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Cannabis & Migraine

Cannabis was the treatment of choice for migraine in the last century [i] , and modern reports [ii] have echoed the traditional view.   Anecdotal evidence of using cannabis for alleviation of migraine symptoms is provided by Ogborne et al [iii] , Williamson & Evans [iv] , and Schnelle et al [v] , who found 6.6% of surveyed medicinal users reported using cannabis to relieve migraine.

Volfe et al [vi] found cannabinoids blocked serotonin release from platelets in migraine patients.  Russo [vii] , reviewing the historical evidence, concluded "Cannabis, or Marijuana, has been used for centuries for both symptomatic and prophylactic treatment of migraine. It was highly esteemed as a headache remedy by the most prominent physicians of the age between 1874 and 1942, remaining part of the Western pharmacopoeia for this indication even into the mid-twentieth century. Current ethnobotanical and anecdotal references continue to refer to its efficacy for this malady, while biochemical studies of THC and anandamide have provided a scientific basis for such treatment. The author believes that controlled clinical trials of Cannabis in acute migraine treatment are warranted.'

Heinemann [viii] reported incidence of headaches among users of hashish. El-Mallakh et al [ix] reported "Onset of migraines occurred prior to onset of substance use, while onset of tension headaches occurred after onset of substance use'and suggested  "migraines may play a role in the genesis of substance use'

Summary:  Other than pain relief in general, there is as yet insufficient scientific evidence to indicate whether or not cannabinoids may specifically relieve, or indeed exacerbate, symptoms among migraine sufferers.  Lowered blood pressure is a common systemic effect of cannabis use which could potentially reduce the risk and/or severity of migraines.  There are widespread anecdotal reports of benefits, and cannabis products did play a role in treatment of migraine in the early years of modern medicine.


[i] Mikuriya TH [1973] Marijuana  Medical Papers.  Berkeley:  Medi-Comp Press

[ii]  El-Mallakh RS [1987] Marijuana and Migraine.  Headache Journal 27(8) pp442-443

[iii]  Ogborne AC, Smart RG, Weber T, Birchmore-Timney C [2000] Who is using cannabis as a medicine and why: an exploratory study. J Psychoactive Drugs 32(4):435-43

[iv]  Williamson EM, Evans FJ  [2000] Cannabinoids in clinical practice. Drugs 60(6):1303-14

[v]  [Results of a standardized survey on the medical use of cannabis products in the German-speaking area] [Article in German] Schnelle M, Grotenhermen F, Reif M, Gorter RW. [1999] Forsch Komplementarmed6 Suppl 3:28-36

[vi]  Volfe Z, Dvilansky A, Nathan I. [1985] Cannabinoids block release of serotonin from platelets induced by plasma from migraine patients. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res 5(4):243-6

[vii] Russo E. [1998] Cannabis for migraine treatment: the once and future prescription? An historical and scientific review. Pain  76(1-2):3-8

[viii] Heinemann C. [1971] [Clinically observed sequelae of hashish abuse][Article in German] Med Klin 66(48):1648-53

[ix] el-Mallakh RS, Kranzler HR, Kamanitz JR. [1991] Headaches and psychoactive substance use.  Headache  31(9):584-7

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