Are you seeing flashing lights? Zigzag lines? Halo vision? Then you’re either very spiritually inclined or you might be experiencing some form of migraine — and, of course, we hope it’s not the latter.
These so-called auras don’t necessarily occur with every migraine attack, but they tend to appear in about a third of migraines. People mostly experience visual disturbances, like a flicker or flare across your field of vision. In rare cases, migraines can also impair speech and balance.
Regardless of whether or not you experience auras, migraines are usually characterised by a pulsing headache, accompanied by a variety of other symptoms such as sensory disturbances and nausea, which can often make sound, light and movements feel unbearable.
A migraine can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. And while on average 10-12% of the population in Western countries is affected by migraines, women are 2-3 times more likely to experience them than men.
Medication For Migraines
NSAIDs (short for ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs’) are used to treat acute migraine attacks and can reduce nausea and vomiting in an estimated 40 out of 100 people within two hours. In the long run, though, the potential side effects of NSAIDs can be pretty significant, like ulcers and, ironically, headaches.
Triptans are a specific series of painkillers that combat migraines and some work faster than others. Studies on the most commonly prescribed triptan sumatriptan (50 mg) showed that ‘two hours after administration, about half of the patients with acute migraine experience a relief of their headache, and about one third are pain-free’. Side effects tend to be mild and include headaches as well.
Another substance that’s been used to treat migraines and cluster headaches is ergotamine, a derivative of the ergot fungus that contains caffeine. But it’s not your typical painkiller and it’s only used to treat severe, throbbing headaches when other pain relievers don’t work. It can also lead to serious side effects, such as the narrowing of blood vessels in the body.
In some cases, additional measures are taken to prevent migraines, like when medication doesn’t work or the migraine attacks occur very frequently and/or severely restrict quality of life. The most common triggers for migraines include travelling, fluctuations in hormones (like those that occur during menstruation) and unsettling noises. Stress, alcohol and too much food are also potential migraine triggers.
Keeping a migraine diary is often recommended too, especially as paired with preventive medication, to detect patterns, identify potential triggers to avoid and determine which measures work for you and how.
Cannabis to Fight Headaches - A Long History
Given our access to new technologies and a higher average quality of life, it’s easy to assume that people live more relaxed, headache-free lives today than they did in prior generations. However, if you look at what cannabis was allegedly used for previously, that might not necessarily be the case.
For example, in the USA, an almost 100-year period began in 1834 in which the plant was used for headaches. John Russell Reynolds, none other than Queen Victoria's personal physician, is cited for praising the ‘great value of cannabis indica’ to treat migraines and epilepsy among other conditions. Sir William Osler, the Canadian physician and renowned co-founder of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who’s often referred to as the ‘Father of Modern Medicine’, published a seminal textbook in 1892 called The Principles and Practice of Medicine in which ‘he thought cannabis was the most satisfactory remedy” for migraines’.
And aside from all that, there are also other historical texts that allude to the use of cannabis to treat ‘diseases of the head’ such as migraines: Ayurvedic texts from the 3rd and 4th centuries BCE, Greek texts from the first century CE, Arabic texts from the 9th century and Persian texts from the 10th and 17th centuries.
CBD Oil For Migraines?
But we live in the here and now and, since 1940, we’ve been able to isolate the cannabinoid CBD from the rest of the cannabis plant. So maybe we don’t even need the entire plant to be able to still take advantage of some of the plant’s advantages.
Since then, there’s been more than enough time to conduct studies on CBD’s effects on migraines. Yet regulations have made it challenging and, unfortunately, little research has been published in this area at present time.
The studies that do exist are mostly related to THC and CBD working in tandem to treat migraines, but at least they suggest a promising relationship. In this 2020 report, cannabis was used to seek relief from headaches and migraines, and the researchers’ perspective was that ‘inhaled cannabis reduces self-reported headache and migraine severity by approximately 50%. However, its effectiveness appears to diminish across time and patients appear to use larger doses across time, suggesting tolerance to these effects may develop with continued use.’ It seems that CBD could provide hope for migraine relief. if you cannot or do not want to rely on medication (alone).
3 Ways CBD Oil Might Work Against Migraines
CBD’s Pain-Relieving Effects
CBD has potential pain relieving properties. One possible reason why? It can work on regulating your body’s levels of the substances that affect signaling between pain receptors. Cannabinoids might play a crucial role in the production or inhibition of these substances to help you feel less pain.
CBD’s Effects on the Immune System
While the cause of migraines is still unclear, reports show that they could be associated with the immune system — which can also be influenced by our body’s endocannabinoid system. The herbal cannabinoid CBD could act upon these pathways as well.
CBD’s Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Recent studies indicate that CBD can demonstrate anti-inflammatory properties. At the same time, other current research indicates that the increase in migraine frequency could have something to do with neuroinflammation, or inflammation of the body’s nerve cells.
Last but not least, in 2021, Forbes magazine published a clinically validated survey from the U.S. CBD manufacturer Axon Relief in which 105 respondents over a 30-day period experienced an average of 3.8 fewer days without headaches while taking Axon Relief’s CBD oil than they did prior to the survey, corresponding to a 23% reduction in headaches. For people who suffered chronic migraines (15-29 headaches per 30-day period) the reduction was 33%.
A CLEARER HEAD WITH CBD OIL?
- There’s a long history of cannabis being used to treat headaches..
- Nowadays, acute medications as well as preventative measures are used to treat migraines.
- For about half of all acute migraine attacks, medications tend to work after two hours.
- Migraines are painful and could have something to do with inflammation in the brain as well as the immune system.
- CBD may have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties and could also have a positive effect on the immune system.
- CBD oil gives hope for new ways to treat migraines.
FAQ: CBD for Migraines
What is CBD anyway?
CBD stands for cannabidiol and occurs naturally in the cannabis plant. It is sometimes referred to as the "little brother" of THC but with one key difference: CBD is not psychotropic. And it has nothing to hide, as numerous studies have shown the CBD has many potentially positive effects in the body. Among other things, it should be effective against pain and relax. Read on here if you want to learn more about CBD.
How does CBD work?
Our own bodies produce substances called endocannabinoids that resemble the cannabinoids found in cannabis plants like CBD. They are regulated by the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in a number of processes in your body, from dealing with stress and pain to your sleeping rhythms.
Plant-based cannabinoids like CBD could provide additional support to treat these conditions. But before you buy a CBD product, be sure to read our tips on how to dose CBD oil.
Which CBD product is best for migraines?
There are lots of CBD products out there and they differ, among other things, in how long they take to start working. You might find CBD oil to be helpful against migraines, as its effects usually start to settle in after 15-60 minutes and can last 4-6 hours. If you feel a migraine coming on, taking CBD oil early could be beneficial.