CBD For Migraines: Benefits, Risks And When To See A Doctor


Migraines are one of the most difficult conditions to manage, causing excruciating pain and severely impeding day-to-day activities. Traditional treatments such as medications, injections, supplements or acupuncture may not always be effective in relieving symptoms – so scientists have begun investigating whether cannabidiol (CBD) could offer a promising alternative solution.

Discover more about how this natural compound from cannabis plants can benefit migraine sufferers by reducing their attack frequency and severity of discomfort!

What Is a Migraine?

Migraines are powerful headaches that can cause intense, pulsing discomfort anywhere in the head. These crushing pains may also radiate to areas near the eyes or cheeks for an even more debilitating experience.

Common symptoms of migraines include:

  • Moderate to severe head pain that causes a throbbing or pounding sensation
  • Head pain that gets worse with movement
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Sensitivity to light, noise and smells

Migraines may be best known for their debilitating headaches, but the underlying cause remains a mystery. According to Jessica Cho, M.D., an integrative medicine physician in Los Angeles, these mysterious ailments are due to complex nerve pathways sending pain signals directly to the brain which triggers inflammatory substances and causes discomfort.

Migraines, a neurological disorder that affects an estimated 15% of people worldwide according to the Journal of Headache and Pain, is one of the planet’s most debilitating diseases. Dr. Cho attests its capacity for disrupting day-to-day activities puts it as high on the list as sixth in terms of disability rates globally.

Research shows migraines can be genetic,though certain factors and substances can trigger the condition, including:

  • Hormonal changes in women
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Strong smells
  • Loud noises
  • Bright or flashing lights
  • Certain medications
  • Overuse of medications
  • Too much physical activity
  • Sudden weather changes
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Tobacco use
  • Caffeine use or withdrawal
  • Consumption of alcohol, monosodium glutamate (MSG), chocolate, aged cheeses, fermented foods, yeast and/or processed meats

The Science Behind CBD and Migraine Relief

CBD is a powerful therapeutic compound found in hemp and cannabis sativa plants, known for its non-psychoactive effects. Unlike THC, it does not produce an intoxicating ‘high’ when consumed.

Cannabinoids such as CBD and THC may offer relief from headaches and migraines. A 2021 review suggests that a combination of these compounds could bring both short-term and long-term results in migraine sufferers. Separately, findings indicate that CBD can serve as an effective treatment for chronic pain conditions. The American Migraine Foundation posits it might even act topically to reduce neck or joint pain associated with severe headaches.

Still, research is needed before the use of cannabis becomes widely accepted for this purpose.

CBD has been associated with providing relief from migraine-related pain, nausea, and inflammation according to Chantel Strachan M.D., a board-certified internist and headache specialist at ColumbiaDoctors/ CJUIMC in NYC.

How CBD Works

When it comes to CBD and migraines, the benefits look increasingly optimistic. “There is promising scientific research that CBD may be effective in easing migraine symptoms through CBD’s interaction with the body’s endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS)” says Michael Lewis, M.D., president and founder of the Brain Health Education and Research Institute and medical advisor at CV Sciences, Inc., a company researching and developing CBD products

Cannabinoids, like CBD interact with the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), a neuromodulatory system that affects brain development and certain body processes. Dr. Lewis explains how these receptors reduce inflammation, alleviate pain and make us feel good when they bind to cannabinoids – molecules naturally active in our bodies which can also be taken as supplements or found in cannabis plants such as hemp & marijuana. Recent clinical studies suggest people suffering from chronic migraines may have lower levels of endocannabinoids – neurotransmitters binding to cannabinoid receptors – providing insight into the potential positive effects of taking CBD for migraine sufferers

Potential Risks of Using CBD for Migraine Relief

While CBD tends to be well-tolerated by most people, it can cause the following side effects:

  • Fatigue
  • Tiredness
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight

Dr. Cho warns that while CBD may offer temporary relief for severe migraines, it could lead to a tolerance issue over time as the dose loses its effectiveness. Additionally, long-term use of this natural remedy can bring on other unexpected side effects like mood swings and memory loss according to Dr Strachan’s research findings.

Despite the potential side effects associated with conventional treatments, recent studies suggest that long-term use of CBD products may not result in medication overuse headaches like they have been seen to do with regular migraine medications.


In 2018, the Farm Bill made hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC by dry weight federally legal in the U.S., though state laws have yet to fully catch up – resulting in some states allowing easy access while others restrict it mainly for online purchases only.

World Anti-Doping Agency advises athletes against using over-the-counter CBD items due to potential contamination from traces of THC and possible insufficient regulation of such goods during production processes.


Over-the-counter CBD products are neither FDA-approved nor under any medical regulatory compliance, meaning there’s no way to 100% guarantee their safety and legality, says Dr. Cho. There’s also concern when it comes to the reliability and accuracy of a product’s dosage and purity listed on its label, she says.

For added peace of mind, many CBD products come with a Certificate of Analysis (COA), guaranteeing that an independent third-party laboratory has tested the product for accurate potency and freedom from contaminants like pesticides, molds and heavy metals. Some COAs can be accessed via QR code on the label or online through the company website – if not available upon viewing your selection simply request it before buying!

Should You Use CBD for Migraines?

If you’re considering whether CBD use for migraines is right for you,Dr.Strachan recommends taking several factors into account, including:

  • Other conditions or diseases you may have
  • Previously used migraine treatment medication
  • Medications you take currently

CBD can interact with certain medications, so it’s important to weigh the potential risks and benefits before incorporating this supplement into your routine. Those taking thyroid or blood thinner medications should be especially cautious, as CBD may affect their effectiveness.

Dr. Lewis recommends taking CBD proactively for those who experience migraines with a known trigger, such as stress or changing weather patterns. He suggests using the supplement before symptoms present themselves to try and abort an oncoming attack of pain.

If prevention isn’t an option, Dr. Lewis has suggested combining traditional migraine solutions like medications and rest with CBD as a viable solution to treating migraines after they begin. This cannabis-derived compound can be inhaled, applied topically in the form of tinctures or consumed orally through edibles–offering optimal relief for those suffering from debilitating episodes.

Making a choice that is right for you and your wellbeing can be difficult. If you are burdened by migraines, however, CBD products may provide an all-natural solution towards relief.

Talk to your Doctor

Despite the growing popularity of CBD for migraine relief, it is important to be aware that individualized medical advice should always be sought. Dr Cho advises speaking with a doctor experienced in researching and understanding cannabidiol (CBD)science before taking any related supplements or products— this way you can check if the product has been tested pharmaceutically, as well as learn about dosage amounts and legalities based on your unique situation.

This article has been created using content that has been reviewed by Elliot Dinetz, M.D. It’s a summary of information that can be found at the the following link https://www.forbes.com/health/body/cbd-for-migraines 

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