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Monday November 8, 2021

By Erin Hiatt

Someone sitting in bed with their head down due to a migraine or headache Health/Science

Most people at one time or another have experienced headaches, that constant, dull, or throbbing pain in your face or head. For most, a headache can be relieved by simply popping an over-the-counter pain killer or drinking a glass of water. But for migraines, feeling better is not that simple. 

Headaches Vs. Migraines

According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraine is the third most common and seventh most disabling medical condition in the world. In the U.S., more than 36 million Americans (most of whom are women) have migraines, more than those who have asthma and diabetes combined. Like asthma and diabetes, migraines are an inherited condition that can also be debilitating.

Those with migraines suffer terrible head pain often accompanied by extreme sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances called auras, and even temporary blindness.  But unlike your standard headache, migraines are frequently associated with other medical conditions like heart attack, stroke, and depression. Additionally, many migraine sufferers have chronic migraine, making it more difficult to play, spend time with family and loved ones, and work. It’s estimated that migraines cost American businesses more than $29 billion in lost time and productivity.

Someone experiencing a migrane
Migraines can have a big effect on people's lives. photo credit

Despite the literal and figurative cost of migraines, research on this condition lags, and there is only one type of medicine (triptans) that have been developed specifically for migraines, and they only work for a small subset of migraine sufferers. 

Some migraine sufferers swear that cannabis helps to both alleviate pain and prevent migraines from happening in the first place. Let’s dig in.

Research About Cannabis and Migraines

Those with migraines often have to take a whack-a-mole approach to remedy their pain, and the same can be said for many cannabis consumers. There is a lot of trial and error in figuring out what strain and dosage of a chosen strain may work for a migraine (or any condition for that matter).

However, some steps are being taken to ameliorate that, and hopefully soon. A team of researchers at UC San Diego Health are conducting the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to study cannabis as a migraine treatment.

a cannabis nug
Researchers are trying to find the most effective way to use cannabis for migraines. photo credit

The study is small, but the goal is to randomize and treat four separate types of migraine attacks with four different treatments delivered via vaporizer: one group with THC, one with CBD, one with a combination of THC and CBD, and a placebo group. 

A separate questionnaire-based study published in Brain Sciences found that medical cannabis users reported long-term reduction of migraine frequency, less disability, and lower antimigraine medication intake. While the study didn’t point out specifics like strains, it shows promise nonetheless.

Most Effective Strains for Migraines

First, it must be said that we at PotGuide are not doctors. You should always work in partnership with your doctor to figure out how best to treat your migraines. We did, however, look to the insights of to see what they recommend. Here’s a glimpse:

ACDC: This sativa-dominant high-CBD strain has tested up to 30 percent CBD, giving it potent anti-inflammatory effects. ACDC could be therapeutic for those who need to treat a migraine but prefer not to experience cannabis’ psychoactive effects.

The strain ACDC

OG Kush is a potent sativa dominant hybrid with a nice ratio of CBD, helping to reduce inflammation and ease pain. It is also one of the most easily found strains; your local dispo is very likely to have it on hand.

The strain OG Kush

Good Medicine is a CBD hybrid, a cross-breed of Harlequin x Appalachian. With a 1:1 CBD to THC ratio, using Good Medicine regularly may help with sleep, while around 15 percent THC makes for quality pain relief.

Good medicine

Northern Lights: a true indica, this strain is well-known for its ability to reduce pain and increase relaxation.

the strain Northern Lights

Purple Kush is an indica-dominant hybrid that can give migraine sufferers what they may need most — sleep — so the migraine can wear off. With potency coming in between 17-22 percent, it may reduce migraine pain and intensity.

purple indica strain

For more strain information, browse our strain profiles.


Despite humans’ long history with migraines, the research — especially when it comes to cannabis and migraine —  is nascent. Hopefully, much more will be forthcoming so migraine sufferers can get the relief they deserve.

Is sativa or indica better for migraines and headaches?

Tough question, and one that depends on the kind of relief you seek. Based on the strains above, it’s a 50/50 split.

Is CBD good for migraines?

A recent survey conducted by Axon Relief (caveat: they are a migraine supplement company whose products include CBD) found that 86 percent of respondents to a clinically validated survey reported a decrease in headache impact after using CBD consistently for 30 days. 

Can marijuana give you a headache?

Why yes, it can. Cannabis has a range of side-effects for some consumers that includes headaches. Other well-known side-effects are drowsiness, fatigue, dry mouth and eyes, and lightheadedness, among others.

What terpene is best for migraines and headaches?

Some terpenes that act as analgesics are borneol (ginger, thyme, sage), camphene (camphor, cypress, rosemary), and eucalyptol (eucalyptus trees, basil, rosemary). A calming terpene like linalool (lavender) may help to promote relaxation.

Photo Credit: Asdrubal (license)


Erin Hiatt Erin Hiatt

Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work - which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor - covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.

Erin's work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let's Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedInWordpress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.

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