How Does Cannabis Help With Headaches and Migraines?
Migraines are an intense form of recurring headache often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines are very common, affecting more than 38 million people in the United States. The most common treatments for migraines are pharmaceutical drugs like triptans, ergots, opioids, beta-blockers, and antidepressants.
As you’re probably aware, these frequently prescribed medications can cause dependency and often result in moderate to severe side effects. It’s important to understand that pharmaceutical drugs are not your only option for dealing with migraines. In addition to self-care (lifestyle choices), many people incorporate CBD into their treatment regimen for plant-based, natural migraine headache relief.
Research is still in its early stages, but that hasn’t slowed the spread of positive reports when using CBD for migraines. We’ll show you the evidence from several medical studies conducted over the past ten years. These studies evaluated CBD’s medical efficacy in treating those who suffer from various types of headaches – including migraines. We will address the results below.
What Studies Exist to Support the Use of CBD in Headaches and Migraines?
CBD was discovered nearly a hundred years ago, but news of many health benefits didn’t surface until more recently. Although research regarding CBD is still in its infancy, efforts are quickly advancing. Various anecdotal and clinical reports have revealed ways in which CBD could be useful for headaches, like its effects of CBD on inflammation and pain. Now, researchers are increasingly interested in the effects of CBD for headaches and migraines.
While there are only a few studies that specifically look at the effects of cannabidiol on headaches and migraines, they all boast some impressive numbers. One study suggests that CBD helped patients with recurring headaches experience up to 55% less pain with far fewer side effects than when treating headaches with prescription medications.
Other research suggests that cannabidiol may be beneficial in multiple ways that make it useful for managing headaches, like by managing pain and inflammation in the body. Plus, studies show that many people who experience recurring migraines have lower levels of a certain endocannabinoid, which may help explain how CBD balances the endocannabinoid system to help manage headaches.
Research regarding the endocannabinoid system and its role in key processes that regulate inflammation and pain that is caused by headaches and migraines provides a solid foundation for future research efforts. Though existing research is considerably preliminary, research efforts regarding CBD for migraines are expected to continue to incline, as CBD could one day offer a suitable alternative to high-risk medications. The following studies help illuminate the connection between CBD and migraines:
1. Cannabinoids suitable for migraine prevention
A 2017 study by the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology reported that the active compounds in cannabis (THC & CBD) are more effective at reducing the frequency of acute migraine headaches than prescription drugs, and cause fewer side effects. The study found that sufferers of chronic migraines given a 200mg dose of a THC/CBD blend each day for three months experienced 55% less pain.
The second part of the study looked at those suffering from chronic acute migraines and those suffering from cluster headaches. Participants were given either the THC/CBD blend or a pharmaceutical – antidepressants for migraines and calcium channel blockers for cluster headaches. The study concluded that THC/CBD was better at reducing the frequency of migraine attacks relative to the pharmaceutical alternative. The study also found that the THC/CBD blend resulted in fewer side effects than the pharmaceutical alternative – fewer stomach aches and muscle pains.
2. Effects of Medical Marijuana on Migraine Headache Frequency in an Adult Population.
A 2016 study evaluated the efficacy of medical marijuana in treating migraine headaches in 121 adults. The study concluded that “migraine headache frequency decreased from 10.4 to 4.6 headaches per month with the use of medical marijuana. Most patients used more than one form of marijuana and used it daily for prevention of migraine headache. Positive effects were reported in 48 patients (39.7%), with the most common effects reported being prevention of migraine headache with decreased frequency of migraine headache and aborted migraine headache.
Learn more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26749285
3. Endocannabinoid System and Migraine Pain: An Update
A 2018 study sought to explain how the endocannabinoid system links to headaches and concluded that many with recurring migraines have lower levels of a certain endocannabinoid, anandamide. The study shows that “Experimental and clinical data suggests indeed a link between dysregulation of this signaling complex and migraine headache. Clinical observations, in particular, show that the levels of anandamide (AEA)—one of the two primary endocannabinoid lipids—are reduced in cerebrospinal fluid and plasma of patients with chronic migraine (CM), and that this reduction is associated with pain facilitation in the spinal cord… Inhibition of AEA degradation via FAAH is a promising therapeutic target for migraine pain, since it is presumably associated to an increased availability of the endocannabinoid, specifically at the site where its formation is stimulated (e.g., trigeminal ganglion and/or meninges), thus prolonging its action.”
4. The Use of Cannabis for Headache Disorders
A 2017 study looked at evidence regarding the use of cannabis (and CBD) for neuropathic pain and headaches. The study involves evidence from a variety of different applications over recent years and concludes that“ Although placebo-controlled clinical trials are still needed to appropriately determine efficacy, it appears likely that cannabis will emerge as a potential treatment for some headache sufferers.”
Which CBD products help with migraines and headaches?
When formulating a CBD regimen to help with headaches or migraines, keep in mind that CBD for headaches has not yet been proven effective. Still, many people prefer to try a more natural method, and many have found success when using CBD regularly. This means you should use CBD as a preventative treatment first by taking regular doses and establishing a baseline concentration in your system. Combining preventative CBD doses with doses meant to manage acute flare-ups is often the most effective way to utilize CBD for headaches.
There are countless options that could be useful for daily use, but for managing migraines and headaches, we recommend ingesting full spectrum CBD oil daily in the form of tinctures or gel capsules.
These two products feature the same ingredient: full spectrum CBD oil. However, capsules and tinctures offer two different dosing methods, swallowing pills or dosing sublingually. Choosing between the two is based more on preference than anything—just ensure that the product you choose includes a high-quality MCT oil. This helps aid the absorption of CBD in the body.
When using the described routine for managing daily symptoms, many people find that they still need to manage the occasional acute flare-up. CBD can also help combat these acute flares, and there are multiple methods that you can choose from.
Whether it’s caused by poor lifestyle choices, stress, or another trigger – we recommend vaporizing CBD isolate to combat these acute anxiety flare-ups. CBD isolate is a version of CBD that is 99% pure. Vaporizing it is unique in that it provides immediate results. Vaporized CBD isolate can provide total body relief in less than ten minutes.
If you prefer, you can stick to your capsules or tincture and simply increase your dose to manage these acute flare-ups. However, keep in mind that ingestible products take quite a bit longer to kick in—up to 90 minutes vs only 10.
Many people find that the most effective way to manage the symptoms of headaches or migraines may be to combine multiple dosing methods. For instance, a regular systemic dose and a fast-acting supplementary dose, and potentially even a topical application.
What is the correct CBD dosage to help treat migraines and headaches?
Multiple factors come into play when determining was dose of CBD is needed to manage symptoms, like your unique weight and tolerance to cannabinoid-based supplements, as well as the type and severity of your symptoms.
We suggest those suffering from headaches start with 5-10mg per day of CBD. If this doesn’t do the trick, we suggest increasing by increments of 5-10mg until the desired results are achieved. Using a CBD tincture makes this simple because it allows you to increase the dose by small increments for a very personalized dosing experience.
If you decide to go the other route and try CBD gel capsules, you can start with the lowest available dose and increase from there. There’s no harm starting at whatever dose is provided, like a 10mg capsule, because CBD has no severe side effects or chance of fatal overdose.
From there, simply increase your dose as needed, leaving plenty of time in between adjustments to fully monitor the effects. Remember that ingestible CBD products like these take effect slowly—it can take up to 90 minutes for them to take full effect. For most people this translates to extended relief. Many people report that the effects of tinctures and capsules last day!
Vaping CBD is slightly different, as it can be difficult to monitor the amount of CBD you intake with each puff. However, the effects have a quick onset, providing an easy opportunity to monitor the effects and stack another dose on top if needed. Vaping CBD should provide full therapeutic effects in about 10 minutes. Then you can decide if you need to take another fast-acting dose to manage symptoms.
A Note About CBD and Drug Interactions
The World Health Organization recently joined many other leading organizations in confirming the solid safety profile of cannabidiol, but keep in mind that every person’s experience with CBD is unique. Evidence suggests that CBD is metabolized by cytochrome P450 liver enzymes, the same liver enzyme group responsible for metabolizing the majority of prescription medications. Because CBD may interact with these enzymes, it may reduce the number of enzymes available for metabolizing other drugs, reducing their absorption and efficacy.
Interactions could include many of the prescription medications taken for headaches and migraines, which also interact with cytochrome P450 liver enzymes. These interactions are not considered a severe threat and are only potentially dangerous if the medication is meant to control life-threatening symptoms.
Luckily, this effect on liver enzymes is only brief. Many people rectify this problem by simply spacing out their CBD and medication doses. If you take regular prescription medications, especially for a chronic illness, you should talk to your doctor about CBD before you decide how to proceed.