When it comes to headaches and migraines, little is known about their direct cause. What we do know is that they can occur for a wide variety of reasons, most of which are dependent on the individual and their lifestyle. Things like too much to drink, dehydration, and caffeine withdrawal are common reasons for the throbbing pain you feel. In the case of migraines specifically, medical professionals believe that imbalanced levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, cause blood vessels in the brain to dilate thus triggering a migraine episode.
Beyond this, when there is inflammation or irregularities in the complex network of blood vessels and the tissue that surrounds them (nerves, muscles, and soft tissues), we see headaches occur. Although not the only option, a popular solution is to block out the pain with over-the-counter NSAID’s like Advil, Tylenol, and Ibuprofen. Unfortunately, as a long-term solution, these medications can cause health issues like poor liver function and even stomach bleeding if not taken with food.
Luckily, there is another option that has been around for decades and that is the use of CBD oil/cannabis. In this article, we will explore why it works and how individuals can use it safely.
CBD Oil for Migraines & Headaches:
How is the Endocannabinoid System Involved With Migraines?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) in humans is responsible for helping our body deal with pain, emotional balance, and healing. This system is a complex network of receptors, which many of us know as CB1 and CB2 receptors, where cannabis-like chemicals can interact and bind to. These receptors help modulate pain, help boost the immune system, and aid in sleep, mood, memory, and appetite. A study that was carried out in 2007, noted that when there were reduced levels of anandamide, patients saw an increase in chronic head pain due to endocannabinoid dysfunction or impairment.
This study along with many others, lead Dr. Ethan Russo to coin the term, clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, which essentially states that if you do not have enough endocannabinoids in your system, you will feel pain thereby experiencing headaches or migraines. Although this is simplifying it, there is a known relationship between migraines and the endocannabinoid system.
How Does CBD Oil Work for Migraines?
Unlike THC found in psychoactive cannabis, CBD oil does not bind directly with the endocannabinoid receptors but instead activates non-endocannabinoid receptors like the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor and the TRPV-1 receptor. This is incredibly important as serotonin is responsible for regulating social behavior, mood, memory, sleep, and appetite and is known as the happiness or well-being chemical.
TRPV-1 receptors are responsible for the transmission and modulation of pain and how pain is perceived by the brain. Beyond this, if an individual has too much FAAH or fatty acid amide hydrolase, it breaks down the endocannabinoid anandamide in the body, which means that an individual will have lower levels of this in the brain. If the fatty acid is inhibited, an individual may have more pain relief from migraines because they have more anandamide within their body.
When you use cannabis or CBD oil, regardless of how you take it, the active cannabinoids in the plant will interact with your receptors. If you are experiencing a migraine or a headache, this interaction will either reduce the inflammation in the muscles, blood vessel network, or tissue, or in the case of endocannabinoid deficiency, it will bring your neurochemicals back up to where they need to be to provide you with pain relief.
Backing Studies That Show Decrease in Migraines After Cannabis Use
If we take a look back at the medical system between 1839 and 1937, cannabis was a regular prescription for those who suffered from headaches and migraines. This can be seen in the Use of Cannabis for Headache Disorders, which looks at the historical trends in cannabis use for headache treatments. Unfortunately, in the 1930’s, Cannabis was banned from being used as a medical treatment or as a recreational drug.
Despite the fact that there have only been a handful of studies done on CBD with respect to headaches and migraines specifically, there has been evidence shown in laboratory studies that CBD oil can stop migraines due to its anti-inflammatory properties. A recent, 2016 study called the Effects of Medical Marijuana on Migraine Headache Frequency in an Adult Population, actually found that 85% of the patients had a reduction in migraine episodes after using CBD oil. Other stats from this study include that almost twelve percent of the subjects completely stopped having migraines, while forty percent reported positive effects of the treatment. Only two percent saw an increase in migraine frequency while twelve percent saw no change.
How Do You Take CBD for Migraines?
One of the great things about CBD oil is you can take it in a myriad of ways and include it in your daily routine. You can take in capsule form, as an ingredient in consumable products, inhaled or vaped, applied to the skin, or through oral sprays and drops. A lot of individuals will want to use the sublingual method (through the digestive system) as this has the strongest effect.
You simply place a few drops of CBD oil underneath your tongue and let them get absorbed into the skin membrane. Although not required, it is recommended that you drink a glass of water afterward. For those who want to vape or smoke it, this has the quickest effect because it doesn’t need to go through your digestive system but the duration of the effect is much shorter.
CBD for Migraines – Is There a Dosage Guideline?
This will completely depend on how intensely CBD oil affects your system. It is highly recommended for individuals to start off with a small amount of anywhere between 10mg – 25 mg per day to see how your system reacts. If you need more, take incremental steps and increase the dosage by 10mg until you get the relief you need for your headache or migraine.
Generally, up to 20mg should be enough for chronic pain relief but for extremely severe migraines, you can take anywhere between 40-60mg. On days where you do not have a migraine, you can take a lower dosage to keep the frequency of episodes down.
Are There Potential Side Effects? Overall there are very minimal side effects of taking CBD oil orally or through smoking which is why it is an excellent alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil, Tylenol, and Ibuprofen. Some things to keep in mind is that if you vape it, you may experience some lung irritation which can lead to wheezing, constant coughing, and some breathing difficulties. If you have asthma or a lung condition, it is recommended that you avoid smoking it and instead use an oral method. It is possible to get an upset stomach or experience sleepiness from taking it.
In Summary: Yes, CBD Oil Can Be Used for Headaches and Migraines
Despite the limited amount of studies done on headaches and migraines, both laboratory and anecdotal studies have shown that it is an effective option for migraine sufferers. Not only can it help alleviate chronic pain caused by inflammation of the blood vessels, muscle tissues, and soft tissues, but it can actually balance out your endocannabinoid system so that it functions properly.
Beyond this, it is a much safer option than long-term use of NSAID’s as it is unlikely to have any long-standing effects. Migraine and headache sufferers will not only find relief from pain, but may find an increase in happiness, general well-being, sleep, appetite, and memory due to how the CBD oil stimulates non-cannabinoid receptors in the brain.