Migraines can be a tough condition to treat. Those who suffer from migraines know that it’s a complex disorder with a variety of triggers that can express themselves in many ways. Migraines are much more than just the usual allergy-related headache or typical stresses of life. They may last anywhere from 4 to 27 hours and can make even the most mundane activities torturous.
While migraine symptoms can sometimes be alleviated with the help of painkillers on a temporary basis, many people are worried about the side effects – and they certainly should be. Some of the most well-known painkillers on the market are associated with some adverse side effects such as nausea, drowsiness, sweating, and sometimes even depression.
This is where CBD comes in. CBD is an active compound that is found in the cannabis plant. Each year it seems to grow more and more in popularity as a means to treat a variety of medical conditions naturally. Today, we will explore more about what migraines are, how CBD can help to treat migraines, what medical research has found, and how to take CBD for migraines.
Overview of Migraines
Essentially, migraines are painful, severe, and recurring headaches. They may be accompanied by or precede sensory warning signs, as well as other symptoms. As reported by the American Migraine Association, 36 million Americans (or 12% of the population) are affected by the condition.
The cause of migraines is yet to be found. However, it’s believed that they are the result of abnormal activity in the brain. This can affect the blood vessels and chemicals in the brain, as well as the way that nerves communicate. Genetics could make a person more sensitive to triggers that could cause migraines. However, here’s a list of some of the triggers most likely to set migraines off:
- Emotional triggers: Depression, excitement, stress, and shock can all trigger migraines.
- Triggers in the diet: Caffeine and alcohol could trigger migraines. Certain foods can also have an effect, including citrus fruits, cheese, chocolate, and foods that contain an additive known as tyramine. Irregular meal times and dehydration have also been thought to be triggers.
- Hormonal changes: During menstruation, women could experience migraine symptoms due to changes in hormone levels.
- Medications: Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) medications, some sleeping pills, and the combined contraceptive pill are all possible triggers.
- Triggers in the environment: Strong smells, flickering screens, loud noises, and second-hand smoke can set off a migraine. Bright lights, stuffy rooms, and temperature changes are also possible triggers.
- Physical causes: Neck and shoulder tension, insufficient sleep and tiredness, physical overexertion, and poor posture have all been linked to migraines. Jet lag and low blood pressure could also be triggers.
Currently, there isn’t a single cure for migraines. The aim of existing treatments is to prevent full-blown attacks and alleviate symptoms that occur. Lifestyle alterations that could help to reduce the regularity of migraines include: Drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, avoiding certain foods, and reducing stress. For some people, special diets also help, such as a gluten-free diet.
How and Why CBD Could Help in the Treatment of Migraines
Research into CBD and migraines is still very much early and thus limited, partly because of the restrictions that are placed on cannabis and its compounds, including CBD. That is, until quite recently. However, through the studies that have been done, there is an indication that CBD could assist in the treatment of migraines.
Many of the positive effects of this compound are believed to stem from the interaction that it has with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS consists of receptor sites that can be found on many different cell types in the body and work to regulate various physiological systems. The receptor sites are known as the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Naturally occurring cannabinoids in the body (endocannabinoids) are what regulates this system. These chemicals are very similar in structure to phytocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids from the cannabis plant – hence the similar effects within the body.
The ECS is believed to play a big part when it comes to migraines and their triggers. Research suggests that the ECS could be centrally and fundamentally involved in the pain signalling process. This might be in part due to endocannabinoids that inhibit the release of neurotransmitters which control pain signals by means of interaction with the CB1 receptor. Ultimately, it’s believed that the ECS could serve as a promising source of treatment for reducing inflammatory and physiological elements of pain that are involved in migraines.
In addition to the above, CBD has been found to be effective in treating what is regarded as one of the prime causes of migraines: Inflammation. Inflammation is a perfectly healthy and normal response in the body. However, problems arise when inflammation becomes chronic. It has now been widely accepted that migraines are caused in some part, or even entirely, by inflammation.
Here’s where CBD becomes important again. Some of the most well-known research relating to the therapeutic benefits of CBD focus on relieving inflammation, like that of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Medical Findings: Effects of Cannabinoids and CBD on Migraines
Research on the use of CBD to treat migraines is still very much limited. This has got a lot do with the substances regulated nature as well as obstacles with cannabis legalization. However, there a few laboratory studies that suggest that CBD could help with all forms of acute and chronic pain, and this includes migraines.
One of the more recent studies, one of which was published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2017, looked into the positive effects of oral cannabis. Over a period of six months, 26 people who suffered from medication overuse headaches took either nabilone or ibuprofen with oral cannabis to treat their symptoms. Each of the combinations was used for eight weeks at a time. In addition, they took eight weeks off between the two combinations. The study concluded that participants reported better quality of life and more improvements when they used the cannabis-nabilone formula.
As we mentioned previously, the ECS plays a major role when it comes to CBD and its treatment of migraines. In a paper that was published in the journal Experimental Neurology, researchers reported that the ECS could serve as a beneficial therapeutic tool when it comes to reducing the inflammatory and physiological aspects of pain that are linked to migraines.
If this theory is indeed true, then not having enough endocannabinoids in the system may contribute to migraines, as well as other conditions. The condition, which is known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, could very well be the cause of migraine headaches in people.
AEA, otherwise known as anandamide, is one of a few endocannabinoids that are synthesized within the human body. A paper that was published in the journal Neuroendocrinology Letters reported that anandamide is able to both increase and decrease the activity of specific serotonin receptors, which suggests that it could have therapeutic applications when it comes to the matter of migraine headaches.
Medical Benefits of Using CBD to Treat Migraines
Aside from CBD helping to directly treat the issue of migraines, it could also work by treating some of the common symptoms associated with this condition. For example, CBD could help with depression or anxiety before the onset of a possible migraine. CBD can also help with problems linked to flashing, spinning lights, as well as other optical illusions. CBD works to relieve migraines naturally through the way that it interacts with the ECS.
When it comes to migraines, CBD works together with localized endocannabinoid receptors to either reduce migraine-inducing inflammation in tissues, acute muscles, and blood vessel networks, or to revert neurochemical release back to their appropriate levels.
How to Take CBD for Migraines
CBD oil is the most common and well-known way to consume CBD. It’s typically taken via vaping or ingestion. Taking CBD orally is less likely to cause any side effects so beginners may want to start off with oral CBD. However, it’s worth noting that, CBD in general, is not known to have any adverse or severe side effects.
If you want to take CBD orally, you can either place a few drops of the oil under your tongue, take CBD capsules, or possibly even eat a CBD-infused treat.
If you are experiencing severe migraines and are at home and don’t need to travel anywhere, vaping CBD may be more beneficial and effective. Research explains that the inhalation process delivers the CBD to the bloodstream much faster than any of the other consumption methods.
Just as important as discovering what the best product is for you, is determining the appropriate dosage. Some CBD users find that a tiny amount of the product is enough to satisfy their needs. This comes as no surprise to medical marijuana patients who advocate using minuscule dosages for maximum effect, also known as microdosing. If this works for you, you can save a lot of money.
For those people who may need a stronger dosage, it’s important that you are aware of the estimated time regarding the onset of effects from the CBD product. If you know how long to wait before you feel the effects, you will know how long to wait before consuming more CBD. Taking CBD in moderation is merely a smart way to consume.
Final thoughts on CBD for Migraines
While there has been a lot of positive feedback on how CBD could be effective in treating migraines, there simply isn’t enough evidence to report conclusively that it will be 100% effective all of the time and for all of the population.
However, what research does say is that CBD could absolutely help to relieve some of the symptoms that are associated with migraines. But, always remember to consult with your doctor before you make any changes to your medical regime, especially if you are already taking other medication.