Migraines are more than just a really bad headache, it is a neurological condition that can cause debilitating pain, sensitivity to light, nausea and much more.
For those who suffer with migraines there is no cure, just ways to ease the symptoms. For those with mild symptoms that will be a lot of over the counter pain medication and closing themselves in a dark room. People with more severe symptoms are normally prescribed opioid based painkillers to take the edge off the pain.
However with the introduction of CBD oil and other CBD products there has been a growing interest inside and out the scientific community into what CBD can do for migraines.
Today then we are going to look at what CBD is, and whether the science says it can help.
WHAT CAUSES MIGRAINES?
Firstly, it’s important to understand what we know about migraines and what causes them.
Currently we don’t really know what causes someone to suffer from migraine symptoms, it used to be thought that the blood vessels in the brain became narrower, which accounted for the aura, and then opened up again which caused the headache.
Recent discoveries point to a bigger picture, with the theory that a few chemicals in the brain are going into overdrive, which then sends out confusing signals to the brain, causing the symptoms.
However that still doesn’t explain why these chemicals in the brain are doing this, or why only certain people are affected.
Another confusing aspect of migraines is that, according to medical science, migraines aren’t hereditary, but it does seem to run in families. Scientists think there must be at least some genetic factor causing migraines, but how much it affects the likelihood of someone getting migraines is unclear.
All in all, what causes migraines is still up for debate, but how migraines affect people is all too real.
For those who suffer migraines symptoms can include:
- difficulty speaking
- numbness or tingling
- sensitivity to light and sound
- Mild to extreme headaches, normally on one side of the head
A migraine can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. Even the simplest activities, such as getting up from a chair or being around noise and light, can aggravate the symptoms.
Another side effect of migraines can be “auras”, visual effects that happen before the pain starts. Normally described like a bright light, or in a C-shaped pattern. Another way of describing this effect is like looking through an old-fashioned kaleidoscope.
WHAT IS CBD OIL AND WHY IS IT USED TO TREAT MIGRAINES
CBD oil, or at least the cannabis plant that it is derived from, has been around for centuries and for much of that time has been used to help with pain management.
CBD though isn’t just cannabis with another name, it is actually a term for one of the chemicals in cannabis, called Cannabidiol CBD (or CBD for short).
CBD is extracted from hemp and cannabis to get everything that can help people, and then get rid of the THC or leave it in for full-spectrum CBD products.
Though most places will call it CBD, after the main chemical, there are normally a lot more ingredients from the cannabis plant in CBD oil such as terpenes and amino acids.
Most companies do this (including us with our CBD drops) as the science is still unclear about what effect these other chemicals have, but it does seem clear that when these extra ingredients are kept in there are more positive results.
Even with almost all the cannabis plant kept in, CBD is not intoxicating, and that is because one key ingredient is left out, the THC. As the THC is removed you do not get “high” from CBD and it is legal to sell.
CBD oil helps out in 3 main ways: aiding relaxation, as an anti-inflammatory agent and - perhaps most important to those with migraines - pain management.
Though the science is still fairly new (as CBD hasn’t been widely available for that long) there are promising signs that CBD can make a difference with long term pain like those with fibromyalgia.
Currently it also seems that CBD oil only has mild side effects, with the worst being drowsiness and dry mouth.
At the moment CBD isn’t considered a medicine, but the use of CBD is approved by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) as a “novel food supplement”. The MHRA even declared that CBD products could be considered for medical licence if they wanted.
In the USA, CBD has also received similar acceptance as CBD oil is FDA approved (though state laws do differ in some cases), though again not considered a medicine yet.
RESEARCH AND STUDIES
As we said before, there haven’t been any big, long term studies on CBD and migraines, however we do have a few studies on the effect of cannabis and CBD on migraines.
A review of all available studies in 2017 also found that although there isn’t enough evidence to say for certain, it “it appears likely that cannabis will emerge as a potential treatment for some headache sufferers.”
A 2018 study found 2,032 people with migraine issues, headache and other chronic pain conditions as a primary symptom or illness. Most of those found that they were able to replace their prescription medications — typically opioids or opiates — with cannabis.
This study found that “The frequency of migraine headaches decreased with medical marijuana use.”
Although this study was on marijuana and not specifically CBD, as almost everything that is in cannabis is in CBD the study indicates that CBD oil does seem to help.
Another medically reviewed study is 2018, this time published in the journal of head and face pain, looked into marijuana and CBD to treat migraine pain and found promising evidence that CBD can help with the pain.
Lastly, In 2020 a review specifically on CBD was done, this one focused more on general chronic pain rather than migraines, but it does show that the evidence is there to show that CBD can help.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS CBD OIL IN THE TREATMENT OF MIGRAINES?
As the studies above show, there is promising evidence to show that CBD can really help, but until there are long term, large scale studies on this the best we can’t say anything for certain.
One such study that is promising, but not conclusive, is one published in Pharmacotherapy. Researchers looked into medical marijuana for migraines and found that of the 48 people surveyed, 39.7 percent reported fewer migraine attacks overall.
Drowsiness was the biggest side effect, while others had difficulty figuring out the right dose.
In another study a group of researchers presented the results of their study on cannabinoids (like CBD) and migraine prevention.
In phase 1 of the study, 48 people with chronic migraine issues received a combination of two compounds. One compound contained 19% THC, while the other contained 9% CBD and virtually no THC.
Doses under 100 milligrams (mg) had no effect. When doses were increased to 200 mg, acute pain was reduced by 55%.
However this 55% was for those with the high CBD ratio, not the THC.
As migraines are considered a neurological issue there is also hope that CBD might help in that regard as well. There have been some studies that show that CBD Oil can help with some neurological disorders, and that might apply to migraines as well.
HOW DOES CBD OIL AFFECT THE BODY?
As we said before, we have enough evidence to show that CBD oil can help with pain, but how is a little trickier.
One 2016 study on the effectiveness of CBD on long term pain diseases like migraines suggests that a lack of endocannabinoids may be one of the main reasons for chronic pain syndromes, like migraines and fibromyalgia.
In the study they explain that there may be a link to migraines and the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS for short) is a series of nerves and receptors which stretch from your brain all the way through your body.
Not too much is understood about the ECS, but we do know that it uses cannabinoids (a type of chemical) to communicate throughout the body and may regulate issues like inflammation, pain and dopamine (for relaxation).
CBD, as a cannabinoid, is able to give the ECS a boost and get it working better than before and there is some evidence that boosting the ECS can help manage migraine pain.
HOW TO USE CBD OIL FOR MIGRAINES?
At the moment there is no hard and fast way to get CBD oil for migraines into your body. We would suggest trying a few different methods, from CBD edibles to oils that go under the tongue.
Each way has their advantages, but it will ultimately come down to what works best, and tastes best, to you.
What are the different types of CBD that help with migraines?
It is also important to find the right type of CBD. When we say types we mean how the CBD was extracted from the cannabis plant and what was left.
The three main types of CBD oils out there though are:
Full-Spectrum CBD Oil - This means that almost all the cannabis plant is included in the CBD oil. However that does mean that some THC (the psychoactive element of cannabis and reason it is used to “get high”) will be in the oil.
Broad-Spectrum CBD Oil - This removal method leaves almost all the cannabis plant compounds in the oil, except the THC.
Isolate CBD Oil - CBD Isolate is exactly what it sounds like, a removal method that isolates the CBD and strips away everything else. This means that there is no tetrahydrocannabinol THC, but also no other compounds from the cannabis plant that can help.
How is the oil used in the treatment process?
As you can see from the list above, all 3 have CBD, and 2 types no THC.
However the difference is in the extra compounds. Here at SMOKO we use Broad-Spectrum CBD Oil, as that means you can be sure there is no THC in our CBD oil and CBD gummies, but almost everything that can help from cannabis is still there. Check out our 3rd party CBD test certificates to see for yourself!
What is the potency that should be used?
This will come down to personal preference, body types and your body's ability to absorb and use CBD.
As a very rough guide the study we mentioned before that 200mg and above showed signs of helping, but again that would be just a guide.
Here at SMOKO we suggest that you start on a lower dose and work your way up to what works for you!
How much CBD oil should be used if you are experiencing migraines?
How much you use will be dependent on how much your body needs, but as a general rule for CBD here at SMOKO we say take a few drops up to 3 times a day of the CBD oil, or 3 edibles a day.
Make sure to read the guidelines on whatever type of CBD you get with the product as they will have a more specific amount of what you can take.
THINGS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER WHEN USING CBD OIL FOR MIGRAINES
If you are considering using CBD for your migraines the first thing that you should do is talk to a healthcare professional as some medication is affected by CBD. Typically any medication with the “grapefruit warning” will also apply to CBD.
Also, it is important to know that the CBD you are getting is from a reputable source. For example here at SMOKO we make all of our CBD oils and gummies in the UK. We also make sure that all our CBD products have certificates from an independent laboratory to prove the CBD is exactly what we say it is.
If you are buying CBD you should always look to make sure the CBD has tested, otherwise you can’t be certain what you are buying!
Finally the dosage you get is important. In one of the studies we talked about, they found that 200mg was enough to help. As this was a clinical trial it is possible to get CBD dosages that high. To get started with store-bought CBD products, we always suggest starting on the lower CBD strength, and then working your way upwards until you find a dose that works for you.
CBD OIL FOR MIGRAINES: CONCLUSION
CBD won’t be the miracle cure that gets rid of your migraine forever, but so far the scientific studies have shown promising signs that it can help with the pain management side and even some of the other symptoms of migraines. CBD may even help stave off depression if the constant pain is getting to you!
Further studies will be needed to see how effective CBD oil can be but from what we know so far, there is hope that CBD could really help!
If you are interested in CBD oil for migraines (and have made sure that the CBD won’t interfere with any other medication you take) then why not have a look at our UK made CBD oils and edible gummies!
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