Headache disorders are common, debilitating, and, in many cases, inadequately managed by existing treatments. Although clinical trials of cannabis for neuropathic pain have shown promising results, there has been limited research on its use, specifically for headache disorders.
CBD and Headaches
“Cannabidiol oil is a product made from the extraction of CBD, the second most prevalent compound or cannabinoid, from marijuana or hemp,” Kenneth Weinberg, MD, chief medical officer of the Cannabis Doctors of New York, told POPSUGAR. “The CBD is then mixed with a carrier oil, like hempseed oil.” The properties of CBD oil can make it a good candidate for migraine pain and symptom relief. “Among its pharmacologic properties, CBD offers a powerful anti-inflammatory effect, is neuro-protective, and a pain reliever,” Dr. Weinberg explained. “Those benefits of CBD, along with its known antianxiety effects, can work on several of the disturbances that occur in a migraine headache, as well as the anxiety that accompanies any chronic painful condition. [That anxiety] can also perpetuate the pain cycle.”
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 headaches. 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.
The most effective way to manage the symptoms of headaches or migraines may be to combine multiple dosing methods.
CBD Products for headaches
For those who do not want to smoke or don’t want the high from THC, the industry has plenty of options, but patients relay some of the most effective remedies:
- Bath Bombs
With the successful studies on migraines and marijuana thus far, we hope to see more patients to the alternative treatments like cannabis.