Terpenes (and Cannabis Strains) For Headaches and Migraines!

Posted by Jack O'Leary on

If you've ever suffered from a migraine or headache, you know how truly debilitating it can be. Work, leisure, and just about anything is impossible. Lights and sounds become the enemy and you are left with no choice but to recluse yourself in a dark, silent room for hours til it wears itself away. Luckily, certain terpene profiles and cannabis strains can aid in the often agonizing symptoms which migraines produce. 

Chemical activity in your brain, the nerves or blood vessels surrounding your skull, or the muscles of your head and neck (or some combination of these factors) can play a role in primary headaches. Some people may also carry genes that make them more likely to develop such headaches.

The most common primary headaches are:

  1. Cluster headache
  2. Migraine
  3. Migraine with aura
  4. Tension headache
  5. Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia (TAC), such as cluster headache and paroxysmal hemicrania.

Headaches are one of the most often-cited medical uses for cannabis, and now migraine sufferers are turning toward a variety of strains. You will find all of the top-listed strains contain beta-caryophyllene, a terpene that is gaining more scientific support as a potent anti-inflammatory and pain-reliever.

A headache is essentially inflammation of the brain, neuro-inflammation. Many terpenes are proven to reduce inflammation as well calm and sedate any tension and discomfort. 

Terpenes to look for when treating a headache:

  • Limonene - As you may have guessed from the name limonene has a citrusy smell. What you might not know is that they have potential anti-carcinogenic properties, among many other benefits.
  • Myrcene - This is the most prevalent terpene in cannabis varieties and is thought to increase the psychoactive effects of THC. It can also be used as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Its sedative qualities are great for those trying to relax and melt away stress.
  • Linalool - Linalool, a terpene with citrusy lavender smell, has tranquilizing effects and can help you get to sleep. Linalool's the perfect choice for those who sleep it off.
  • Beta-Caryophyllene - This terpene has a smell reminiscent of black pepper and is being studied for potential benefits in diabetes reduction and autoimmune disorders.
  • Borneol - Borneol smells similar to camphor and mint and can potentially help reduce fatigue and stress.
  • Delta-3 Carene - This terpene has a piney scent and has been found in 80 different strains in 162 cannabis plants. 
  • Eucalyptol - Eucalyptol, predictably, smells like eucalyptus. Only small levels of this terpene are found in cannabis.
  • Nerolidol - This terpene smells like tree bark and has potential as a sleep aid.
  • Pinene - Pinene, like delta-3 carene, smells like pine. It is mostly found in citrus fruits and pine woods and has medical potential as an expectorant.

Try diffusing these terpene isolates into an air diffuser next to your area of rest, or dripping a few drops onto a cold or hot compress to place on the area of discomfort. Warm baths can also improve blood flow, relax any tense muscles, and with a few drops of added terpene isolates, should certainly alleviate some pain and discomfort. 

The idea that cannabis reduces pain is becoming more widely accepted – but does it reduce pain for headaches?

A new study has shown that the use of cannabis for headaches can be beneficial as it reduces headache and migraine pain by up to half. However, the study suggests that it is cannabinoids or other constituents like terpenes that play the central role in headache and migraine relief.

Inhaled cannabis reduces self-reported headache severity by 47.3% and migraine severity by 49.6%, according to a recent study led by Carrie Cuttler, a Washington State University assistant professor of psychology.

Strains that may serve useful in aiding your migraine:

White Widow

White Widow is a famous medical marijuana strain. In fact, it is known for its pain management characteristics. Even though it contains lower THC than others, it is packed with pain-relieving abilities, thanks to its speedy onset. The flavor is as sweet as the buds appear, just like being dipped in the sweetness of sugar. The euphoria offered by this variety makes it a good choice for dealing with migraines.

Tangerine Dream

Tangerine Dream is an award-winner in the cannabis world. It is also among the best strains for migraines, thanks to the presence of 25% THC. As soon as the first hit starts to set in, you will feel an uplifting, strong, and head-clearing cerebral high. As such, this strain is an amazing option for any type of pain, including migraines.

Critical Mass

In terms of THC-CBD combination, Critical Mass has one of the highest content. Usually, strains that are high in CBD are bred to lower THC, since some patients do not want to experience psychoactive effects. Critical Mass, however, breaks the 20% THC limit, with its 10% CBD. This strain is specifically bred for therapeutic use. Thanks to its balanced levels of cannabinoids, and the high that it offers, it is one of the best strains for pains and migraines.

Purple Urkle

If migraines affect your sleep, then Purple Urkle is a good option for you. This strain is considered as among the most popular hybrids that deliver a powerful body and mind high. It can leave you feeling relaxed, calm and sleepy, melting all those pains away. Purple Urkle is also known for its fast kick. The sensations set in fast, hitting deep in the midst of your headache. You may also expect to feel sleepy, which is what you may want.

Lemon Kush

Since smoking medical weed is the fastest way to experience relief from migraine, it is also important to select a strain that is pleasing to smoke. This is particularly true if you have a tough migraine to deal with. Lemon Kush is named after its high content of the Limonene terpenes, thus giving off that delicious citrus flavor. It is also a potent THC strain with a full complement of other essential cannabinoids.

Green Crack

Patients who are looking for relief from migraine will find a solution in Green Crack. This is one of the best options out there for migraine relief. This is due to a basic reason, being a fast-acting, immediate and hard-hitting effects. After all, it is named Green Crack for nothing.


Deal with migraines in the most pleasant way possible with the AK-47 strain. This flavorful, potent and fast-acting strain is a result of its elevated levels of THC, making it one of the most famous strains today. This strain is highly smokeable, with pungent, smooth flavors. AK-47 is a well-balanced strain with an ideal THC-CBD balance. 

Northern Lights

When it comes to treating migraines, nothing is worse than having a migraine when you are also tired. The pain is multiplied because of your tiredness and exhaustion, and you may feel like there is not much that you can do in order to find relaxation and relief. Northern Lights is an amazing strain that will suit your needs, as it induces sleep, easing the pain along the way.

Sour Diesel

Sour Diesel is known for its pain-relieving abilities, powerful psychoactive properties, and a pungent smell. It distracts the mind while censoring pain signals in the body’s endocannabinoid system. It is also effective in keeping patients relaxed and at ease while providing the energy to continue with their usual day.

Chem Dawg

Chem Dawg is a famous strain that can take over your head right after consumption. Its universal efficacy and enjoyment, along with its ease-of-growth, make it a wise choice for any patient who may be suffering from migraines and headaches.

 If you would like to attain the benefits of these terpene profiles without having to take in THC or put smoke in your lungs, consider trying on of Inca Trail's terpene strain blends (in red). Easy to use, and all-natural. Simply put the blend in a diffuser, drop a few drops into a bathtub, or on a cold compress, or rub a drop or two directly onto the area of pain.

RELATED: Terpenes to Boost Libido!

Essential Oils for Your Headache
Essential oils contain terpenes which is why they are successful in aiding specific symptoms. Consider trying any of the following terpene-loaded essential oil blends next time your brain is in pain.

For a headache due to sinus congestion, combine the following oils together, add them to warm bath water, and soak for 30 to 40 minutes:

  • Peppermint Oil– 10 drops
  • Eucalyptus Oil– 10 drops
  • Sesame Seed Oil – 1 tablespoon

Eucalyptus oil and sesame seed oil decongest the airways and sinuses (and are commonly used in steam rooms for that reason), while peppermint oil provides pain relief.

For a tension headache or migraine due to lack of sleep, the following combination of oils is known to stop the throbbing pain associated with headaches and migraines:

  • Peppermint Oil– 10 drops
  • Chamomile Oil– 10 drops
  • Sandalwood Oil– 5 drops
  • Baking Soda – 2 tablespoons
  • Jojoba Oil – 1 tablespoon

Consider reflecting upon your lifestyle, journaling in order to find the root of the issue, creating your headaches. Some primary headaches can be triggered by lifestyle factors, including:

  1. Alcohol, particularly red wine
  2. Certain foods, such as processed meats that contain nitrates
  3. Changes in sleep or lack of sleep
  4. Poor posture
  5. Jaw, neck, or back issues
  6. Skipped meals
  7. Stress

What helps your head when its in pain? Do you have a go-to cannabis strain for when you have a headache?

Let us know!

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  • I’m curious if CBG helps ?? Or Delta 8 THC

    Dale Ganzeveld on
  • CBD lotion has helped tremendously. On the lookout for CBD + terpene infused lotion or balms if you have any recs let me know thanks .

    matt t on

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