This picture taken on March 16, 2017 shows an employee collecting legal cannabis plants in the greenhouse of Switzerland’s cannabis producer KannaSwiss in Koelliken. The company procudes high cannabidiol (CBD) content cannabis with THC (psychoactive component) content below the Swiss legal limit. KannaSwiss sell medicinal oil and flowers to smoke. / AFP PHOTO / Fabrice COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
CBD for migraines is gaining popularity as an effective way to treat and prevent the debilitating headaches, but how does it work? We’ve broken it down so you can decide if CBD for migraines is right for you.
What is a Migraine?
Migraine pain is categorized as an intense pain that throbs or pulses in a specific spot on the head. The pain is crippling and is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and/or sound. Migraines affect 10 percent of the global population and are three times more common in women than men, according to the NIH.
Migraines are often onset by triggers, including stress, insomnia, hormonal changes, bright or flashing light, even certain smells – it depends on the person. One-third of chronic migraine sufferers can predict when a migraine is coming because they see an “aura.” Also unique to the individual, these “auras” can appear as flashing lights, zig-zag lines, or temporary loss of vision.
The Endocannabinoid System: How is it Involved?
Cannabis and its tinctures have been used to treat headaches, including migraines, for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. That’s because our bodies’ own natural endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a crucial role in who suffers from migraines.
The ECS is our largest regulatory system, controlling everything from pain to appetite. The body produces its own cannabinoids and also has cannabinoid receptors in nearly every cell in the body. Anandamide, sometimes known as the bliss molecule, is the body’s natural version of THC. Interestingly, a 2007 study found that regular migraine sufferers had below average levels of anandamide. This has led some researchers to believe migraines are caused by an endocannabinoid system deficiency.
Neurologist and cannabinoid researcher, Dr. Ethan Russo, used this evidence along with other studies to create his “Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency” theory. Basically, this theory says that a lack of natural endocannabinoids can cause an array of health problems, including migraines and fibromyalgia.
Another study done in Colorado in 2016 had similar results. This study found that regular cannabis use decreased the frequency of migraines from 10.4 headaches each month to only 4.6. What’s more, 11.6 percent of participants reported regular cannabis use stopped their migraines completely.
CBD for Migraines: How Does it Work?
This is where CBD for migraines comes in. Because migraines might be caused by an ECS deficiency, supplementing your ECS with a daily dose of cannabis makes sense, right? That’s why many people are turning to CBD for migraines. They’re taking a daily dose of CBD as a preventative measure to keep migraines at bay. This can be done by putting some CBD oil in your morning coffee, smoking or vaping a strain high in CBD each day, or whatever your preferred method of consumption may be.
Although research is limited on the matter, there was one study from 2017 that showed cannabis was a more effective treatment than prescription drugs for migraines. Participants in this study were given a combination of THC and CBD for migraines every day for three months. They not only experienced a 55 percent decrease in pain, but that pain relief was more effective than regularly prescribed migraine and cluster headache drugs. What’s more, participants using THC and CBD for migraines had fewer side effects, like stomach and muscle pain, often associated with the prescription meds.
A 2015 survey in California found similar results. Care By Design surveyed medical marijuana patients and found CBD for migraines decreased pain in 100 percent of cases. You read that correctly: 100 percent. For some perspective, they also found that CBD helped other ailments an average of 50 percent.
How to Use CBD for Migraines
Even the limited research we have points to a daily dose of CBD for migraines helps to reduce intensity and frequency of symptoms. We’d suggest adding a CBD oil to your daily routine as a preventative treatment. Because CBD can also help with many migraine triggers, like stress, anxiety, and insomnia, this approach is twofold. CBD for migraines helps to prevent the headaches as much as the triggers.
CBD for migraines also helps if you feel a headache coming on. Many migraine patients report using a sublingual product, or vaping or smoking a strain high in CBD when they feel or “see” a migraine on the horizon.
Looking for a good CBD for migraines strain? We’d recommend trying:
For some, smoking intensifies headache pain, if that’s you, check out Herb’s coverage of best vape pens for chronic pain. Or, try a sublingual absorption product like Midori strips or Care By Design’s sublingual sprays, for their fast-acting relief.
CBD for Migraines: The Safest Option
Not only is CBD for migraines more effective than prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, it’s safer. There are many OTC and prescription choices for treating and preventing migraines, but they all have side effects and many are not a long-term option. For instance, many people’s first instinct is take an OTC NSAID mixed with caffeine, like Excedrin, for a migraine. But these drugs cannot prevent migraines and can cause heart, liver, and stomach problems if taken regularly.
Some people are prescribed opioids, like OxyContin, for debilitating migraines, but we all know how easy it is to get addicted to opioid pain pills. The risk of addiction, withdrawal, and accidental overdose death is just not worth the risk.
There are other prescription choices for migraine sufferers, like Ergotamines or Triptans. However, Ergotamines can promote heart attack, stroke, birth defects in women and toxicosis if taken with antibiotics or anti-fungal medications. Likewise, Triptans have nasty side effects including dizziness, vomiting, extreme drowsiness, tightness in the chest, and rebound headaches. Because of these side effects, two-thirds of migraine patients avoid or delay taking these prescription drugs.
Doctors will also prescribe SSRIs to migraine patients as well. But the obvious answer is the natural plant with practically no side effects: cannabis.
CBD for migraines has been a game changer for so many people. If you’re looking to recommend CBD to a friend or family member that “doesn’t get high,” remind them that CBD is non-psychoactive. Plus, if it’s derived from the hemp plant, CBD can be shipped to all 50 states. Don’t miss out on the healing powers of CBD for migraines.