Can CBD Help With Headaches And Migraines?
Stop the suffering. Here's what you need to know next time your head hurts.
Do you suffer from migraines? These headaches are extremely debilitating, and you have likely tried many remedies; anything to alleviate the pain. Migraines are neurologically-based headaches accompanied by light and sound sensitivity as well as nausea and vomiting. Additionally, migraine sufferers must often confine themselves to a dark room free of all noise, sometimes for several days, in order for the headache to alleviate. As an alternative, sleeping for an extended period of time often relieves a migraine headache.
If you have suffered for some time from migraines, the medications prescribed to you might work, but the negative side effects may be almost as bad as the migraine. Sadly, for many patients, prescribed medications don’t work. As a result, many migraine sufferers are looking for an effective alternative that will alleviate these headaches without negative side effects, and CBD is showing great promise as a migraine treatment.
Related: The 7 Most Potent CBD Strains
What we know
Some doctors suspect that migraines are caused by a deficiency in one of the human body’s endocannabinoids. Humans recognize CBD as “one of its own” and the plant cannabinoid binds to the body’s endocannabinoid receptor. This is why researchers think CBD may be very effective for migraines. In fact, some research indicates that CBD works in the same manner as the triptan or opiate medications, activating the same pathways in the brain. CBD may be just as effective for some people as prescription triptans or opiates.
The first scientific study on CBD’s effectiveness against migraines was published decades ago in 1985. In that study, researchers showed that a THC/CBD combination inhibited the release of the chemical serotonin that contributes to migraine symptoms. More recent studies shed more light on CBD’s potential effectiveness against headaches and migraines. A study in the European Journal of Neurology showed that CBD was more effective than the standard prescription migraine medications, and best of all, CBD had fewer side effects.
In a 2016 study of 127 patients who suffered from migraines and severe cluster headaches, patients were given a high CBD/low THC dose and experienced 55 percent less pain. The other patient group took a common antidepressant called amitriptyline, which doctors also commonly prescribe for migraines. Patients who took CBD had fewer headaches.
Different types of CBD
There are many factors to consider when trying to determine the form of CBD that will work best for you. First and foremost, you want to consider what you’re using CBD for, and always make sure you get a quality product.
Topical CBD treatments have been shown to be very effective for migraines. These creams, oils, and gels are easy to apply and fast-acting. If you are taking migraine medications, CBD theoretically should not interact with them at all since it works via an entirely different mechanism when compared to common migraine prescription and over the counter medications. However, always consult your physician before combining CBD with any medication you are taking.
There have been no human studies to date regarding the best dosing method for migraine. In general, there are five forms of CBD.
CBD comes in creams, oils, salves, and balms, to name just a few forms. Topicals are frequently used to relieve joint pain and sore muscles. There are many cannabinoid receptors in the skin, so this form of CBD is generally fast-acting.
Tinctures are extracted using several techniques including the CO2 method and the ethanol method. All of the extraction techniques are designed to preserve as many of the cannabinoids as possible. Tinctures are generally taken orally, but can also be mixed into food or drink. The fastest acting tinctures are those taken sublingually (under the tongue). When taken in this fashion, the effects kick in after 15 to 45 minutes.
Edibles are also very popular because they taste great, are easy to use, and are also discrete. CBD is usually infused into a baked good or smoothie to transform it into an edible. Many patients find it is easier to dose CBD with an edible. Since edibles, in general, have a higher concentration of CBD, this is a great way to take higher CBD doses. If the edible has a sufficient quantity of another oil or fat, such as coconut oil, that formulation generally increases CBD’s bioavailability.
Oral CBD in the form of drops, sprays, and capsules represent another ingestion method. They’re easy to use. Capsules are quickly digested, and drops or sprays of CBD under the tongue are very fast-acting. Many oils and oral sprays are flavored to mask the earthiness of natural CBD.
Vaping is certainly another way to ingest CBD. While inhalation has been deemed a very effective method, there have been many recent serious lung health hazards attributed to vaping and vaping additives, so caution is warranted.
How to choose
Unfortunately, the market today is flooded with CBD products. While many are excellent formulations from very reputable vendors, many products are of questionable quality. Here are some tips for how consumers can locate truth within the product packaging to ensure you choose a quality product:
- Make sure the amount of CBD in the bottle (in mg) is clearly displayed on the package or bottle
- Make sure the total volume of CBD oil is clearly printed on the bottle
- Determine whether the CBD is cannabis or hemp-derived. Also determine where the hemp is grown, and whether it is grown by a state-regulated supplier.
- Make sure to determine whether the hemp is organic or non-organic.
- Determine the reputation of the company and ensure the cleanliness of the product.
- The extraction method used to separate the CBD from the hemp plant should be plainly labeled; common extraction methods are ethanol, butane, and CO2. The CO2 extraction method is generally regarded as the “cleanest” method and the one that preserves the greatest quantity of cannabinoids.
- Third-party independent lab test results should always be available on the company’s website
While more human research is definitely needed, CBD is receiving lots of clinical attention for many ailments, including migraines. Without CBD, patients must rely on conventional migraine medications, which have some pretty awful side effects. Doctors have been taught a methodology to apply when prescribing migraine meds. First, they try an over the counter drug like Excedrin Migraine, a mixture of aspirin and acetaminophen along with a small dose of caffeine. These drugs are relatively safe if not taken too often, but can cause stomach ulcers or kidney damage if taken more frequently.
However, most people who suffer from severe migraines need a much stronger class of drugs known as triptans (Imitrex and Treximet are examples). These drugs increase the levels of certain brain chemicals and constrict the brain’s blood vessels. They are known to cause dizziness, drowsiness, chest tightness, or even nausea.
Some doctors prescribe mild opioids like Oxycontin for migraines, but with opioid deaths quadrupled in the last two decades, this is certainly not a viable long-term option. Finally, doctors might prescribe a class of drugs called ergotamines (Ergomar, Migranal) which can cause debilitating complications like stroke and heart attack. Some of these pharmaceuticals have been linked to birth defects in pregnant women.
CBD is fully natural, plant-derived, and non-hallucinogenic. When more migraine research has been performed, CBD may prove to be just as effective as these other medications.