Headache and Medicinal Cannabis

Headache and Medicinal Cannabis | Kalapa Clinic


  • Muscle Relaxant
  • Neuroprotector
  • Analgesic
  • Decreases the frequency and intensity of headaches
  • No alteration of cognitive status

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There are several types of headaches: Tension headaches are caused by muscular tension; migraines are more intense than other headaches and can cause the sufferer a lot of discomfort. The type of headache may also differ depending on the part of the body in which the pain is felt, e.g. in the case of a sinus headache, the frontal part of the head and face are usually affected the most.

Adjuvant treatment for headaches

Headaches caused by stress, an unhealthy lifestyle, menstruation or minor illnesses can be treated with medical cannabis.

On the other hand, headaches may be a symptom of other mild pathologies like flu, colds or premenstrual syndrome. However it can also be a first sign of more serious problems such as brain tumours, a swollen or inflamed artery or carbon monoxide poisoning.

The effects of cannabinoids are notorious for decreasing the intensity and frequency of headaches. The results of the studies suggest that cannabinoids may offer some benefits as a natural treatment that does not affect the cognitive status of the patient, unlike other treatments.

How cannabinoids interact with headache

There are studies [1] suggesting that cannabinoids may play an important role in relieving discomfort for migraines and cluster headaches. From these investigations, it was found that cannabinoids appear to modulate and interact in many inherent migraine pathways, mechanisms of action of triptan and opioid pathways. This may indicate potential synergistic benefits.

This is not new [2]. It is known that cannabis has been used in various over time for symptomatic and prophylactic treatments of migraines and other types of headaches. In fact, the main doctors during 1842 and 1942 preferred cannabis to other medications for treating pains, which is the reason why the plant was part of the western pharmacies of this period.

As it can be seen, the use of medical cannabis to treat headaches is increasing. Up to now studies [3] have determined that cannabinoids are located along peripheral nerve endings, spinal and supraspinal centres.

For this reason, cannabinoids can be effective in producing an inhibitory effect on serotonin type 3 (5-HT 3) receptors or antinociceptive effects. Also, in addition to their potential to decrease the frequency and intensity of headaches, cannabinoids also serve to provide the patients with a greater sense of self-efficacy.

Bibliography on headache and the use of Cannabinoids

[1] Baron, E. P. (2015). Comprehensive review of medicinal marijuana, cannabinoids, and therapeutic implications in medicine and headache: What a long strange trip it’s been…. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 55(6), 885-916.

[2] Russo, E. (2001). Hemp for headache: An in-depth historical and scientific review of cannabis in migraine treatment. Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, 1(2), 21-92.

[3] Sun‐Edelstein, C., & Mauskop, A. (2011). Alternative headache treatments: nutraceuticals, behavioral and physical treatments. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 51(3), 469-483.

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Do you want to know more about cannabis use and headaches?

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