Living With Migraines

Does CBD Help with Migraines?

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Does CBD Help with Migraines?

Migraine, a neurological disease characterized by severe headaches, is quite common, affecting an estimated 1 billion people worldwide. But despite their prevalence, headache specialists can treat migraines but not yet definitively cure them. 

For a person who experiences migraines, particularly chronic ones, it can be a long process of trial-and-error to find an option that provides regular and dependable treatment or prevention. Some people choose to explore alternative treatments as they look for an optimal long-range solution. 

Among the potential alternatives receiving attention, both from people with migraine and their doctors, are the medicinal properties of CBD. 

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant. It does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the compound in marijuana that induces a “high.” Both CBD and THC are found in marijuana and hemp plants; however, CBD works with receptors in the brain that are linked with good feelings rather than a psychoactive high. 

While a prescription form of CBD is approved by the FDA as an anti-seizure medication, CBD is a natural substance that is available over the counter in many parts of the US in the form of oil, gummies, vapor, and so on. This substance can be used to reduce anxiety and depression, nausea, and chronic pain, and researchers continue to study other ways that it might benefit our health and well-being. 

CBD for Migraines

Evidence suggests that CBD may also be a useful aid for lessening the effect of migraine headaches, by blocking the inflammation of blood vessels within the brain that occurs with migraine. This helps to reduce pain — the primary migraine symptom  — and may lessen the likelihood of chronic migraine. CBD oil works on a variety of other neuroreceptors as well, and can help decrease stress, anxiety, and depression, all potential contributors to a migraine.

So far, research is slim regarding the efficacy of CBD in treating chronic migraine. In a small study of 121 participants by the University of Colorado, about 40%  indicated their number of monthly migraine headaches was cut in half by using CBD.  However, to date, no clinical trials have been conducted to evaluate CBD’s true effectiveness in treating migraine or other head pain.

Using CBD Products to Treat Migraine

Strains of CBD

The University of Colorado study didn't control by strain of CBD, but research suggests that certain strains may perform better than others as a migraine treatment, depending on the individual using them. Before deciding which medicinal strain(s) to use regularly, check reviews to see which ones have benefited others with migraine.

Or test your own reaction to several available medicinal strains. Begin with a low concentration, in order to best monitor how it affects your body before using a higher dosage. And keep in mind that, as with any medication, side effects may occur when you change the dosage, as your body adjusts to the difference. 

You will also want to consider the type of CBD extract you prefer, including these three main types:

  • CBD isolate contains only pure CBD oil, useful for people who want the pure benefits of CBD without the effect of other compounds. Similar to a lower dosage, this choice can be good for people who are just beginning with CBD and are unsure how their body will react. 
  • Broad-spectrum CBD contains CBD plus additional compounds found in cannabis (but not in THC). Multiple compounds working together may increase CBD’s positive health benefits, so this choice may help people who may prefer more potency but are sensitive to THC. 
  • Full-spectrum CBD contains CBD and other compounds found in cannabis, including permissible levels of THC. The THC levels are still not enough to cause a psychoactive high; however, their unique interaction with other compounds is found very effective by some users. Choose a product with less than 0.3% THC to avoid unwanted side effects. 
Consuming CBD

There are three ways in which CBD to treat migraine may be easily consumed:

  1. Ingestion via various options including oils that you put under your tongue or into a drink using a dropper, as well as baked goods, gummies or other edibles, and beverages. Because the compounds enter through the digestive tract, effects generally last longer than via inhalation, depending on the strain.
  2. Inhalation, most commonly using vaporizers or inhalers. Effects begin after just a few minutes, so this method may be most useful when migraine aura has begun. 
  3. Topical, applied via creams, oils, or sprays. This type of method is most effective to reduce localized pain such as a tension headache, where the point of pain is easily identified.   

When choosing which method of consumption is right for you, consider your lifestyle. If you're on the go frequently, easily portable options such as gummies, an inhaler, or a vaporizer may be an optimal choice. 

Risks of Using CBD to Treat Migraine

As with any treatment option, the use of CBD to treat migraine symptoms may come with potential side effects or even adverse effects. Stronger doses may cause dizziness, weakness, confusion, sleepiness, or moodiness, and can differ from person to person. 

CBD Can Affect Some Health Conditions

People with migraine or any other existing medical condition should always consult a medical professional to understand how ingesting CBD might affect them.

For example, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI) found that individuals who used a lower dosage of THC (approximately 7.5mg) found relief from anxiety; higher doses (approximately 12.5mg) actually increased anxiety. People with an existing mental health condition may want to consider treating their migraine by first starting with a CBD isolate or a broad-spectrum CBD product, or by choosing a full-spectrum product with a lower dose of THC. 

CBD Might Impact Prescription Medication

Because of the way CBD metabolizes in the body, it can interact with certain medications and their effectiveness. Research suggests that drug interactions between CBD and epilepsy medication may occur, causing potentially serious health problems for an epileptic individual. Consult your doctor about the possible side effects of combining CBD and/or THC in conjunction with another medication. 

CBD Might Worsen Your Migraine

If you begin to feel side effects or a continual worsening of your migraine rather than improvement, discontinue the CBD strain and consumption method and consult your doctor. This isn’t necessarily an indicator that all CBD products will affect you negatively — it may just be a matter of discovering the right strain, dose, and delivery method for your migraine pain.  

Finding Safe, High-Quality CBD 

Legality of CBD Use

Cannabis has been used for thousands of years to relieve pain and treat anxiety, insomnia, depression, and nausea. However, recreational marijuana usage remains illegal in most countries. 

In the US, legality of marijuana varies from state to state — some states have legalized recreational use, others only allow medicinal use. If your state has legalized cannabis for recreational and medical use, you should have access to CBD products. If your state has legalized cannabis for medicinal use only, speak with your doctor about obtaining a medical marijuana card. 

In general, you must be 18 to purchase CBD products, although in some instances you may be required to be 21. Because higher doses of THC are more commonly regulated by state laws, recreational dispensaries in many states will require that you are 21 to purchase.  

Purchasing CBD Products 

Many CBD isolate and broad-spectrum CBD products are available at health supplement stores. But again, because THC is more commonly regulated, full-spectrum CBD strains are typically available for purchase only at a state-licensed dispensary or online. If you're purchasing at a state-licensed dispensary and the strain is regulated by the state, the strain is more than likely going to be pure. If this isn't an option and you're purchasing online, look for third-party reviews and studies confirming product potency and purity.  

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Sources
  1. Migraine.com. How Common is Migraine? https://migraine.com/migraine-statistics
  2. WebMD. CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference? https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/cbd-thc-difference
  3. WebMD. Medical Marijuana and CBD Oils for Migraines. https://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/under-counter-treatment-migraines
  4. Medical News Today. Types of CBD: What to Know. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/types-of-cbd
  5. Medical News Today. CBD Skin Cream: How to Use and Best Options. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/cbd-skin-cream
  6. Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI). Effects of Marijuana on Mental Health: Anxiety Disorders. https://adai.uw.edu/pubs/pdf/2017mjanxiety.pdf
  7. The New England Journal of Medicine. Effect of Cannabidiol on Drop Seizures in the Lennox–Gastaut Syndrome. https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa1714631
  8. The Healthy. What to Know about Using CBD for Migraines. https://www.thehealthy.com/headaches/cbd-for-migraines/
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Updated on
September 23, 2022
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