Can CBD Cause Headaches?

man with a headache asking can cbd cause headaches

Cannabidiol (CBD) has earned a reputation as a source of healing. CBD has faced a large boom, from marijuana enthusiasts and holistic practitioners to novice every-day Joes and everyone in between.

There are many reasons why CBD is the next big thing. The doors seemed to open a little wider when many states have joined the ranks of decriminalization, and the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill really blew the doors open. 

As people began to accept weed, they began to notice that there are so many variations and product types. Sure, there's flower, and the typical joints and bongs that media has been showing for decades. But there's also foods, drinks, creams, salves, tinctures, and oils. Cannabis doesn't just lock you on the couch – it can energize, soothe anxiety, boost creativity, and make social events more bearable.

And, to top it off, some types of cannabis don't even get you high. CBD, people have discovered, is a non-psychoactive agent in marijuana that has its own set of specific properties and uses. It's a source of healing in many ways, from spot-treating inflammation to helping with seizures, and is known for treating various types of pain.

It seems as though everyone is getting on board the CBD train. It's estimated that within the next three years, the legal CBD market will be a $2 billion industry. The question becomes, what can't CBD do? For some, the question might be a little more specific: can CBD be used for headaches?

CBD For Headaches

jars of cbd oil


CBD is known for its pain-relieving properties and is showing promise as a treatment for headaches, too. Many people swear by it, as a cure-all for the searing pain they feel in their temples.

It is, at the very least, helpful for many symptoms of a headache. This is the same for many conditions that align with medical marijuana: it might not cure the ailment, but it might be the solution to help make the symptoms tolerable. Just look at cancer patients, who smoke weed to make the side effects of cancer treatment, like nausea, more tolerable.

It's been recorded, however, that people have been using CBD-dominant cannabis for thousands of years as a source of headache treatment. People turn to CBD because it's all-natural – the opposite of opioids – plus non-addictive, semi-affordable, safe, accessible, and effective.

Recent research has indicated that there is a large potential for using CBD for headaches and potentially migraines. This review looked specifically at CBD-dominant strains, but not the concentrated CBD oil specifically. A 2016 study also indicated that marijuana could reduce the frequency of headaches and migraines, thanks to its primary active compound, CBD.

How It Works

There are many factors that go into headaches, including tension, lack of sleep, lots of stress, too many bright lights, fatigue, and even poor posture. Usually the pain stems from some kind of inflammation, either in the head or the neck. There's a throbbing feeling, and a definite source.

The human body, at a cellular level, has an endocannabinoid system. This is a system full of receptors, that are located everywhere – nerves, soft tissues, muscles, you name it – helping to maintain the body's overall health.

Cannabis the plant, too, has an endocannabinoid system. In fact, CBD is a type of cannabinoid. So, when used on a human – whether it's applied topically or ingested – CBD binds with the body's endocannabinoid receptors. From there, it is able to work with neurochemical releases and revert them back to their normal levels, or go straight to the source of the headache-causing inflammation and smooth things out.

Risks of CBD Use

cbd oil with leaves around on a neutral backdrop, where some people wonder can cbd cause headaches

Though there are many benefits of using CBD, there is one main concern that brings some headache suffers pause: a lack of regulation. CBD's federal legal status prohibits FDA approval as a form of medicine for headaches or otherwise, which means that there isn't a standard set of regulations for portions and potency. There have been cases of CBD products having incorrect labeling, which is a risk that comes with that lack of uniform policy, including everything from labels to purity to assurance of reputable product.

There are also side effects to be aware of. CBD is overall considered a safe substance, so the risks and side effects of use are extremely low. For starters, CBD lacks the psychoactive agent THC, and does not result in the most famous cannabis side effect – the high. There also has not been any fatal usage of weed in any form – though it is possible to get yourself sick from consuming too much.

However, CBD has been linked to a few cases of dry mouth, a momentary drop in blood pressure, lightheadedness or dizziness (connected to the temporary blood pressure change), nausea (following ingestion of CBD oil), and drowsiness.

There's also one unexpected risk: a headache. 

Can CBD Cause Headaches?

woman holding her head experiencing a headache

Here's a plot twist: while some people seek out CBD for their headaches, in some cases, CBD can actually cause headaches.

Albeit rare, there have been instances where people react poorly to CBD. All bodies are different, so it’s natural that some would respond differently to substances. One major cause of this could be the CBD product's quality. As previously mentioned, the lack of regulation can come with an element of risk – if you have a headache after using CBD, it might be worth questioning the quality of the product and the source. There have been examples of CBD products containing solvents like ethanol and isopropanol, for which people can be sensitive to.

Here are the best ways to prevent headaches caused by CBD, all related to finding high-quality products that are trustworthy and effective.

Purity matters. When picking out a CBD product, look for the CBD content. For best medicinal results, it should always contain at least 50 percent or more CBD, with no more than .3% THC (if you’re buying online). If the label does not have this information and you can’t find lab results on the company website, skip it.

Be wary of price. There are a ton of affordable options out there for CBD products. It's important, however, to be aware that a lower price might be an indicator of lower quality. Sometimes a higher price point is the safer bet, especially if it comes from a trusted dispensary or doctor's office.

Do your research. Check out the source information. CBD products made in the United States, Canada, and Europe with clear labels might be the best bet. Additionally, look into the company. Read reviews, scan social media, and figure out if they’re legit, especially if you are hoping to buy CBD products online. Consider asking a trusted budtender or a holistic care provider for their favorite brands and suggestions.

If a headache still persists after switching up CBD products and swapping them for a reliable source, it might just come down to genetics. Cannabis might still be in the cards, but maybe not CBD-heavy varieties.

In Review

drawing of cbd products next to a small plant

Can CBD be used for headaches, or can CBD cause headaches? The answer is yes, to both. More often than not, CBD is an effective source of relief for people suffering from pain in their heads. When people get headaches after consuming CBD, it's likely that their products are not high-quality.

To ensure the best results, head to a trusted dispensary to pick out a high-CBD strain or product – either a topical, edible, capsule, or flower – whenever your head is in need of some all-natural, herbal relief.