Can weed help headaches?

Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
February 8, 2021
Headaches and Weed
Headaches and Weed

Headaches are incredibly common with almost everybody having experienced head pain and people and scientists are wondering if cannabis can help. In this article we answer the question: “Can weed help headaches?”

Cannabis is commonly used for pain control and has indeed been used for thousands of years. But is it proven to help?

There are a wide range of types of headaches ranging from a slight discomfort all the way to debilitating pain with a significant medical underlying cause.  Headaches can be transient or can last a long time and if you are experiencing severe, worsening pain – and especially if associated with any other symptoms such as the red flags below it is important that you get advice from your physician.

  • stiff neck and/or rash (may represent an infection)
  • the worst headache you’ve ever had (aneurysms are the concern)
  • vomiting (can also indicate increase pressure in the brain)
  • neurological – e.g. visual symptoms, confusion, slurred speech, paralysis etc
  • fever – especially if at or above 100.4°F (38°C)
  • paralysis in any part of your body or visual loss

Types of headaches

The head is made up of many parts (scalp, brain, skull, muscles, sinuses etc)  any one of which may potentially be affected by a disease process, trauma, infection etc – and as such there are a large number of potential types and reasons why one can experience a headache.

Medically there are many different kinds of headaches ranging from regular tension headaches to allergies and infection/inflammation of the sinuses. Other forms  such as primary headache types such cluster and migraine headaches which have their own patterns and underlying causes.  One can also have headaches from increasing pressure in the  brain cavity from e.g. a tumor or bleeding taking up space in the brain cavity.

Other causes of headaches include caffeine withdrawal as well as hypertension out of control.

Cannabis for headaches: Can weed help headaches?

As cannabis and its cannabinoids (THC, CBD, Delta 8 THC etc) become more accessible as legality rolls out across the US and worldwide one of the most widely accepted and common uses of cannabis is relief from pain. But can pot reduce headaches and migraines?

The Science

The fact that cannabis has been illegal has meant that studies that could have been done have not – and as such we are now learning more as the ability to study cannabinoids for different conditions becomes feasible. An important study from 2019 in the Journal of Pain found that there was an almost 50% reduction of pain rating in those who were administered inhaled cannabis for headaches and migraines with effectiveness being higher in men than women and higher with concentrates than flower. Interestingly almost 90% of patients reported some decrease in their headache or migraines.

However it also appeared that the effectiveness diminished with time leading patients to require increasing the dosage to achieve relief suggesting that patients were developing tolerance with continued use.
CBD vs THC – the study showed no significant difference in pain reduction based on THC or CBD levels that were measured. Furthermore given that there are over 100 identified cannabinoids as well as terpenes as constituents in cannabis terpenes may also have a role in headache and migraine relief.


Headaches and migraines are very common and cause a great deal of  pain. While we have known that cannabis may be effective for pain the question of headaches specifically had not been well investigated until recently and the 2019 study above indicated that “inhaled cannabis reduces headache and migraine severity ratings by approximately 50%.” That said – tolerance may be an issue though importantly cannabis does not appear to make headaches or migraines worse over time. Further placebo controlled clinical trials are warranted with research on THC, CBD and Delta 8 THC as well as terpenes and their interactions to answer fully whether weed can help headaches.