Can THC or CBD Help with Headaches?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Brian Kessler, MD

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Headaches are one of the leading causes of pain. There are different kinds of headaches, and knowing which kind of headache an individual is experiencing can help with treatment and relief.

Many people believe that headaches and migraines are interchangeable, but that’s not the case. Almost everyone will experience a headache at some point in their lives, but migraines are not the same. Migraines tend to be more severe, can last for longer, and are typically much more difficult to treat.

One gap in current research relates to the difference between migraines and headaches. Because migraines are often more severe and easy to diagnose, the majority of current research focuses on this area. There is a large need for more research to be done examining the effects of various treatments on headaches (as opposed to migraines).

Because headaches are so common, there’s a great deal that we know about them. However, there is still more that needs to be uncovered so that innovative treatment options can continue being created.

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What Causes Headaches?

There are a wide variety of factors that can cause headaches, including stress and intense exercise. And while headaches themselves can be isolated events, they can also be due to an underlying condition. 

In order to understand why an individual is having headaches, it’s important to get a comprehensive idea of their lifestyle and any factors that may be causing problems.

Some common things that can cause headaches include:

  • Skipping meals
  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Genetics
  • Hormones
  • Some medications
  • Muscle tension

Headaches can be genetic, but migraines typically have a stronger genetic link. Individuals whose headaches have a genetic link will typically experience symptoms similar to others in their families.

Headache Signs & Symptoms

Many people find that their headaches are easy to identify. If you are experiencing headaches, you may have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the head or neck
  • Nausea
  • Light sensitivity
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to certain smells or sounds

The symptoms an individual has will depend primarily on the type of headache that they’re experiencing. For example, a headache that results from smell exposure can have different symptoms than a tension headache.

How Cannabis Can Help Alleviate Headaches

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If you struggle with headaches, then you understand how essential it is to find relief. Many people are exploring cannabis as a possible solution, but does weed help with headaches?

There is strong evidence that cannabis is an option for helping headaches. Current research suggests that cannabis can both help current headaches and prevent them in the future.1 This is unique, as many treatment options solely seek to manage pain, not prevent future headaches.

Additionally, CBD and THC have shown promise in early studies for their ability to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.

Perhaps one of the most interesting arguments for cannabis as a headache treatment is the reduction of opioid use that has been associated with cannabis. Cannabis has a multitude of reported benefits that are similar to opioids, but with fewer negative effects. A reduction in opioid use is a common goal in many medical settings, and cannabis could help realize that goal.

According to NuggMD medical practitioner Dr. Brian Kessler, "The people I see are turning to medical cannabis because everything else has failed. A lot of these people are on medication that isn't working for them. But a lot of people get relief from medical cannabis."

While cannabis can be helpful for those that struggle with headaches, doctors still aren’t widely recommending it. A 2021 review cited a lack of medical knowledge and doctor training around cannabis as two of the main reasons for so few cannabis recommendations.2 It’s possible that training doctors and teaching them more about the benefits of cannabis would lead to wider recommendations and more holistic treatment options.

CBD has demonstrated the potential to help with pain, but it’s possible that its effects will not be as strong as THC’s in some individuals. Likewise, many patients and providers adhere to what’s known as the entourage effect, or the theory that the effects of cannabinoids and terpenes are more pronounced when they’re taken together. However, it is entirely possible to get pain relief from CBD isolate, and it can be a great option for those who don’t want to experience the psychoactive high elicited by THC.

Legality and Doctor’s Recommendation

To determine if your state considers headaches to be a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, check out our Laws & Regulations section for the medical cannabis rules for your state.

If you find that your state recognizes headaches or its symptoms as a qualifying medical condition, you can seek a doctor’s recommendation to get your medical cannabis card in your state.

How NuggMD Can Help

NuggMD is the nation's leading medical marijuana technology platform, serving patients in 22 states and growing. We’ve connected over 1,000,000 patients with their new medical marijuana doctors face-to-face via our state-of-the-art telemedicine platform. 

We believe that every human being has the right to explore the benefits of medical cannabis and are fully committed to helping each patient explore all of their options in their journey to wellness. For further information on whether you qualify for medical cannabis, select your state.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Cannabis and Headaches

If you want to learn more about cannabis and headaches, know that you’re not alone. There’s a lot that still needs to be researched within this area. Here are  some commonly asked questions.

Is it possible that cannabis could give me a headache? 

Getting a marijuana headache is possible, but rare. If you use cannabis extensively, then you may experience a slight headache if you stop consuming it suddenly. And consumers who aren’t drinking enough water may also experience a dehydration headache. This can vary widely depending on the individual. If you’re regularly experiencing headaches, consider if that could be due to another factor.

Is CBD or THC better for headaches? 

Some people prefer one of these compounds over the other when it comes to pain relief. If you’re looking for a higher level of relief and relaxation, then a whole plant cannabis product with THC and CBD might be the best choice to take advantage of the entourage effect. However, if you don’t want large psychoactive effects, CBD can be a great option to manage pain and reduce headache symptoms.

What dose should I take for headache relief? 

How much cannabis is right for you will depend on a variety of factors. It’s typically recommended to start with a low dose and then increase it in the future if needed. If you’ve never tried cannabis before, then it’s likely that your tolerance will be low. Consider starting with just 2.5 to 5 mg of THC or CBD and observing the effects. And if you have a medical cannabis doctor, they can offer support in finding the right dosage.

Can I consume cannabis if I’m taking other medications for my headaches? 

This is a question that you’ll need to ask your doctor. Cannabis can safely be used in combination with some medications, but may interact with others. Your medical provider will be able to give you personalized recommendations and make sure that you’re consuming safely and responsibly.

Should I only rarely use cannabis for my headaches? 

Many people use cannabis consistently and still get the same benefits. While it is possible to develop a tolerance, cannabis can be used whenever a headache occurs. If you’re concerned about building up your tolerance, know that there are different options you can consider to reduce this concern.


1. Okusanya, Babasola O., Breanne E. Lott, John Ehiri, Jean McClelland, and Cecilia Rosales. 2022. “Medical Cannabis for the Treatment of Migraine in Adults: A Review of the Evidence.” Frontiers in Neurology 13 (May).

2. Poudel, Sujan, Jonathan Quinonez, Jinal Choudhari, Zachary T Au, Sylvia Paesani, Armond K Thiess, Samir Ruxmohan, Mobashir Hosameddin, Gerardo F Ferrer, and Jack Michel. 2021. “Medical Cannabis, Headaches, and Migraines: A Review of the Current Literature.” Cureus 13 (8): e17407.

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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