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CBD for Migraines

CBD For Migraines: Can It Help?

If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from the debilitating pain of migraine headaches, then you may have wondered if CBD might be able to dial down the symptoms.

While there is little clinical research on CBD for migraines, some scientists believe CBD could be an effective treatment. Here we’ll look into the studies that point to the potential benefits of CBD for migraines, can it help?

What Are Migraines?

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraine is an “extraordinarily prevalent” neurological disease that affects around 39 million people in the US alone. Anyone can suffer from migraines, but women are represented in disproportionate numbers 1 About Migraines (2021). Migraine Research Foundation. https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/ .

The main symptoms of migraine include severe throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head in addition to a whole slew of potentially disabling symptoms. These symptoms can include visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to stimuli (sound, light, touch, or smell), and tingling or numbness 2 Ibid. .

Possible Causes Of Migraine

When talking about the possible causes of migraine, it’s important to distinguish between root causes of the condition and triggers that can cause a specific headache.

There are a variety of theories about the roots of migraines. Many researchers believe there is a genetic link to migraines, and much current research also focuses on chemical and hormonal causes (especially the influence of serotonin and estrogen) 3 What Causes Migraines? (2020). Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/migraine.html#:~:text=Migraines%20are%20a%20recurring%20type,sensitive%20to%20light%20and%20sound. 4 How a Migraine Happens (2021). Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/headache/how-a-migraine-happens .

Another group of researchers has focused on the possibility that endocannabinoid deficiency could play a role in migraines 5 Greco, R., Demartini, C., Zanaboni, A. M., Piomelli, D., & Tassorelli, C. (2018). Endocannabinoid System and Migraine Pain: An Update. Frontiers in neuroscience, 12, 172. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00172 .  Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids (like anandamide) that your body creates. One study found that migraine patients had significantly lower levels of endocannabinoids than the general population 6 Sarchielli, P., Pini, L. A., Coppola, F., Rossi, C., Baldi, A., Mancini, M. L., & Calabresi, P. (2007). Endocannabinoids in chronic migraine: CSF findings suggest a system failure. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 32(6), 1384–1390. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.npp.1301246 .

Triggers for migraines can vary from person to person, but some of the most common include 4 How a Migraine Happens (2021). Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/headache/how-a-migraine-happens :

  • Stress
  • Fatigue or changes in sleep pattern
  • Biological conditions like hormonal shifts
  • Environmental conditions like flickering lights or smells
  • Weather changes
  • Certain foods and drinks (like alcohol or caffeine)

What Studies Exist To Support The Use Of CBD For Migraines?

There has been very little research looking specifically at CBD as a treatment for migraines. What we do have are several studies that point to the possible role of the endocannabinoid system – and specifically “endocannabinoid deficiency” – as a contributing factor to migraines.

In addition to endocannabinoid support, CBD has a well-documented role to play in calming anxiety, a known trigger 7 Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1 . And, for those whose migraines are triggered by sleep disturbances, CBD can help support healthy sleep/wake cycles as well 8 Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente journal, 23, 18–041. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/18-041 . Additionally, CBD is a known analgesic (pain fighter) and also has anti-nausea properties 9 Vučković, S., Srebro, D., Vujović, K. S., Vučetić, Č., & Prostran, M. (2018). Cannabinoids and Pain: New Insights From Old Molecules. Frontiers in pharmacology, 9, 1259. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2018.01259 10 Parker, L. A., Rock, E. M., & Limebeer, C. L. (2011). Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1411–1422. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.01176.x .

Below you’ll find some of the important studies supporting CBD’s potential as a treatment for migraines:

2019: The Endocannabinoid System In Migraine 11 Tassorelli, C., Greco, R., & Silberstein, S. D. (2019). The endocannabinoid system in migraine: from bench to pharmacy and back. Current opinion in neurology, 32(3), 405–412. https://doi.org/10.1097/WCO.0000000000000688

According to the authors of this study, cannabinoids have a key role in pain control and “may be relevant for migraine via multiple mechanisms.”

They go on to review the growing preclinical evidence and initial clinical findings on endogenous and plant-based cannabinoids for migraine. The study states that CBD in particular reduces inflammatory and neuropathic pain by multiple mechanisms (including modulation of serotonin and TRPV1 receptors – both associated with pain regulation).

2016: Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered 12 Russo E. B. (2016). Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 1(1), 154–165. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0009

In this article, renowned cannabis scientist Ethan Russo explores the evidence that Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED) may be linked to poorly understood pain conditions like fibromyalgia, IBS, and migraines.

He refers to research that showed migraine patients to have demonstrably lower levels of endocannabinoids (among other studies), and he hypothesizes that CBD may help by boosting available levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide.

2007: Endocannabinoids In Chronic Migraine (Clinical Study) 6 Sarchielli, P., Pini, L. A., Coppola, F., Rossi, C., Baldi, A., Mancini, M. L., & Calabresi, P. (2007). Endocannabinoids in chronic migraine: CSF findings suggest a system failure. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 32(6), 1384–1390. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.npp.1301246

This study is often referred to in the scientific literature on using cannabinoids to treat migraines. The authors hypothesized that levels of endocannabinoids may be lower in patients with chronic migraine and medication-overuse headache (also known as rebound headaches) – and they were not disappointed in their findings.

The researchers examined the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 15 chronic migraine sufferers, and 15 patients diagnosed with analgesic overuse headache. They then compared those results with the CSF of 20 healthy age-matched subjects. They found markedly lower levels of endocannabinoids present in those suffering from both kinds of headaches.

 

This study has often been cited as support for the use of cannabinoids like CBD for conditions like migraine.

How To Use CBD For Migraines

If you want to try using CBD products for migraines, there a couple of ways to go about it.

First, topically applied CBD can be helpful for all kinds of localized pain. While scientific evidence for using topical CBD for migraines is scant, there’s no shortage of evidence that topically applied CBD can provide effective targeted pain relief.

If you want to try this for your pain, make sure to find a CBD topical with a pretty respectable potency. The market is rife with low-potency CBD topicals, but they aren’t going to cut it for migraine pain.

We’re big fans of Spruce CBD in general, and they offer one of the highest potency CBD topicals on the market (1000 mg/.87 oz). This is a very high-quality CBD salve, and the family company checks all the boxes for transparency.

If you want to try to tackle some of the triggers of migraines, like anxiety or a messed up sleep cycle – or if you want to take advantage of more systemic pain or nausea relief, then you’ll need to get the CBD all the way into your bloodstream.

There are so many options out there for taking CBD – from tinctures and capsules to vaping or even transdermal patches. Even with all the variety, taking it sublingually (under the tongue) remains one of the most popular ways to dose CBD.

You can check out our favorite CBD oils here, but – spoiler alert – Lazarus Naturals was our #1 pick. The company has a good reputation for transparency, they offer high potency options, and they won’t charge an arm and a leg.

Cautions About Taking CBD For Migraines

CBD oil has a good safety profile, but if you plan to take CBD oil in conjunction with other medications, please check this out with your health provider first! Since some medications can interact with CBD in negative ways.

There is also some evidence that pregnant women should not take CBD as it can possibly affect the development of the fetus.

And, as always, make sure to do your homework before buying CBD from any company. Look into hemp source and farming methods (preferably domestic and organic) and make sure to look at third-party lab reports before buying.

Summary

While there is no clinical evidence yet on using CBD for migraines, we do have evidence that the endocannabinoid system is linked to various kinds of pain conditions including chronic migraines. We also have studies showing CBD’s efficacy for migraine triggers like anxiety and sleep disorders as well as pain and nausea relief.

The information provided is for informational purposes only. We do not claim to treat or cure any health ailment or condition. Please consult your doctor or healthcare provider before trying any new product. We are not responsible for any adverse reaction(s) you may have to any of the products featured on this site. See our T & C for more information.

Sources
  1. About Migraines (2021). Migraine Research Foundation. https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/
  2. Ibid.
  3. What Causes Migraines? (2020). Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/migraine.html#:~:text=Migraines%20are%20a%20recurring%20type,sensitive%20to%20light%20and%20sound.
  4. How a Migraine Happens (2021). Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/headache/how-a-migraine-happens
  5. Greco, R., Demartini, C., Zanaboni, A. M., Piomelli, D., & Tassorelli, C. (2018). Endocannabinoid System and Migraine Pain: An Update. Frontiers in neuroscience, 12, 172. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00172
  6. Sarchielli, P., Pini, L. A., Coppola, F., Rossi, C., Baldi, A., Mancini, M. L., & Calabresi, P. (2007). Endocannabinoids in chronic migraine: CSF findings suggest a system failure. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 32(6), 1384–1390. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.npp.1301246
  7. Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
  8. Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente journal, 23, 18–041. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/18-041
  9. Vučković, S., Srebro, D., Vujović, K. S., Vučetić, Č., & Prostran, M. (2018). Cannabinoids and Pain: New Insights From Old Molecules. Frontiers in pharmacology, 9, 1259. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2018.01259
  10. Parker, L. A., Rock, E. M., & Limebeer, C. L. (2011). Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1411–1422. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.01176.x
  11. Tassorelli, C., Greco, R., & Silberstein, S. D. (2019). The endocannabinoid system in migraine: from bench to pharmacy and back. Current opinion in neurology, 32(3), 405–412. https://doi.org/10.1097/WCO.0000000000000688
  12. Russo E. B. (2016). Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 1(1), 154–165. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0009
  13. Xu, D. H., Cullen, B. D., Tang, M., & Fang, Y. (2020). The Effectiveness of Topical Cannabidiol Oil in Symptomatic Relief of Peripheral Neuropathy of the Lower Extremities. Current pharmaceutical biotechnology, 21(5), 390–402.
  14. Migraine and CBD Oil: Doctor Q&A With Stephen Silberstein, MD, FACP, FAHS. (2018). American Headache Society. https://americanheadachesociety.org/news/migraine-and-cbd-oil-doctor-qa-with-stephen-silberstein-md-facp-fahs/

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