Can CBD Oil Treat a Migraine?
Sherry Christiansen is a medical writer with a healthcare background. She has worked in the hospital setting and collaborated on Alzheimer’s research.
Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Nicholas R. Metrus, MD, is board-certified in neurology and neuro-oncology. He currently works at the Glasser Brain Tumor Center with Atlantic Health System in Summit, New Jersey.
With the laws governing the legal use of medical marijuana beginning to loosen up, there’s quite a bit of focus on the use of CBD oil—a component of the marijuana plant—for treating everything from arthritis to chronic pain, including migraines. But what is CBD oil, and does it really work to relieve migraine headaches?
Verywell / Ellen Lindner
Cannabidiol (CBD) is just one of over 100 different substances found in the the Cannabis sativa plant. The portion of the cannabis plant that produces a high (the psychotropic effect) is called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Depending on how it’s processed, CBD oil contains very little (or is completely void of) THC.
Due to the pervasiveness and debilitating effects of migraine headaches, there’s been a lot of clinical research aimed at trying to find an effective treatment to minimize the frequency of migraines and alleviate the pain.
Medical experts currently consider the pain from a migraine headache the result of intense stimulation to sensory nerves—a response to inflammatory agents which are released when a migraine occurs. This would explain why powerful analgesic and anti-inflammatory agents, such as CBD oil, may be effective in the treatment of migraines.
Properties of CBD Oil That Relieve Migraine
- Potent analgesic (pain relieving) properties
- Antiemetic (preventing nausea and vomiting) properties
- Powerful anti-inflammatory effects
CBD oil has gotten a lot of attention for its powerful pain-relieving properties, particularly since cannabis use is becoming legal in many states (33 as of October 2019, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but details vary). In June 2018, the FDA approved CBD for the first time for a new seizure medication called Epidiolex (cannabidiol) [CBD] oral solution.
According to a study published in Frontiers in Pharmacy, while there are many experts who advocate for the use of CBD oil for migraines, there is still not enough evidence to prove that treatment will CBD oil will be completely effective for alleviating migraine headaches.
The researchers add that given time, as the legalities around medical marijuana and CBD oil change, more research may be able to show that CBD oil works well enough and consistently enough to treat migraines.
“Cannabinoids—due to their anticonvulsive, analgesic, antiemetic, and anti-inflammatory effects —present a promising class of compounds for both acute [short-term, severe] and prophylactic [preventative] treatment of migraine pain,” explained lead study author Pinja Leimuranta, of the University of Eastern Finland. Although the researchers say that we are not completely there yet, they add that CBD oil can “absolutely help relieve some symptoms related to migraines.”
While few clinical research studies have examined the use of CBD to treat migraines, a 2016 study, published in Pharmacotherapy, found that the frequency of migraines was reduced from nearly 10 per month to only approximately four per month in a group of medical marijuana users. Research presented in 2017 at the Congress of the European Academy of Neurology showed that cannabinoids might help prevent migraines as well as easing the pain of migraine headache.
Additionally, a 2017 review of cannabis treatment for headaches outlined existing research, patient surveys, and case reports showing the efficacy of cannabis for migraine and other headache disorders. A 2018 review described experimental evidence for the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of migraine as well as other headaches and chronic pain.
Uses and Safety
Previous research studies have shown that CBD oil, unlike THC, does not cause a euphoric high or psychotropic effects, and is typically less controversial and safer for medicinal use. CBD oil has been shown, in a limited number of studies, to be effective in the treatment of many disorders, including diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and migraines.
The type of cannabis that CBD is composed of is well tolerated and safe in humans. In one study, when cannabis with THC was given to study subjects, they experienced an increased heart rate, anxiety, and psychotic symptoms. However, participants who took CBD oil—lacking THC—did not experience side effects (including psychotic symptoms).
Should You Use It?
Anyone considering the use of CBD oil for migraines should consult with their healthcare provider before taking it. It’s important to note that not all sources of the product are reputable.
Prescription drugs with CBD do not have any THC at all. But many over-the-counter CBD oil products, such as those sold online, contain trace amounts of THC.
Another important action step to take before deciding to use CBD oil is to check to ensure that it is legal in your home state. Many states still consider even the prescribed use of CBD oil illegal, due to its link to marijuana. And the FDA has not approved any CBD products (prescription or over-the-counter), aside from Epidiolex.
This certainly does not indicate that people with migraines should stop searching for an effective treatment to alleviate pain and discomfort, nor should they give up hope. There are many proven effective solutions available for those who suffer from migraine headaches.
Study Finds CBD Is An Effective Treatment For Migraine
An overwhelming majority of migraine sufferers found relief with the use of CBD oil, according to the results of a recent study. Data from a clinically validated survey showed that 86% of respondents reported a decrease in headache impact after using a cannabidiol (CBD) formulation for a 30-day trial period.
The survey was taken by customers using a CBD oil product designed by Axon Relief, a company that creates supplements specifically for migraine sufferers. Known as the Headache Impact Test (Hit-6), the clinically validated survey measures the impact that headaches have on a respondent’s daily life and ability to function.
As many as 39 million Americans experience migraine.
Data On CBD And Migraine Lacking
Although some research has shown that migraine sufferers report more relief from cannabis than they do from prescription medications, clinical studies that focus specifically on the effect that CBD can have on migraine are yet to be conducted. However, a 2018 study found that CBD, a non-intoxicating constituent of cannabis, has several pharmacological properties including acting as an anti-inflammatory, and anecdotal accounts of CBD oil successfully being used for migraine show promise.
“Our goal is to explore if our CBD isolate can help people who suffer from chronic headaches, like migraine. The results of the survey are promising,” Ben Rollins, the founder of Axon Relief, said in a press release.
Participants completed the Hit-6 survey both before and after using the CBD oil. During the 30-day trial period, respondents experienced an average of 3.8 fewer headache days than before using Axon’s CBD oil, a reduction of 23%. Chronic migraine sufferers, defined as people who experience 15 to 29 headache days over a 30-day period, saw a 33% reduction in their headache days.
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One Billion Migraine Sufferers Worldwide
Migraine is one of the world’s most prevalent neurological diseases, according to information from the Migraine Research Foundation, affecting approximately 39 million people in the U.S. and about one billion globally. Symptoms, which are often disabling, can include severe headache, dizziness, nausea, visual disturbances and severe sensitivity to light or sound. Migraine disease is commonly treated with strong pharmaceutical drugs, although with varying results.
“Since the ’90s I’ve been on constant high doses of carbamazepine and gabapentin. The periodic pain breakthroughs were only controlled by hydrocodone, which always made me feel. uncomfortable,” wrote Glen, a participant in Axon’s informal study. “What a change CBD oil has made: no more carbamazepine or hydrocodone, and only half the gabapentin—and far better pain control. Pain breakthroughs still happen, but another squirt of Axon CBD, and the pain is gone within 15 minutes. I have no side effects.”
The Axon CBD oil used in the migraine study.
Photo courtesy of Axon Relief
Another participant in the study said that the CBD formulation “has significantly helped with my chronic migraines. If taken at onset, I can rely on it to take the edge off relatively quickly.”
Of the 105 people who participated in the trial for Axon, 15 reported that they were experiencing daily headaches at the beginning of the study. By the end of the 30-day trial period, the number had dropped to 10, a reduction of 33%.
More Research Necessary
Although Axon’s study was conducted without the scientific rigor of gold-standard clinical trials, the results of the Hit-6 survey underscore the need for more research into CBD as a possible treatment for migraine sufferers around the world.
“While there is an abundance of anecdotal accounts of people using CBD oil with good results for migraine, there is very little in the way of standardized results,” the company wrote.
The Ultimate Guide for Using CBD for Headaches
CBD is a popular option for people looking for natural ways to treat pain and discomfort, including chronic headaches and migraines. When creating a CBD oil for headaches treatment plan, you’ll want to follow the steps outlined below:
How to Use CBD for Headaches
- Decide on Topical or Oral CBD
- Figure Out Dosage
- Rest and Evaluate
CBD is a medicinal cannabis compound extracted from hemp plants (genus cannabis) with minimal or no THC content. It works in the body by regulating and protecting the endocannabinoid system, which influences inflammation, pain, sleep, and more.
Studies have shown that the therapeutic benefits of CBD for headaches could be more than previously thought, as it may help to reduce the pain associated with headache and migraine conditions. In a recent medical study , those who received CBD reported a significant reduction in the amount of headache pain than those who were not given CBD.
Can CBD Help with Headaches?
Because a migraine headache is so common and debilitating, there have been many clinical trial research studies performed to find an effective treatment for reducing the incidence of migraines and lessen the migraine pain. One therapy that’s becoming increasingly popular is using CBD for headaches.
A study on the use of medical marijuana for a chronic migraine was published in the journal Pharmacotherapy in 2016. Researchers discovered that 39.7 percent of the 48 persons polled said they had fewer migraine bouts overall. The research reported that the frequency of chronic migraines in a group of medicinal marijuana users was reduced from about 10 per month to only around four per month. And according to research presented at the European Academy of Neurology’s Congress in 2017, CBD may reduce migraines and relieve the agony of migraine headaches, according to research
How Does CBD Oil Help with Headaches?
A tension headache is a common condition that causes severe pain behind the eyes, around the temples, or in the back of the head. It can be triggered by anything from stress and lack of sleep to sinus problems and menstruation. The pain can vary from mild to severe, and sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s causing it in the first place. CBD is thought to lessen the nerve pain by attaching to glycine receptors in the brain, which control how quickly nerve signals flow between nerve cells.
The benefits of CBD for a severe headache are many, and range from mild to long-term relief. Individuals with a history of addiction to other substances may also take advantage of CBD for a headache as it’s not addictive, making it a safe option to consider if you need to stop taking an over-the-counter or prescription medication for pain.
There have been studies of the dulling effects CBD has on pain. By interrupting the messages from the brain to the body, the user doesn’t feel the pain as an acute migraine. Not surprisingly, roughly four out of 10 men and women who use CBD products, say they use them for migraine relief.
CBD oil may also help with long-term relief by reducing migraine symptoms that have been long-term triggers for the individual. For example, people who regularly experience chronic pain tend to have a heightened sense of anxiety; this is not only unpleasant, but it can take a serious toll on overall mental health.
CBD oil has been shown to be an effective anxiety treatment. This is because CBD may help balance out the brain’s endocannabinoid system, producing naturally occurring chemicals, like anandamide. CBD oil may also positively affect certain types of headaches, such as a chronic migraine or cluster headache.
Is CBD Safe for Headache Use?
CBD, unlike THC, doesn’t produce a euphoric high or psychoactive effect, making it less contentious and safer for medical use. CBD oil has proven to be useful in treating a variety of conditions; detailed in a number of health studies.
CBD is a great, natural alternative to traditional medication because it has minimal side effects. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of using marijuana, CBD oil is a great option because it can give you similar migraine relief without the psychoactive high. It’s available in various strengths from different CBD brands or health stores.
CBD oil products made from CBD have become increasingly popular in the medical market because of their functional wellness benefits. CBD has a calming effect on the nervous system, and some users of CBD oil have reported benefits like relief from chronic headaches.
Just like any other type of natural medication, CBD oil does not have to be taken in large quantities to be effective. You need just the right amount of CBD in your system for the proper dose to work.
How to Use CBD for Headaches
1. Decide On Topical or Oral CBD Usage
Oral applications and topicals are the two of the most popular ways people take CBD. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people can take CBD by ingesting it in beverages or edible CBD products, like CBD gummies , tinctures , or soft gel capsules . There are also topicals you can apply directly to your skin, such as salves and lotions.
Topical CBD creams are one of the most popular ways to enjoy the therapeutic effects of CBD. After you apply the lotion or salve, your body absorbs the CBD oil through its skin.
CBD topicals deliver the primary benefits of CBD to your body through two main mechanisms:
- Cannabinoids bind with receptors near pain pathways and block out pain signals.
- CBD works on many levels, including reducing swelling and inflammation.
When applied topically, substances that interact with the CB2 receptors in our bodies can help relieve pain, which is why many people often use topical CBD creams for arthritis pain, soreness, or other chronic conditions.
When you apply CBD topicals directly to the skin, it can help reduce swelling and other migraine symptoms associated with inflammation.
Oral CBD Usage
CBD can be prescribed by a doctor in pill form or taken through a tincture oil. Taking CBD orally implies consuming CBD through the mouth. There are two ways to orally ingest CBD for headaches:
This approach, often known as “under-the-tongue,” involves placing droplets of CBD oil tinctures beneath your tongue and holding them there for 30 to 60 seconds before swallowing. CBD is absorbed through the capillaries in your mouth, entering the circulation and finally reaching the ECS’s cannabinoid receptor.
Compared to other CBD applications, this CBD consumption technique offers one of the greatest bioavailability percentages. Because CBD molecules are delivered directly into the bloodstream through the mouth’s mucous membranes, they avoid being processed through the first-pass metabolism.
Directly swallowing CBD in the form of a pill, candy, soft gel, or other edible ways is referred to as ingesting CBD. When you consume CBD, the molecules must first go through your digestive system and make their way to your liver, where they are first broken down; this is referred to as the first-pass metabolism.
The remaining chemicals are then delivered to the bloodstream once the liver has metabolized the CBD. Therefore, CBD has slightly lower bioavailability when consumed; digestive enzymes break it down into useless components before it reaches the bloodstream. Ingested CBD, on the other hand, appears to still have a long-lasting compared with any other application route.
Which Type of CBD Oil Should I Use for my Headache?
If your migraine pain or discomfort is localized to the temples or the base of your neck, a topical CBD product could be very effective, but if you have whole-body pain or the affected pain area is covered by your head hair, an oral CBD product may be a better option. Don’t be afraid to try both, though, and decide for yourself which one works best for your headache pain.
2. Figure Out Dosage
Your optimal dosage amount of CBD oil will depend on a variety of factors, including weight and metabolism. It is always recommended to start low and go slow when using new medications or supplements. Everyone has an individual tolerance level, which is why the recommended CBD Dosage may range from person to person.
The most common CBD oil dosage is between 25mg to 50mg per day. The amount you take can vary based on the severity of your headache and the length of time you’ve been experiencing migraine symptoms. Keep in mind that you should take it consistently to be effective if you are taking CBD oil for chronic pain.
The effects of CBD may also depend on what type of CBD you are using. For example, if you start with a product at a lower concentration, such as 15 mg per day for three days, and then increase to 30 mg per day for another week or so before increasing again, this will help your body adjust to the effects.
3. Rest and Evaluate
Now that you’ve determined which CBD product to use and how much to consume, it’s time to sit back, rest, and evaluate.
If the CBD treatment is effective, your headache pain will begin to subside and you’ll start feeling more relaxed. If you can, take a nap—the CBD will help you sleep, and it’s a great way to let your brain rest as much as possible.
If you don’t feel much of anything after a couple hours, you may need to try a stronger dose or different consumption method. You may also consider rubbing CBD salve or CBD balm on your temples and neck, which can help relax the muscles and give you relief.
Are there any CBD side effects to watch out for?
CBD has very minimal side effects, but there are a few you might experience if you consume too much or are particularly sensitive to cannabinoids.
The most likely side effect you’ll experience is feelings of sleepiness or lethargy. However, CBD can also cause nausea and diarrhea. Because nausea and diarrhea are common side effects of many other drugs, patients may consider consulting with their doctor if they experience any of them.
You can also minimize side effects by drinking adequate water, eating enough protein, and getting sufficient sleep. Patients who suffer from frequent migraine attacks might need to take more than one dose per day and receive continuous therapy.
Where to Buy CBD Products for Headaches
More and more people are turning to CBD oil to manage chronic headaches and migraines, and for good reason: CBD is an effective treatment for headaches due to its anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving properties. It’s also natural, making it a great alternative to prescription medications.
If you’re ready to try CBD oil for headaches, shop FarmerandChemist.com ’s wide selection of CBD products. We carry only the highest-quality, premium CBD products, and have a team of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians ready to answer any questions you may have about using CBD to treat headaches or migraines.