Migraine is a reoccurring headache syndrome that can last for up to 72 hours if left untreated. About 14 percent of Americans, primarily women, suffer from migraine. Migraine effects include pulsing cranial pain, nausea, light sensitivity, dizziness, difficulty speaking, and confusion, among other symptoms.

The endogenous cannabinoid system is suspected to play a significant role in migraine pathophysiology[1-3] and several studies have identified differences in ECS functioning and the production of endocannabinoids in migraine sufferers versus controls.[4-7]

Cannabis possesses a long history of human use in the treatment of migraine.[8] Literature reviews[9-10] and case reports[11-12] suggest that cannabis is effective for both the treatment of and the prevention of headache. Among patients recommended medical cannabis, as many as two-thirds report decreasing their use of conventional medications to treat migraine.[13-14] However, others anecdotally report gaining no therapeutic relief from cannabis.[15]

A recent retrospective assessment of 121 adults with the primary diagnosis of migraine headache reported, “Migraine headache frequency decreased from 10.4 to 4.6 headaches per month with the use of medical marijuana.” Inhaling cannabis was also reported by many patients to abort the onset of migraine.[16] Clinical trial data presented in 2017 at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology reported that the daily administration of cannabinoid extracts resulted in a 40 percent reduction in migraine frequency in a cohort of 79 chronic migraine patients.[17]

While clinical trial data remains at this time insufficient to definitively demonstrate the efficacy of cannabis or cannabinoids for migraine treatment “there are sufficient anecdotal and preliminary results, as well as plausible neurobiological mechanisms” to warrant further study, and “it appears likely that cannabis will emerge as a potential treatment for some headache sufferers.”[18]


[1] Ethan Russo. 2016. Clinical endocannbinoid deficiency reconsidered: Current research supports the theory in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, and other treatment-resistent syndromes. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 1: 154-165.

[2] Ethan Russo. 2004. Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD): Can this concept explain therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions? Neuroendocrinology Letters 25: 31-39.

[3] Greco et al. 2010. The endocannabinoid system and migraine. Experimental Neurology 224: 85-91.

[4] Cupini et al. 2003. Abnormal degradation of endocannabinoids in migrainous women. Cephalalgia 23: 684.

[5] Sarchielli et al. 2007. Endocannabinoids in chronic migraine: CSF findings suggest a system failure. Neuropsychopharmacology 32:1384–1390.

[6] Cupini et al. 2008. Degradation of endocannabinoids in chronic migraine and medication overuse headache. Neurobiology of Diseases 30: 186–189.

[7] Rossi et al. 2008. Endocannabinoids in platelets of chronic migraine patients and medication-overuse headache patients: relation with serotonin levels. European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 64: 1-8.

[8] Ethan Russo. 2001. Hemp for headache: an in-depth historical and scientific review of cannabis in migraine treatment. Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics 1:2 1–92.

[9] E. Baron. 2015. Comprehensive review of medicinal marijuana, cannabinoids, and therapeutic implications in medicine and headache. Headache 55: 885-916.

[10] Lochte et al. 2017. The use of cannabis for headache disorders. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 2 [open access journal].

[11] Ibid

[12] Robbins et al. 2009. Cluster attacks responsive to recreational cannabis and dronabinol. Headache 49: 914-916.

[13] Piper et al. 2017. Substitution of medical cannabis for pharmaceutical agents for pain, anxiety, and sleep. Journal of Psychopharmacology 31: 569-575.

[14] Sexton et al. 2017. A cross-sectional survey of medical cannabis users: Patterns of use and perceived efficacy. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 1: 131-138.

[15] Andersson et al. 2017. Psychoactive substances as a last resort – a qualitative study of self-treatment of migraine and cluster headaches. Harm Reduction Journal 14: 60.

[16] Rhyne et al 2016. Effects of medical marijuana on migraine headache frequency in an adult population. Pharmacotherapy 36: 505-510.

[17] EAN Congress Press Office. “Cannabinoids suitable for migraine prevention.” June 24, 2017.

[18] Lochte et al. 2017. op. cit.