The People's Perspective on Medicine

Using Marijuana to Overcome Face Pain

A reader wonders if an older person might use marijuana to ease the horrible searing face pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia.

Pain resulting from nerve damage can be unrelenting and extremely difficult to treat. When the trigeminal nerve is affected, it causes face pain that is capable of ruining a person’s quality of life. What are the options for easing this type of pain? One reader thought of an unorthodox solution.

Trying to Ease Recalcitrant Face Pain:

Q. I have a question regarding trigeminal neuralgia. My mother suffers from this very painful condition.

Carbamazepine is effective in stopping the pain but it has side effects that she doesn’t tolerate, even at low doses. Surgery is not an option for her.

Are there any other treatments that provide relief for the pain? I find myself wondering if medical marijuana might help because it has been noted to help with other types of nerve pain.

A. Trigeminal neuralgia is a disruption of the nerve to the face and head that causes intermittent excruciating pain. It may feel like an electric shock or a burning sensation that can last from seconds to several minutes. This pain can be disabling and is hard to treat, though some patients get relief from anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine.

Might Marijuana Help with Face Pain?

The possibility of using medical marijuana (in the form of cannabinoids) was suggested in a medical journal article (Current Drug Targets. CNS and Neurological Disorders, Dec. 2004).  Research in rats also indicates that cannabinoids might be helpful for easing the pain of trigeminal neuralgia (Neuropharmacology, July, 2007).

We have not seen clinical trials of cannabinoids for trigeminal neuralgia, and we recognize that your mother is not a rat. If, however, she lives in a state where she could try this potential treatment legally, it might be worthwhile.

We received this message on the use of a cannabinoid for pain:

“I need a shoulder replacement but because I must use my arms to get on and off my power wheelchair, the operation would be risky. During physical therapy recently, I got a recommendation for something called CBD (cannabidiol). This is a compound in marijuana, but the THC has been removed so it does not make me high.

“I buy it online and have used two squirts of CBD oil in my mouth daily for four days. I cannot tell you how well this works. I can move my arms again and am looking forward to unfreezing my shoulder.”

This person finds that it is relatively easy to purchase CBD oil online.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I have a question to ask as I’ve not had the the TN very long (under 3 years) and the Gabapentin has been controlling it to a good degree but now it’s starting to get more intense. My question is : Does anybody have a clue as to whether the attacks can be linked with certain smells? The house and air in here isn’t dirty but there’s a smell that’s medicinal/lingering that won’t go away. Also, I had a dental appointment last week and am wondering if that might have contributed to the pain. I have an appointment with the neurologist next week.

I have chronic long term neurological Lyme disease. About 6 months ago I started getting trigeminal neuralgia. Before I knew what was happening, I started treating the area of my upper palate that was the start point of the pain with pharmacy grade CBD extract. It worked like a miracle. I was able to live thru 6 months of the pain without any other pain medication. As soon as I stopped the CBD for a few doses though, the pain came back. I eventually had a tooth that had mysteriously (and rapidly) decayed from the inside of the tooth, extracted. I just finished the antibiotics from that procedure and the pain is starting to return. I am going to go back to using the CBD extract as long as necessary. The specific kind I used is: medical marijuana pharmacy grade CBD extract (done thru a CO2 extraction process). I found that straight CBD worked better for me at relieving pain than the CBD/THC mix. I find that when vaping cannabis flower, what works best is an indica strain (THC) with a small amount of a CBD flower mixed in . The CBD strain that worked best for me was Cannatonic. The only “high” symptoms I get when using the CBD extract is a much welcomed relief of anxiety and pain. I feel relaxed but totally clearheaded and able to function thru the pain. I literally saved my life. The trigeminal neuralgia is absolutely unbearable.

I was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia a month and a half ago. I went through a whole month with lots of debilitating painful attacks. I was at the end of my robe till I discovered CBD Living Freeze roll on. This roll on is a miracle rub. I was skeptical about it when my husband came home from his bowling league and told me that his team told him to tell me to look into medicinal marijuana treatments.

I said no way I will use that stuff. I have never been exposed to marijuana in my life and i am scared to use that stuff till the day I had a straight 12 hours of excruciating pain to the point I couldn’t even drink a drop of water without being attacked by pain. The day before I had found a YouTube video about this girl who suffers this disease for years until she found CBD Living Freeze. She said it works. I told my husband to look online for it. He found it at a local dispensary who would deliver within an hour.

We bought it and when it arrived I rolled it on my face where the pain was. It was a miracle. My pain subsided within 10 minutes. I used it it every 6 hours for the first 4 days and taper down to 3 times a day for the following 4 days and now I am using it in the morning and at night. I am also on medication allied Gabapentin 300mg three times a day. Knock on wood I have not have any pain attacks since I started using this CBD roll on. It truly is amazing.

It really works. I carry this tube in my purse everywhere I go. It’s my security blanket. Try it and you won’t regret it. I want to spread the words so people who suffers from Trigeminal Neuralgia shouldn’t go through the pain any longer.

I’m at a loss as to what to try to control or eliminate my trigeminal neuralgia. I can go for weeks without any pain and then have days when it’s off and on every few minutes.

Has anyone tried chiropractic sessions, acupuncture or an over the counter medication? I don’t want to take a daily medication when I don’t have the pain everyday.

Does this really work? Just diagnosed at 30 years old and can’t get rid of the pain!

I have Trigeminal Neuralgia and took gabapentin and Nortriptyline, but did not like the side effects. Only thing that helps in cannabis. Everyone who suffers from this horrid syndrome should have access to it. And no side effects that will eventually give you another issue!

Could you tell me what particular strain you used? It is legal here in California but trying to get through the hundreds of different types is frustrating. I also wonder if anyone has used a vape as opposed to smoking?

trigeminal neuropathic pain-24/7
I find the oil with high thc helps me sleep but have not had results with the cbd-maybe I need to take more-but it is so expensive.
But-change in doctors and the codeine that has helped me the most being titrated down-and I have done all the rest of the drugs.
I will be more consistent with the cbd through the winter and hope for the best.I love to hear how it helps others.

Still trying to manage my TN. Want to do whatever I can to prevent surgery. Right now I am taking Trileptal. So far, I don’t have relief, but with time we shall see what happens.

I Have been suffering with trigaminal neuralgia for quite some time now. In all honesty, I didn’t try conventional medicine, after my neuro explain it to me. I sought natural remedies, got an alternative Dr who claimed he could cure the disease, but it was costing me more than I COULD AFFORD. So I did some research and found lots of alternate natural remedies. It was costly but I didn’t have to pay a Dr. Last summer was when I discovered cbd oil, it was like a dream come true. With this remedy and prayer it was the best summer I had in 3yrs. However, comes “Mr. Winter,” and my honeymoon was over. Went back to my dr and made a statement. He agreed let me purchase 50/50 which I took at night, cbd in the day. No cure yet. Continued praying and taking the two drops. I AM NOW COMFORTABLE IN MY SKIN. Hope this help someone. GOD bless! Don’t give up. Prayers work. God is able to alleviate all distress.

I have had 2 cybernife sessions and the most evasive surgery call micro vascular decompression MCD and nothing has relieved my pain, but caused more side effects. I’m currently on carbamazipine, lamotrigine, amitriptyline and cymbalta. I’ve reached the max anyone should take. I have now started the CBD oil and slowly starting to feel some relief. Does it work? Time will tell, but I know with -30+ degrees outside I’ve had less attacks.

Where can I get some? I have cerebral palsy, not so much effective on me but I get irratated when dealing with unexpected facial nerve….

I have trigeminal neuralgia. I take nortriptyline for other nerve damage I have, and keep baclofen on hand if needed. I was told I could try pain pills and seizure meds. I declined both. This is something that started fairly recently and I don’t want to go down that road if it isn’t an absolute. Recently, feeling like having hot needles in face, my daughter slipped me a bite of a cookie laced with marijuana). Didn’t want to chew…. but went ahead. I got so sleepy, but laying down I noticed that the needles assaulting my face were diminishing. I woke up pain free. I have since been having I nibble off my cookie at bedtime and wake up feeling pretty rested. When an attack starts, I have a nibble and for me, it significantly reduces the intensity in the pain. A good long nap and I’m functional after. I got a bottle of the CBd oil, but haven’t tried it. This pain is crazy. If you have the means to try in whatever form works for you, then you should try it. At least you’ll get some good sleep.

Charlotte’s Web, a CBD hemp oil, worked on my trigeminal neuralgia. It was like a miracle.

I have had atypical trigeminal neuralgia for 18 years. I have tried everything to no avail. Medical marijuana is now legal in our state. any suggestions. I also have a mild seizure disorder . I need to get off Vicodin before it rots my liver. It is not very effective even with Tegretol.

Hi Sue,
When I read your post my first thought was “I don’t remember writing this” :)
I have also had constant and unrelenting facial pain for eighteen years.

Tried several medications but they were either ineffective or caused adverse reactions.

I shared a joint some ten or more years ago and the relief was immediate. (but the pain was back the next morning).

I’m working with teenagers so I’ve avoided that path until now.

I recently bought and tried CBD oil but unfortunately it had no effect.

I’m currently growing a plant or two in the hope of finding a solution (eighteen years is enough). I don’t need to tell you.

I went with CBD oil (now plants) as advised. It was important to be that I keep my wits about me and am able to function normally. But I’m now reading mixed opinions on whether to go with CBD or THC.

I recon I’ll do some trials.

Best wishes – Pat

I have had trigeminal neuralgia for the past 11 years. It came on quite suddenly. It was controlled for nine years with carbamazepine and Gabapentin but with bad side effects. Eventually the medications quit working. I was tried with Baclofen and another medication to no avail. I finally resorted to surgery (the balloon procedure) on my face.

I had complications with the surgery, but that was mostly due to the medical team not paying attention to my medical history and what I told them. I felt it was the least invasive of the surgeries, at least for me.

The pain is gone but my face is permanently numb on the side where I had the pain and I have lost my sense of taste. I will just have to adjust to the numbness because if it comes back then that means the nerve is affected again. I am just glad to get rid of the pain which feels exactly as described and you never know when it will come or when it will leave.

I’d recommend CBD taken internally (best used sublingually), and PainBomb+CBD, which is a topical formula that contains 27 essential oils, DMSO, MSM, and many other healthy, plant-based ingredients. It’s money-back guaranteed for pain relief.
Ships legally to all 50 states and 49 countries.

I had Trigeminal neuralgia for 10 years and was taking so much medicine I was toxic. Never tried cannabis but think when the pain comes it hard to do anything let alone take something. My best decision was surgery at Johns Hopkins. Gave me my life back.


I was considering going to Johns Hopkins hospital for my TN. What kind of surgery worked out for you?

Thanks for this article. I have trigeminal neuropathy , not neuralgia, and unlike neuralgia, trigeminal neuropathy pain is chronic, 24/7. My pain is controlled with 25mg of nortriptyline but I know many of my TN friends have taken this oil as mentioned above and it has helped them tremendously.

Even though my nortriptyline relieves my pain a lot, I am concerned when you spoke a while ago that anticholergic medication may be coorelated with getting alzheimers later in life… This CBD oil is now one more option I can think about for my nerve pain management… I got my TN from two separate dental errors from two separate dentists.

i had hopes of dealing with my chronic pain with CBD spray. however, i have been told by my marijuana dr and also by dispensary workers that CBD alone is not active against pain when it’s separated from THC. (i don’t know how much THC is necessary to activate the CBD.) it’s possible the man in the wheelchair with shoulder problems may be benefiting from a placebo effect. i would very much appreciate if u have any information or comments about this.

I also have trigeminal neuropathy from a root canal. I have order the oil, just wondering if have tried and what aere the results

My brother suffers with trigeminal neuralgia. He recently began taking the homeopathic remedies Arnica 200c and Hypericum 200c. Arnica is used for pain and trauma and Hypericum is used for nerve pain. He takes the remedies immediately when he feels an attack coming on and the results have been miraculous!

The Jannetta procedure, named for the doctor who pioneered this approach, is said to be effective in better than 95% of cases.New gamma knife procedures seem to be an improvement on this approach. And don’t overlook manual therapy provided by an osteopath (DO) trained in cranial osteopathy. This is the least invasive of all approaches.

I have tried the Charlotte’s Web variety of cannabis oil for my TBI and nerve pain caused by a dissection of the carotid attery. While it does help with sleep, it did not relieve the pain.

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