What’s the deal?
Migraines go beyond the typical stress- or allergy-related headache. Migraines last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours, and even the most mundane activities can amplify your symptoms. This includes being around noise and light, and moving.
While pain killers can help alleviate migraine symptoms temporarily, you may be concerned about their side effects. This is where CBD (cannabidiol) oil may come in.
CBD is one of the many active compounds found in the cannabis plant. It’s grown in popularity as a way to treat certain medical conditions naturally.
Keep reading to find out what the current research says about using CBD for migraines, how it works, potential side effects, and more.
What the research says
Research on the use of CBD oil for migraines is limited. This is due in part to its regulated nature and obstacles with cannabis legalization. Still, some laboratory studies have suggested that CBD oil may help all forms of chronic and acute pain. This includes migraines.
One 2017 study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research explored the positive effects of oral cannabis. Over the course of six months, 26 people who experienced medication overuse headaches took either ibuprofen or nabilone with oral cannabis to treat their symptoms. Each combination was used for eight weeks at a time. They also took eight weeks off in between the two combinations.
At the end of the study, participants reported more improvements and better quality of life when taking the cannabis-nabilone formula. It’s important to note that researchers assessed the combination of substances used, and not cannabis alone.
In 2016, Pharmacotherapy published a study on the use of medical marijuana for migraines. Researchers found that of the 48 people surveyed, about 40 percent reported fewer migraines overall. Drowsiness was the biggest complaint, while others had difficulty figuring out the right dose.
Both of these studies assessed the effects of cannabis — not pure CBD oil — on pain. Additional research is needed to truly assess the effects of pure CBD on migraines.
Clinical trials involving human participants are also needed to fully investigate the effects of CBD oil and its potential benefits for migraines.
How CBD works
CBD works by interacting with cells in both the brain and nervous system. These molecules are called cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2).
Though the relationship between these cells and receptors isn’t fully understood, their interaction is thought to affect the immune system.
For example, CBD may prevent the body from metabolizing anandamide. This is a compound associated with pain regulation. Maintaining high levels of anandamides in your bloodstream may reduce your feelings of pain.
CBD is also thought to limit inflammation within the body, which may also help reduce pain and other immune-system responses.
More research is needed to further understand how CBD may affect the body.
How to use CBD for migraine relief
Although lawmakers in the United States are currently debating the use of cannabis and related products, the plant’s medicinal uses aren’t a new discovery.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), cannabis has been used for nearly 3,000 years in alternative medicine. Some of these uses include the management of pain, neurological symptoms, and inflammation.
CBD oil is taken via vaping or ingestion. Oral CBD is less likely to cause side effects, so beginners may want to start here. You can put a few drops of the oil under your tongue, take CBD capsules, or even eat a CBD-infused treat.
Vaping CBD oil may be beneficial if you’re experiencing a severe migraine at home and you don’t have to travel anywhere. The NCI explains that the inhalation process delivers the compounds to your bloodstream much quicker than other methods.
Currently, there aren’t any formal guidelines for proper dosing for a migraine. CBD Oil Review recommends using between 2.5 and 20 milligrams (mg) per day for chronic pain.
If you’re new to CBD oil, you should start with the smallest dosage possible. You can gradually work your way up to the full recommended dose. This will allow your body to get used to the oil and reduce your risk of side effects.
Potential side effects and risks
Overall, the side effects of CBD oil are minimal. This is one of the main reasons why people are opting out of over-the-counter or addictive prescription pain medications for migraines and are instead considering this oil for pain management. Still, drowsiness and upset stomach are possible.
Your risk for side effects may depend on the way you use the CBD oil. Vaping it, for example, may cause lung irritation. This can lead to chronic cough, wheezing, and breathing difficulties. If you have asthma or any other type of lung disease, your doctor may advise against vaping CBD oil.
Just as human studies are limited regarding CBD oil’s benefits, so are studies related to potential side effects. If you’re unsure about the potential side effects or how your body might handle them, talk with your doctor.
Will it get you high?
CBD oils are made from marijuana, but they don’t always contain tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC). THC is the component that makes users feel “high” or “stoned” when smoking cannabis.
There are two types of CBD strains widely available on the market: dominant and rich. CBD-dominant has little-to-no THC, while CBD-rich contains both components in equal amounts.
CBD oil doesn’t have psychoactive properties. Even if you select a combination product, the CBD counteracts the effects of THC, according to Project CBD. This is one of the many reasons you might select CBD oil over medical marijuana.
Is it legal?
Due to the psychoactive components of traditional marijuana, cannabis remains widely outlawed in the United States. However, in recent years some states have voted to approve cannabis for medical use only. Others have legalized cannabis entirely.
If you live in a state where marijuana is legal for both medicinal and recreational use, then you should have access to CBD oil, too.
However, if your state has legalized cannabis for medicinal use only, then you’ll need to apply for a marijuana card through your doctor. This license is required for the consumption of any form of cannabis, including CBD oil.
In some states, all forms of cannabis are illegal. Federally, cannabis is still classified as a dangerous and illegal drug.
It’s important to be aware of the laws in your state. If cannabis-related products are illegal — or if they require a medical license that you don’t have — you may be subject to a penalty for possession.
Talk to your doctor
More research is needed before CBD oil is considered a conventional treatment option for migraines, but it’s worth talking to your doctor if you’re interested. They can help advise you on the proper dosage, as well as any legal requirements.
If you decide to try CBD oil, treat it like you would any other treatment option for migraines. It may take some time to work, and you may need to adjust your dosage to better suit your needs.