Consumers around the globe are becoming more selective with what they put into their bodies, whether it be food or medication. Many are beginning to experiment with holistic alternatives to conventional drugs in an attempt to minimize their exposure to harmful side effects.
The debate around the legalization of marijuana has brought the attention of scientific researchers to cannabidiol (CBD), one of its primary cannabinoids. Thanks to the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, funding has poured into research exploring the potential health-positive properties CBD may have.
According to current research, CBD is already showing promise in helping with some of the most problematic symptoms of migraines. In this post, we’ll discuss what exactly CBD is, how it works, and its viability as a supplement to help manage migraine symptoms.
What Exactly is CBD?
CBD is one of 2 primary cannabinoids in cannabis plants, the other being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Unlike THC, CBD has no psychoactive properties meaning there is no risk of intoxication or diminished motor skills. This distinction is what has made CBD more acceptable as a therapeutic in the eyes of even athletic commissions like the World Anti-Doping Agency.
CBD works by interacting with the human endocannabinoid system through the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are heavily responsible for communicating with the brain and nervous system, while CB2 receptors have a role in modulating the body’s immune response.
Emerging scientific literature highlights the viability of CBD as a form of addon therapy for a range of physiological conditions. In the case of migraines, many users claim that simply taking a drop of CBD oil is enough to reduce the intensity of unwanted symptoms if they catch them early.
What Causes a Migraine?
The root cause of a migraine is not yet fully understood by doctors, but it’s believed to be a combination of factors — some of which simply cannot be helped. Since it has to do with chemicals released in the brain, the actual triggering factors can vary from person to person.
Individual considerations like a person’s genetics as well as environmental factors seem to play a role. Changes in one’s hormonal balance or the way the brain stem interacts with the trigeminal nerve can cause an accumulation of pain-inducing chemicals in the brain.
Differences Between Migraines & Headaches
It’s not unusual for people to use the term “migraine” to describe a particularly bad headache, but migraines and headaches are considerably different from one another. Unlike migraines that set in and dissipate in stages (prodrome and postdrome), headaches are often caused by the tension of the surrounding muscles or sinus pressure, which can cause pain and poor circulation.
How CBD Can Help Migraines
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraines affect nearly 12% of the world’s population and are the 6th most debilitating illness in the world. They can have durations ranging from hours to 2-3 days and affect both children and adults. This is why many are considering CBD and other more natural, low-risk alternatives to conventional pain medications.
CBD is currently being researched for its potential to mitigate the debilitating effects of migraines. CBD has shown “analgesic, anticonvulsant, muscle relaxant, anxiolytic, neuroprotective, anti-oxidant, and anti-psychotic activity,” among others that are currently being researched; it’s a versatile drug with a wide range of therapeutic potential. Below we’ll take a look into some of CBD’s specific properties that may help to ameliorate common migraine symptoms.
The symptom that people suffering from migraines struggle with most is pain. The pain from migraines can often be debilitating and severely affect one’s day-to-day life. “CBD is a well-tolerated and safe natural compound exerting analgesic effects,” a 2020 review concluded. Its efficacy as a pain-relieving supplement is dependent on the dosage amount and how close to the onset of prodrome symptoms it’s taken.
Bouts of nausea go hand in hand with most migraines. How problematic it can be can sometimes rival the pain migraines themselves cause. Oftentimes, people dealing with severe cases of nausea are prescribed strong medications, but many consumers look to CBD as a natural, more calming alternative. In a 2016 study, researchers found that CBD could interfere with acute nausea without impairing motor skills.
Controlling Inflammation and Swelling
Many people are unaware of the role inflammation plays in the onset of migraines, since inflammation is typically a localized natural response to injury. In a 2011 interview, neurologist Dr. Charles Matthews, Director of the North Carolina Comprehensive Headache Clinic, explained how sterile inflammation can be caused by stressing the trigeminal nerve beyond normal levels. This causes blood vessels surrounding the brain to dilate and flood the area with white blood cells, resulting in swelling.
CBD vs Migraines: Going by The Research
As of this writing, there is little research being done into CBD’s efficacy as a treatment for migraines specifically. However, there is ample research being conducted into CBD’s ability to help manage chronic pain, inflammation, nausea, and other symptoms associated with migraines.
If you’re considering CBD as a therapeutic for migraines, it’s important to get products with the right concentration for your particular needs and to ensure that the CBD you choose is an isolate that has been verified by a 3rd party laboratory. It’s also highly advisable that you consult with your physician before beginning to supplement your current courses of treatment with CBD in order to determine safe dosage ranges for your height, age, and weight group.