CBD has revolutionized many areas of the health industry, providing an array of benefits to treat a wide range of conditions. From its anti-inflammatory properties to the calming effects it has on the body and mind, CBD is now a staple in many people’s daily lives for good reason.
CBD has been touted as an excellent aid for migraine sufferers. Many swear by CBD’s restorative properties to soothe migraine headaches or prevent them from occurring in the first place. As CBD is a well-known pain reliever, the question is, “Is there evidence that CBD can prevent or help treat migraine headaches?” There is some scientific evidence demonstrating CBD’s benefits for migraines.
What is a Migraine?
Migraine headaches are severe with pulsating or throbbing pain in one area of the head lasting for up to 72 hours. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light or sound (or both). Migraines are more common in women than men and occur in about 10% of the world’s population. Some people have a pre-migraine “aura” which is usually some form of visual disturbance like flashing lights, a temporary loss of vision or “lightning” flashes across the eyes. Auras may also consist of hearing noises or music or a sense of “pins and needles” in the arms or legs. Migraines can be associated with hormonal changes during a woman’s monthly cycle as well. Some people experience a “prodrome” before the aura appears (if it appears). The prodrome stage is often 1-2 days before the migraine and may include:
- Increased yawning
- Stiffness in the neck
- Increased thirst
- Craving for certain foods
- Mood changes
The aura– if it occurs– is the second stage, followed by the headache and the post-drome or recovery period that can include sensitivity to sound and/or light, fatigue, mood changes and confusion.
According to one theory, migraines may be caused by endocannabinoid deficiency. The endocannabinoid system or ECS is a naturally occurring regulatory pathway which plays an important role in controlling major systems like the nervous system and the immune system. Overall, a healthy ECS controls sleep, appetite, memory, reproduction, mood and the perception of pain. An endocannabinoid deficiency/dysregulation occurs when a person has a poorly functioning endocannabinoid system, resulting from having abnormal levels of endocannabinoids. CBD can potentially help support the endocannabinoid system: one way CBD may do this is by slowing down the body’s natural process of breaking down endocannabinoids1.
Can CBD Help with Migraine Pain?
There is growing evidence that CBD—perhaps along with THC—may be beneficial for those with migraine headaches2.
A recent review in the journal Headache concluded that “There is accumulating evidence for various therapeutic benefits of cannabis/cannabinoids, especially in the treatment of pain, which may also apply to the treatment of migraine and headache. There is also supporting evidence that cannabis may assist in opioid detoxification and weaning, thus making it a potential weapon in battling the opioid epidemic.
Cannabis science is a rapidly evolving medical sector and industry with increasingly regulated production standards. Further research is anticipated to optimize breeding of strain‐specific synergistic ratios of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other phytochemicals for predictable user effects, characteristics, and improved symptom and disease‐targeted therapies3.”
Another review indicated that interest by medical professionals in the use of CBD and other cannabinoids in the treatment of migraine is growing4. Most data comes from Europe and many include self-reporting. Some concluded that low-dose of CBD may be useful to alleviate pain while higher doses may aggravate the pain—so remember to start at a low dose and increase slowly5!
As a growing number of people use CBD to help reduce the pain of migraines, you may be considering integrating CBD into your daily life. If you’re considering purchasing CBD products to treat your migraine headaches, explore our 5 top things to keep in mind when you’re looking for CBD.
Quality is everything
High-quality CBD products are vital for success and for your overall health and wellness. Just how effective CBD works to treat health problems like migraines is heavily dependent on the quality of the plant, as well as the processing techniques used. When exploring CBD products, it’s vitally important to pick products made according to rigorous manufacturing standards.
If a product is not transparent about the processing standards used, it may be best to avoid it as you can’t get a gauge on its quality. High-quality, reputable products usually mention manufacturing standards on the label or online. Additionally, it’s strongly recommended to find products that have been tested by reliable, third-party laboratories. This prevents sellers from making false claims about their products and gives customers assurances over its quality.
A high standard of quality control is also vital to prevent undesirable chemicals and materials contaminating CBD products—and you can learn about this if the company does reliable 3rd party testing. Unreliable CBD products can contain things such as pesticides and toxic metals due to poor manufacturing practices. Additionally, cannabinoid profiles and amounts can vary widely between different batches of the same product if the manufacturer isn’t reliable. For example, products that claim to be 30% CBD may contain 20% CBD in one batch, but another batch will be 35% CBD due to poor practices.
How to Choose the right spectrum
CBD is just one of over 100 cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. What many people don’t know is that CBD products are often extracted with other cannabinoids such as THC.
Not all CBD products are identical, as some can contain more cannabinoids than others. On the other hand, there are also pure CBD products—called CBD isolates—that are free from other cannabinoids. Most CBD products fall into one of three categories:
A CBD isolate product contains pure CBD, without any of the other active compounds found in the hemp plant. CBD isolate is favored by those looking to maximize CBD intake, as isolate products will often contain a high amount of CBD.
Full spectrum CBD products are manufactured together with all other active compounds in hemp, including THC. Although they will still typically contain just a small quantity of THC, their full profile of cannabinoids makes it the ideal choice for those looking for the synergistic effect. By law, in the US, these products must contain ≤0.3% THC.
CBD products falling under the broad spectrum category will typically contain many cannabinoids, but will be free from THC. This allows users to still enjoy a rich profile of active compounds without ingesting any THC.
Cannabinoids are believed to work together in a synergistic fashion, enhancing and complementing the benefits of one another. For this reason, many will seek out broad spectrum or full spectrum CBD products.
Finding the right dosage
Researchers suggest discovering your ‘goldilocks zone’, where the dosage is just right, to maximize the effectiveness of CBD. Going overboard on CBD could cause a few issues like fatigue or lack of focus (don’t worry though, because CBD is a very safe ingredient and has what is known as a “wide therapeutic window” meaning there is a wide range of dosages that appear to be safe)6.
In order to do this, you’ll first need to get an accurate gauge of how much CBD you’re taking per dose. Look for products that contain very specific measurements of CBD content (usually in milligrams). Poorly made products will often lack dosage amounts, or the concentration of cannabinoids will vary due to inferior processing standards. This reaffirms the importance of buying high quality CBD products from reputable manufacturers.
Discovering what exactly your perfect dosage is can also take some time. There are many factors that will determine what your ideal dosage is including body composition, tolerance threshold and the severity of your migraines. It can take CBD users a few weeks to find that optimal dosage range, so don’t despair if you don’t experience an immediate cessation of your migraine. Patience is key, and it’s worth keeping a note on your phone on daily dosage amounts for more accuracy.
You’ll need to experiment with CBD consumption in the initial stages to find your dosage. It’s best to start off with low doses, before incrementing your intake if you aren’t experiencing many benefits. CBD works most effectively when you take doses at regular intervals, so make sure you stick to your daily routine with CBD to get the most out of it.
The general “rule of thumb” is to Start Low and Go Slow—start with the lowest dose of CBD that you can get. For example, if you choose gummies, you may be able to cut them into smaller, equal-sized pieces. If you are using a tincture, try and find a company which provides you with a dropper marked with different volumes.
Method of consumption
When the average person thinks of CBD, popular oil tinctures are what usually come to mind first. This method of ingestion involves placing droplets beneath the tongue for 30-60 seconds, allowing CBD to absorb into your bloodstream through the mucus tissue under the tongue. However, there are many other ways to consume CBD, some of which may be more suitable for treating migraine headaches.
For the most immediate intake of CBD, vaping or smoking the compound is the ideal method of ingestion. This involves using vape cartridges or CBD leaf in a vaping device to inhale the active cannabinoids. This method provides an almost immediate dosage of CBD into the bloodstream, unlike other methods which can take time to get absorbed. The downside to this method is that many people do not like smoking or vaping and would prefer a more natural way to ingest CBD such as orally or through edibles. In addition, there are serious questions about the long-term safety of using vaping as a delivery method.
You may also consider purchasing edible CBD products instead. These offer somewhat less bioavailability, but the effects are often more long-lasting than vaping due to the slow release of CBD into the bloodstream. This may be more favorable to those experiencing long-lasting but mild migraines, as opposed to sharp and acute migraines. As mentioned, you can cut some of the edibles “to size”. Though this is not possible with capsules, many companies offer a wide range of doses.
Some people prefer the use of creams and balms which can be applied directly to your forehead for localized relief. Sublingual ingestion of CBD has a high absorption rate, although unlike vaping it doesn’t have an immediate effect as it takes some time to enter the bloodstream—on the order of 10-20 minutes.
Consult your doctor
Before considering any form of treatment for migraines, you should be speaking with a medical professional. Although CBD is a rational approach for migraines, based on scientific evidence and millions of happy customers, everyone is unique and a medical professional can best determine if it’s suitable for you. For example, some people suffering from migraines may have other health conditions or are taking medications that may complicate the situation.
CBD consumption could end up inadvertently aggravating other health problems, so it’s worth consulting your doctor just in case. Some groups advised to approach CBD with caution including those with gastrointestinal problems, chronic fatigue, and low blood pressure. Additionally, CBD can interact with medications and potentially cause problems. For this reason, it’s best to have a talk with your doctor before considering purchasing CBD products if you have any other long-term health conditions.
CBD may offer significant benefits for migraine sufferers, making it one of the more popular remedies for the condition. Its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties may allow for relief from migraine headaches, while its balancing effect on the endocannabinoid system may help reduce stress and anxiety. However, you shouldn’t purchase any old CBD product that you find, as it’s vitally important to buy CBD of a high standard.
Be sure to thoroughly research the manufacturing practices behind your chosen product, and also ensure you pick the right form of CBD whether it’s vaping cartridges, CBD oil or another form. When picking a CBD product to treat migraine headaches, evidence suggests that a full spectrum product may be more effective than the rest, although all CBD products will potentially have a beneficial impact on your migraines.
1Mlost, J., Bryk, M., & Starowicz, K. (2020). Cannabidiol for Pain Treatment: Focus on Pharmacology and Mechanism of Action. International journal of molecular sciences, 21(22), 8870. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21228870
2Ross, M. (2020, November 30). How Cannabis Helps Migraine Headache. Retrieved January 06, 2021, from https://drmicheleross.com/cannabis-helps-migraine-headache/
3Baron EP. Medicinal properties of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in cannabis, and benefits in migraine, headache, and pain: an update on current evidence and cannabis science. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. 2018 Jul;58(7):1139-86.
4Leimuranta P, Khiroug L and Giniatullin R (2018) Emerging Role of (Endo)Cannabinoids in Migraine. Front. Pharmacol. 9:420. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2018.00420
5Lu, Y., and Anderson, H. D. (2017). Cannabinoid signaling in health and disease. Can. J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 95, 311–327. doi: 10.1139/cjpp-2016-0346
6Benson D. Should CBD Be Part of My Patients’ Treatment?. Alternative therapies in health and medicine. 2019;25(1):8-11. http://search.proquest.com/openview/911aeaa8db1221c9e38bcfb8f60c697d/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=32528