Cannabis supporters have, on many occasions spoken about the medicinal benefits of plant. marijuana has been historically used as a remedy for both mental and physical disorders. It was also used in Western medicine from the mid 19th century until it’s prohibition in the 20th century as a treatment for migraines. Today, migraines affect nearly 40 million Americans.
While cannabis has a long history of use, we know more about the herb today than we ever have done. We are now aware of the cannabinoids in cannabis, and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) where they work their magic. Indeed, the ECS may hold all the clues that we need to develop an efficient, effective and side effect-free remedy for migraines.
In this post, we are going to cover cannabis and migraines in detail, including:
- How cannabidiol (CBD) oil for migraines works
- The most therapeutic CBD strains for migraines
- How CBD capsules and pills can be used to ease migraines
- The ideal CBD dosage for migraines
- And ultimately, whether CBD is effective for migraines
The science behind CBD’s therapeutic effect for migraines
Cannabis contains a whopping 113 cannabinoids. We know hardly anything about most of them. But thankfully, our understanding of the two most concentrated cannabinoids, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD is fairly detailed. The former is psychoactive, and not legal everywhere, so will only receive limited attention in this article. The latter, however, is non-intoxicating, and a popular healing solution for inflammation, anxiety, seizures, stress, arthritis and more.
THC works by linking up with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS as a partial agonist. CB1 receptors are abundant in the central nervous system, whereas CB2 receptors are mostly located in the immune system. CBD is neither an agonist of CB1 nor CB2, but ensures that both function smoothly by regulating them. As an anandamide reuptake inhibitor – anandamide (AEA) is the body’s main endocannabinoid – CBD keeps more of the natural chemical in the body. AEA then acts as a less aggressive treatment to CBD, but similarly, as a CB1 and CB2 receptor agonist.
The view is that both cannabinoids can be complementary to each other. When combined, they produce the ‘entourage effect’, which makes the entire cannabis plant and all of its compounds more effective. While we still need to find out more about all the ways in which cannabinoids interact and influence the ECS, researchers are increasingly confident about the therapeutic value of cannabis, and particularly the benefits of CBD.
Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD)
To understand why CBD for migraines is such a promising concept, we must get stuck into CECD. Systemic ECS issues are now believed to contribute to migraines, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But why?
The proposed condition was first brought to life by Dr Ethan Russo, a neurologist, in the early 2000s. Since then, he and his team have published several peer-reviewed articles, building on the concept. The only downside is that the legal barriers to studying cannabis has made progress slow. But they have made some crucial discoveries, highlighting the potential cause for the aforementioned conditions with solid evidence. Furthermore, they have shown how the ECS and serotonin system is closely related – anandamide is an agonist of the 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A (serotonin 1A and 2A receptors).
And they have found that regulating the ECS, with compounds like CBD, helps to alleviate symptoms of migraines. Firstly, the horrible ‘aura’ symptoms of migraines which make the patient more sensitive to light and sound may be caused by CB1 receptor dysfunction. These symptoms are perhaps due to an overactive sensory hyperalgesia. CBD manages this by acting therapeutically on the central nervous system, via the ECS.
Migraines and the ECS
Researchers have also identified a connection between migraines and the trigeminovascular system. We know that endocannabinoids have an effect here, and this adds to the narrative that the ECS is heavily implicated in migraines. Some scientists are confident that a CB1 receptor agonist may treat migraines and cluster headaches. They have argued that CBD may be more helpful than THC, due to the latter’s psychoactive properties.
Another study showed that migraine patients have lower levels of AEA, which is caused by a higher rate of AEA hydrolysis. This has led to theories that reduced concentrations of AEA means the patients is more likely to suffer from migraines, due to having a lower pain threshold. Researchers have also argued that with AEA not regulating the trigeminovascular system, this further demonstrates how the body fails to regulate the ECS.
Until more research is conducted on the direct effect of THC and CBD on migraines, it will be difficult to understand the full impact of a problematic ECS. Studies have shown that cannabis treatment can help with migraines, but these haven’t clarified the concentrations of CBD and THC being used. But it’s still promising that cannabis medication appears to cut migraine attacks down by more than half, as found by a newly-published Colorado study.
Best CBD strains for migraines
When we talk strains, we usually mean cannabis that is high in THC. But the growing interest in CBD means that CBD-rich hemp and cannabis is also being cultivated. These are very similar, in a sense, to regular cannabis. They have terpenes, so smell and taste like normal weed. But they also have hardly any THC, but lots of CBD.
The ideal strain for migraines would probably be an indica rather than a sativa. This is because indicas are more relaxing, and better-suited to delivering pain relief. However, there are literally so many strains to choose from, you really need to try them for yourself to get the full picture.
Other CBD products for migraines
There are plenty of other CBD products for migraines worth considering, beyond hemp flower. And there’s more to these products than the fact they aren’t attached to the downsides of smoking.
With vape juices, though, perhaps the main benefit is that they don’t cause the problems that smoking does. But they essentially work in exactly the same way. When an e-liquid is heated, it generates a CBD-rich vapor that is inhaled into the lungs. It then becomes active almost straight away. This rapid reaction is key to dealing with the painful effects of migraines.
CBD concentrates are even more potent than vape juices, but are also consuming mostly by vaping, or dabbing. This richer form of CBD is perfect for really severe migraines, where the patient knows they need strong relief. To make your vape juice stronger, purchase some CBD-isolate crystals and combine them with your vape oil.
CBD hemp oil for migraines
CBD tinctures for migraines are good for the migraineur who is totally opposed to smoking or vaping. The CBD in the oil becomes effective through a method called sublingual absorption. It’s a healthier way of relieving the chronic pain of migraine headaches. You just take the oil by applying it under the tongue. Then let the blood vessels do the hard work of getting it into the bloodstream.
CBD hemp oil for migraines can be bought in CBD-isolate and full-spectrum form. Isolate products are more limited, as you only get the therapeutic benefits of CBD. Full-spectrum CBD products are more effective as a way to ease migraines. With these, you get a tiny quantity (less than 0.3% of THC), and the rest of the cannabinoids and terpenes in the hemp.
CBD pills for migraines (capsules)
CBD pills have different effects to vape juices, hemp flower and tincture oils due to having a unique pharmacology. The effects are slower, but they last far, far longer than any of the other products. While this is counterproductive for acute migraines, those who experience less intense but prolonged migraines may get better and more economical relief from CBD capsules.
Capsules are slower to work because of the way that the body takes in the CBD oil. The capsule must be digested and broken down before the CBD takes effect. Only then can the CBD oil be released into the rest of the body through the stomach. The gradual effects will not be for everybody, but if you are finding that you have to dose with CBD too regularly, and that this is causing an inconvenience, then CBD pills are worth a go.
CBD dosage for migraines
“How much CBD should I take?” is one of the most difficult questions to answer in the world of CBD. First you must consider what is in your product – is it isolate or full-spectrum? Does it have terpenes, or MCT oil for extra potency? How intense are your symptoms? How does your body respond to CBD treatment.
This makes it impossible to come up with an accurate dosage guide, and suggest how much CBD should be taken right down to the milligram. What really works best is to just experiment with various dosages for yourself.
Unlike other migraine treatments you may have used in the past, where you have to be careful with the dosage because of side effects, CBD is not addictive, and doesn’t have any psychoactive properties. The worst that can happen with a really big dose is that you get very sleepy. For that reason, it’s best to experiment with higher doses in the comfort of your own home first!
Since you have to find out the perfect dosage on your own, it also makes sense to keep a detailed diary on how each dose of CBD affects you. By maintaining a written record on the impact of each dose, the product you were using, and the severity of the migraine, you can begin to dial in on the most advantageous dose. This, in turn, will make your usage of CBD more cost-effective.
Final thought: does CBD work for migraines?
The research on CBD for migraines – and the cannabis plant as a whole – is really promising. After decades of scientists not even finding a definite cause of the condition, we certainly seem to be making progress with studies on the endocannabinoid system and Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency.
Some research proposes that CBD is effective as a solo remedy, others suggest that a balanced mix of CBD and THC may deliver better results. But given that CBD is the preferred option for many users, there are clear signs that it has a therapeutic effect. The whole idea of CECD is that the ECS is dysregulated, and we know that CBD can solve this problem.
There are so many different CBD products to work with when it comes to relieving migraines. Hemp oil can uniquely impact the body to alleviate symptoms through different mechanisms – and this explains why CBD can work where other treatments fail. Have you been using CBD for migraines, and have you picked up any tips? If so, why not share them with us by leaving a comment!