CBD Oil For Migraines

By Dr. Irene Zollars PharmD, MBA

Migraines can seriously affect a person’s quality of life and day to day activities. It takes a lot of time, as well as trial and error to find the right treatment for them. So, can CBD oil be an option used for migraines?

What Are Migraines?

Nearly everyone has had a headache. However, according to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraines aren’t only a terrible headache. They are an extremely incapacitating assortment of neurological symptoms that normally include a severe throbbing recurring pain on one side of the head. But in one third of migraine attacks, both sides are affected. Attacks last between four and seventy-two hours and are frequently accompanied by at least one of these disabling symptoms: visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to noise, light, touch and smell, and numbness or tingling in the face or extremities. Obviously, everybody is different, and symptoms vary by individual and at times by migraine attack.

The cause of migraines is still being researched. Researchers now think that migraines are a neurological disorder involving neural pathways and brain chemicals. We are aware that migraines frequently run in families. But genes are not the sole answer – environmental factors play a significant part, too.

There are various sorts of migraines. The type of migraine is generally identified by its own overriding symptom. Migraines are a moving target: symptoms may vary from one attack to another, and lots of sufferers have multiple types of migraines.

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Treatment for Migraines

Most people that have a migraine attack start by self-treating with over-the-counter (OTC) pain-relieving drugs such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a combination of a pain reliever with caffeine. Sufferers sometimes consult with a physician as symptoms become more intense and disabling, but unfortunately over half of all migraine sufferers are never diagnosed.

They are diagnosed by a process of elimination since there is not a test or biomarker to reveal if they are present. Migraines are diagnosed by assessing the signs and symptoms, reviewing family history, conducting clinical evaluations, and eliminating other potential causes of the headache. Diagnosis isn’t always easy due to symptoms usually presenting as other problems. It is important to seek advice from a headache specialist if your symptoms are disabling, start changing, or are not responding to your standard headache therapies.

Prescription medications for migraines can include those that decrease pain after they start such as the drug class of triptans (i.e. sumatriptan) or those that prevent migraines which include the drug classes of beta-blockers, seizure medications, or antidepressants. You can learn more about these types of treatments from the American Migraine Foundation website. Other non-drug treatments include stress management and improving sleeping patterns.

CBD oil is known for helping to relieve pain and inflammation, but does it help with migraine pain specifically? As of now, there is little data to support CBD oil as an option for helping with migraine pain.

 

CBD Oil for Migraines Research

There is evidence to support use of CBD oil for pain and inflammation. However, these studies do not focus on CBD oil and migraine pain specifically.

A 2017 review discussed the potential for cannabis as a treatment for headaches. It highlighted preliminary results that suggest cannabis may help with reducing migraine pain once the migraine has started and possibly help prevent migraines. A 2016 study in Pharmacotherapy did a retrospective data review to see if cannabis helped with migraine pain. They found that marijuana use was associated with decreased occurrence of migraines. Retrospective studies like this one are not as “evidence based” as prospective clinical trials because they look back in time to make connections between things. They are useful to help provide reasons why clinical trials should be performed, which is what the authors state in their conclusion.

Another study presented in 2017 showed that a combination of THC and CBD may have similar results to a prescription migraine medication (amitriptyline). A more recent study from Frontiers in Neuroscience provided a possible mechanism for how cannabinoids can be used in migraine pain. They stated that their study provides a reason for future clinical trials involving cannabinoids and migraines.

As you can see, the data for migraines is centered around cannabis or THC and CBD combinations. There really are not any studies out there now that show only CBD oil and migraines. However, many people swear that CBD oil helps with their migraines. Further research is needed to help support these claims. If the research is positive for use in migraines, CBD oil could be a great alternative option for those suffering with migraines. Many migraine treatments have unpleasant side effects such as weight gain, fatigue, and sedation. CBD oil would be an option with less side effects that are generally tolerable to most patients.

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Important Note

If you are already taking medications to treat your migraines be sure to check with a healthcare professional before starting CBD oil to help with migraines. Some medications can interact with CBD oil and may alter the drug levels in your body which could lead to serious side effects. For example, higher doses of CBD with valproic acid (a seizure medication and migraine prevention medication) may lead to liver damage. See our “How to use CBD Oil – The facts” article for more information about drug interactions and how to properly use CBD oil.

Final Thoughts

Although many people use CBD to help with relieving pain and reducing inflammation, there is not as much data out there to support CBD oil for migraines yet. However, everyone responds differently to various drugs and supplements, so CBD oil may be an option to try out for those who have tried the traditional migraine treatments and failed. As with all drugs and supplements, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking CBD oil to ensure that it is safe to take with any other medications you might be taking. Overall, there definitely needs to be more research with CBD oil for migraines so we can begin to form more educated opinions on its use.

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References:

  1. https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/what-is-migraine/
  2. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/understanding-migrainepreventive-treatments/
  3. https://trymfit.com/cbd-oil-for-pain/
  4. https://trymfit.com/cbd-and-inflammation/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5436334/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26749285
  7. https://www.ean.org/amsterdam2017/fileadmin/user_upload/E-EAN_2017_-_Cannabinoids_in_migraine_-_FINAL.pdf
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5867306/
  9. https://popularcbdbrands.com/how-to-use-cbd-oil-the-facts/
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