History and Headaches


A look at the historical use of hemp extract and its role in relieving headache and migraine symptoms

Cannabis has had quite an exciting history, dating back to 4,000 BC when hemp fibers were first used. Interestingly, cannabis played a significant role in the history of medicine ever since the Sanskrit and Hindi literature recorded its benefits. Even Greek physicians as early as 40 AD recorded medicinal uses for cannabis. In the Western world, one doctor discovered Cannabis indica in Calcutta, India and suggested that the plant could be used as a muscle relaxant. In the 1840s, cannabis started being used to both prevent and treat migraine headaches. From then on, the medicinal use of cannabis was advocated by many physicians through the early 1900s. Medical journals, such as Lancet and JAMA, during that time even published papers discussing the positive benefits of using cannabis for migraines.

Political and social factors in the 1930s contributed to the decline of using cannabis medicinally. There were two reasons for this. First, cannabis became associated with drugs of abuse used by low-income communities as well as psychosis, addition, and mental deterioration. Second, the a tax act passed in 1937 imposed a large tax on medicinal and industrial uses. During this time, physicians strongly opposed legislations on limiting the use of cannabis but were not successful. The significant move that began the heavy limitations of cannabis use was the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance in 1970. Since then, it has been quite difficult to proceed with quality scientific research regarding the benefits of cannabis in different health conditions. Only about 35 years later is cannabis picking up attention in the medical community and politics as benefits have been seen in the few patients across the country granted permission to use cannabis medicinally.

So how has cannabidiol use picked up today in terms of preventing and treating headache and migraine pain? Here’s a little bit of the science behind how hemp extract works in the body. Cannabinoids exert its effects through CB1 receptors in the brain, specifically in areas involved with migraine physiology. By activating CB1 receptors, cannabidiol inhibits pain responses associated with migraine headaches.

Common migraine medications that are widely used such as Imitrex (sumatriptan) are part of the “triptan” group of drugs. These drugs act on serotonin receptors and, when activated, also contribute to the inhibition of pain signals from migraines. Since CB1 receptor activation is also associated to this type of pain inhibition response, this endocannabinoid system plays a major role and is a target for treating migraine symptoms.

Additionally, researchers have theorized that endocannabinoid deficiency might be a cause for not only migraine pain, but also for other chronic pain disorders. All in all, it is apparent that cannabinoids play a substantial part in managing headaches and migraines. Many case studies in the past showed positive results and relief over typical medications (aspirin and ergotamine) when cannabis was used to treat chronic headaches. Even the synthetic cannabinoid Dronabinol that is approved drugs by the FDA has shown relief in symptoms when taken at the onset of headaches. So why not use hemp extract in the form of oils or tinctures for simple headache relief?

Although there have not been enough current research studies conducted on hemp oil or hemp products in the use of headaches or migraines, many personal stories have given the hemp extract community a positive light on the benefits of hemp extract in headaches. There are no formal guidelines for dosing hemp oil in the case of treating or preventing headaches and migraines, but you may start with the smallest dosage possible and gradually increase the dosage until you experience relief. An acceptable starting dose may be between 2.5 milligrams to 20 milligrams per day. As always, please consult your health care provider when choosing to begin any treatment with hemp extract as it could interact with other chronic medications you may be taking.


Baron EP. Comprehensive Review of Medicinal Marijuana, Cannabinoids, and Therapeutic Implications in Medicine and Headache: What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been …. Headache. 2015 Jun;55(6):885-916. doi: 10.1111/head.12570. Epub 2015 May 25.

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