintain a high level of the compound anandamide, which in high quantities is known for reducing the activation of the body’s pain receptors. There is also evidence that shows a correlation between CBD and the body’s immune system and its ability to lower the inflammation that comes as a result of a triggered immune system. 

It is also theorized that mammals can develop a deficiency in endocannabinoids causing a host of problems, and that adding CBD to the diet can help to alleviate this deficiency. This is usually referred to as an "endocannabinoid deficiency" and supplementation with CBD is viewed in much the same way as supplementation with vitamins and minerals. 

Side Effects of CBD Oil for Migraines

The minimal side effects of CBD are part of the reason it’s such a popular alternative treatment for migraines. Whereas many of the prescription migraine medications come with adverse and unwanted side effects, studies have demonstrated that there are few to minimal side effects when it comes to CBD and CBD oil. 

Some of the possible side effects can include fatigue, drowsiness, or an upset stomach. In extreme cases, liver toxicity has also been observed in lab studies where exceptionally large doses of CBD-rich cannabis extract were administered; but it is unknown whether the massive amount of oil given is a factor (738 and 2460 mg/kg CBD as 3× and 10× doses, respectively).

Side effect risks also come with the method you choose to ingest CBD. For example, smoking CBD will still put you at risk for lung damage and complications whereas eating it won't.

Research for CBD and Migraines

There is a lack of truly conclusive research on CBD alone as a treatment method specifically for migraines. Rather, most research has been done on medicinal marijuana as a whole, including its THC components. However, there have been promising results when it comes to how medical marijuana as a whole treats pain, including pain produced by migraines.

A survey in 2016 by Pharmacotherapy showed that medical marijuana may be able to actually decrease the frequency of migraines. During the study, participants reported a reduction in migraines from 10.4 down to 4.6 per month.  

Other studies have shown medical marijuana to be a great bridge when stepping down from heavier pain relievers such as opioids. Those with severe migraine symptoms probably know the struggle of using stronger, pharmaceutical pain relievers all too well. 

The recorded data that is available shows favorable promise for CBD and medical marijuana as a whole. For those who want to decrease pharmaceutical drug usage, CBD oil could be very well worth the try. 

Legality of CBD Oil

Map of CBD oil legality in the US
Marijuana legality varies by state - Lokal_Profil / CC BY-SA

CBD oil derived from hemp (low THC cannabis) is completely legal in almost every single state except for the following three: 

  • Nebraska maintains that it's technically illegal, but decriminalized the oil in 2019; 
  • Idaho makes access so restrictive that it might as well be illegal;
  • South Dakota maintains that all cannabis products, including hemp, are flatly illegal. 

So, when it comes to cannabis products that are solely made with CBD (extremely minimal, to no THC percentage in the product), it’s very likely you live in a state where CBD from hemp is now legal. 

But most agree that the best form of CBD oil comes from high-CBD flower. This is because hemp has varying levels of CBD and some types of hemp have almost none. But because most high CBD flower has more THC than what is legally allowed for the hemp classification (0.3%), this high-quality oil can only be found in legal cannabis states. 

Some states require a medical marijuana card for certain types of CBD oil derived from flower. For these states, patients will need to go through their home state’s process for obtaining a medical marijuana card through a licensed medical marijuana doctor before purchasing CBD products. Other states allow all forms of cannabis for adult use and the oil can be readily found in many types of stores.

The federal government recently legalized hemp production, but states still maintain their own rules for hemp and CBD production, so it's important to check state laws before starting any CBD-oil treatment.

How to Use CBD Oil for Migraines

Hempseed oil
Hempseed oil, unlike CBD oil, contains little-to-no cannabinoids that could help ease migraines

It is a common misconception that hempseed oil can supplement cannabinoids in the diet. This is not true though because hempseed oil contains almost no cannabinoids. Instead, users need to seek out hemp oil or CBD oil, and the most potent types of CBD oil are derived from flower and shake.

There are a multitude of ways in which patients can consume or use CBD oil for migraines. If you’re at a loss for which method is right for you, the best person to consult would be your doctor so you can discuss your unique symptoms and needs. 

Some of the various ways of consuming CBD include:

  • Eating it in a food or beverage
  • Taking it as a capsule
  • Smoking it and/or using a vaporizer
  • Liquid drops taken orally

Your medical marijuana doctor will also be able to recommend the best dosage to start with and then experiment with, as you note the effectiveness of the CBD on your migraines. It’s always best to start with the smallest dosage possible and only increase as needed. 

CBD Products for Migraines

Below are some of the more popular CBD oils for migraines. These are cannabis products without THC, so they are more widely available and accessible for most. 

  • Sabaidee CBD Oil - A very highly rated product that makes all of its products lab testing public.
  • Spruce CBD Oil - An organic, vegan, and gluten free brand. This product is known for its high potency and effectiveness.

  • Penguin CBD Oil - A younger company, but their products are already adored by many. Its cannabis is sourced from Oregon growers.

  • Fab CBD Oil - This is a Colorado hemp product with high potency available. It’s also recognized for its good flavor. 

How THC Oil Affects Migraines

The research on THC use in migraine sufferers is rapidly increasing as legalization increases opportunities and availability of the plant for studies. 

It is thought that cannabinoids affect migraines sufferers through 

  • anticonvulsive, 
  • analgesic, 
  • antiemetic, 
  • and anti-inflammatory effects.

The relief from migraine-associated nausea is particularly helpful in some of the most severely affected migraine sufferers, many of who vomit several times a day while experiencing an attack.

THC increases endorphins, which also alleviates pain, and binds to the same endocannabinoid receptors in our body that increase the compounds that create feelings of pleasure and relaxation, such as anandamide. 

For some migraine sufferers, the use of THC helps them to avoid using pharmaceutical medications that can come with severe, and sometimes debilitating side effects that are nearly as bad as the migraines.

Side Effects of THC for Migraines

The biggest side effect that comes with using cannabis products that contain THC is of course, the “high” effect. However, many users report that when using a combined CBD and THC product, the high effects from the THC are reduced and actually quite helpful in reducing overall migraine pain. 

And there are others who don't mind the high effect and choose not to mitigate it at all because they consider it a desirable side effect.

Other possible side effects that can occur are

  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • giddiness
  • extreme hunger
  • excessive thirst
  • and, occasionally, paranoia.

Couch-lock, the rather pleasant sensation of not wanting to get up and do anything at all, is common. These side-effects are usually short-lasting with inhaled cannabis products, lasting as little as half an hour to an hour and a half, but can last for many hours with edibles. So the type of cannabis one takes is as important as the amount when considering side effects.

Research into THC for Migraines

A researcher examines a brain scan

While the effects of CBD oil on migraines lacks in depth research, medical marijuana as a whole, including its THC component, has a bit more backing.

In general, medical marijuana has been proven to reduce overall bodily pain, including pain from chronic conditions. A Washington State University study by Carrie Cuttler showed that marijuana ingested via inhalation reduces self-reported headache severity by 47.3% and migraine severity by 49.6%.

Other studies have shown medical marijuana to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks as well. Which is a huge win for migraine sufferers. 

Legality of THC for Migraines

Due to its psychoactive component, medical marijuana containing THC is much more regulated than hemp-derived products. If you're fortunate to be in a state where medical marijuana is legalized, you will have to go through your state’s application process in order to qualify for a medical marijuana card. 

Almost all states with legal medical cannabis allow its use for migraines either by allowing it for the headache itself or for the side effects, such as nausea or severe or chronic pain.

Several states have also legalized adult-use cannabis. In these states, anyone 21 or over may use cannabis for any reason they see fit.

Most states that have not approved cannabis use for chronic pain or migraines have a process that allows new conditions to be added to their list of qualifying conditions. Check with your state's medical marijuana control office to find out more.

How to Use THC for Migraines

smoking cannabis is one of the easiest ways to get THC into your system to treat your migraine
Smoking a joint is one of the simplest ways to take cannabis for migraines - ashton / CC BY

Just like CBD for migraines, THC cannabis products can be consumed in a variety of ways. 

Inhalation tends to be the fastest method of obtaining relief, meaning smoking or vaporizing the medical marijuana product. Onset of relief usually occurs within 5 to 15 minutes using this method. But not all states allow inhalation.

In states that don't allow inhalation of cannabis, some patients turn to sublingual tinctures or tablets for quicker relief than oral consumption. It is believed that the THC absorbs faster through the large blood vessels under the tongue. This isn't necessarily effective for everyone, but it's worth a try in states that only allow oral consumption routes.

Other methods available are

  • via food or beverage,
  • capsules,
  • transdermal patches and creams, and
  • oral liquids.

Your medical marijuana doctor will be able to give you a recommendation for the best method of consumption according to your symptoms. 

Best THC Products for Migraines

OG Kush nugg
OG Kush is commonly used when a migraine sufferer wants to sleep

When considering the best THC product to use for migraines, most consumers consider which strain of cannabis to use since the most common relief method is smoking flower. 

OG Kush is one of the most commonly used flower by those who simply want to hole up in their rooms and wait for the migraine to go away. All cannabis affects users differently, but most users find OG Kush and other indica-dominant strains to be very sedating, making it possible to simply sleep till the attack is over. 

Other users are more interested in CBD supplementation with their THC. These users will often steer toward Harlequin, Charlotte's Web or AC/DC. Sometimes these strains are mixed with others stronger THC strains like Pineapple Express to produce both the CBD and THC effect.


Evidence definitely suggests that CBD and THC can be an effective treatment method for migraines. More studies are needed on both as an effective method, especially since many studies on medical marijuana containing both CBD and THC have proven positive and hopeful.

CBD oil and other medical marijuana products are being used by more and more migraine sufferers to improve symptoms without the pharmaceutical side effects that other medications bring on. 

For those who wish to steer clear of THC, many researchers and physicians feel that CBD oil is worth a try. NuggMD has physicians available from 8AM to 10PM in Oklahoma, Missouri, Nevada, California, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. If you'd like to speak to a compassionate and knowledgeable weed doctor to see if cannabis can help you symptoms, you can see a NuggMD physician from the comfort of your own home, with no appointment necessary.

Julianna Carbonare
Julianna has dedicated her career to the startup world for the past 3 years of her life. She believes that one of the greatest potentials for change in the world comes through entrepreneurship and the spread of impactful business models. She writes for NuggMD just for that reason— to help spread the information and power surrounding cannabis as a life-changing form of treatment for many around the world.

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