Migraine attacks go beyond the typical stress or allergy-related headaches. Migraines last between 4 and 72 hours. Even the most everyday activities, such as exercise or the presence of noise and light, can make symptoms worse.
While pain medication can temporarily relieve symptoms of migraines, you may be concerned about their side effects. This is where cannabidiol (CBD) can come into play.
CBD is one of the many active ingredients found in the cannabis plant. It is growing in popularity as a natural treatment for certain diseases.
What research says about CBD for migraines
Research into using CBD for migraines is limited. Existing studies look at the combined effects of CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another cannabinoid. There are currently no published studies examining the effects of CBD as a single ingredient on migraines.
This limited research is due in part to the regulations governing CBD and the barriers to legalizing cannabis. However, some laboratory studies suggest that CBD Oil Can help with all forms of chronic and acute pain, including migraines.
Study on CBD and THC
In 2017, a group of researchers presented the results of their study on cannabinoids and migraine prevention at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology (EAN).
In phase I of their study, 48 people with chronic migraines received a combination of two active substances. One preparation contained 19 percent THC, while the other contained 9 percent CBD and virtually no THC. The preparations were administered orally.
Doses below 100 milligrams (mg) had no effect. When the dose was increased to 200 mg, the acute pain decreased by 55 percent.
Phase II of the study examined people with chronic migraines or cluster headaches. The 79 people with chronic migraines received a daily dose of 200 mg of the THC-CBD combination from phase I or 25 mg of amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant.
The 48 people with cluster headaches received a daily dose of 200 mg of the THC-CBD combination from phase I or 480 mg of verapamil, a calcium channel blocker.
The treatment lasted three months and a follow-up examination took place four weeks after the end of the treatment.
The THC-CBD combination reduced migraines by 40,4 percent, while amitriptyline resulted in a 40,1 percent decrease in migraines. The THC-CBD combination also reduced pain intensity by 43,5 percent.
In participants with cluster headaches, the severity and frequency of the headache decreased only slightly.
For some, however, the pain intensity decreased by 43,5 percent. This decrease in pain intensity was only seen in participants whose migraine attacks started in childhood.
The researchers concluded that cannabinoids are only effective for acute cluster headaches if a person experienced migraines as a child.
Other cannabis research
Research into other forms of cannabis could provide additional hope for those seeking relief from their migraine symptoms.
Medical marijuana studies
In 2016, the journal Pharmacotherapy published a study on the use of medical marijuana for migraines. The researchers found that of the 48 people surveyed, 39,7 percent reported fewer overall migraine attacks.
Drowsiness was the biggest complaint while others struggled with finding the right dose. Most of the side effects occurred in people who used edible marijuana instead of inhaling it or using other forms.
A 2018 study looked at 2.032 people with migraines, headaches, arthritis, or chronic pain as their main symptom or illness. Most participants were able to replace their prescription drugs - usually opioids or opiates - with cannabis.
All subgroups preferred hybrid cannabis strains. Participants in the migraine and headache subgroups preferred OG Shark, a hybrid strain high in THC and low in CBD.
Study on nabilone
A 2012 Italian study looked at the effects of nabilone, a synthetic form of THC, on headache disorders. Twenty-six people who suffered from drug overuse headaches initially took either 0,50 mg nabilone or 400 mg ibuprofen per day.
After eight weeks of taking one drug, the study participants stopped taking drugs for a week. Then they switched to the other drug for the last eight weeks.
Both drugs were found to be effective. However, at the end of the study, participants reported more improvements and better quality of life when they took nabilone.
Taking nabilone resulted in less severe pain and less drug addiction. Neither drug had a significant effect on the frequency of migraine attacks, which the researchers attributed to the short duration of the study.
How CBD works
CBD works by interacting with the body's cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). Even if the mechanisms are not yet fully understood, the receptors can influence the immune system.
For example, can CBD flowers prevent the body from metabolizing anandamide. The compound anandamide has been implicated in regulating pain. Maintaining high levels of anandamide in the blood can reduce the sensation of pain.
CBD is also believed to reduce inflammation in the body, which can also help reduce pain and other immune system responses.
More research is needed to understand how CBD can affect the body.
How to use CBD
Although lawmakers in the United States are currently debating the benefits of cannabis and related products, the medicinal uses of the plant is not a new discovery.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), cannabis has been used in alternative medicine for over 3.000 years. Some of these uses include treating:
- Neurological symptoms
- CBD oil can be:
- Take in
- Apply externally
Side effects are less likely with oral CBD than with vaporizing, so some beginners should start with it. You can:
- Put a few drops of the oil under your tongue
- Take CBD capsules
- Eat or drink a CBD-containing treat
Vaping CBD oil can be beneficial if you have a severe migraine at home and don't need to go outside.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) explains that inhalation gets the active ingredients into the bloodstream much faster than other methods.
There are currently no official guidelines for the correct dosage for a migraine attack. Work with your doctor to determine the correct dosage.
The first time you use CBD oil, start with the smallest possible dose. You can gradually approach the full recommended dose. This will allow your body to get used to the oil and reduce the risk of side effects.
Possible side effects and risks
Overall, studies show that the side effects of both CBD and CBD oil are minimal. This is one of the main reasons many people choose not to use over-the-counter or prescription pain medication.
However, tiredness, drowsiness, and upset stomach are possible, as are changes in appetite and weight. Liver toxicity was also observed in mice given extremely high doses of CBD-rich cannabis extract.
Your risk of side effects may depend on the way you use the CBD oil. For example, vaping can cause lung irritation. This can lead to the following:
- Chronic cough
- Difficulty breathing
If you have asthma or another lung condition, your doctor may advise against smoking CBD.
If you are unsure about any side effects or how your body can handle them, talk to your doctor.
If you are also taking other medications or supplements, you should look out for interactions. CBD can interact with a number of drugs, including:
- blood thinner
Be especially careful if you are taking any drug or dietary supplement that interacts with grapefruit. Both CBD and grapefruit interact with enzymes - like cytochromes P450 (CYPs) - that are important for drug metabolism.
Do you get high from CBD?
CBD oils are made from cannabis, but they don't always contain THC. THC is the cannabinoid that makes the user “high” or “stoned” when smoking cannabis.
Two types of CBD strains:
The CBD-dominant strain contains little to no THC, while the CBD-rich strain contains both cannabinoids.
CBD without THC has no psychoactive properties. Even if you choose a combination product, the CBD often counteracts the effects of THC, according to the non-profit organization Project CBD. This is one of the many reasons you might choose CBD oil over medical marijuana.
Is CBD Legal? Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal at the federal level, but legal in some states. Hemp CBD products (containing less than 0,2 percent THC) are federal legal, but are still illegal in some states. Find out about the laws of your state and the laws of the country you are traveling to. Note that non-prescription CBD products are not FDA approved and may be inaccurately labeled.
Due to the psychoactive components of conventional marijuana, cannabis is still banned in some parts of the United States.
However, a growing number of states have chosen to allow cannabis for medicinal use only. Others have legalized cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use.
If you live in a state where marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational use, you should have access to CBD oil as well.
In some states, all forms of cannabis are illegal. At the federal level, cannabis is still classified as a dangerous and illegal drug.
It is important that you read up on the laws in your state and in other states you are visiting. If cannabis products are illegal - or if they require a medical license that you don't have - you can be fined for possession.
Talk to your doctor
More research is needed before CBD oil can become a conventional treatment option for migraines. He can advise you on the correct dosage and the legal requirements.
If you do decide to give CBD oil a try, treat it like any other migraine treatment option. It may take some time to work and you may need to adjust your dosage to suit your needs.