Can CBD Alleviate Migraines?

Can CBD Alleviate Migraines?

If you’ve ever had a migraine, you know that the experience is downright painful. More than just a mild headache, migraines are defined by the excruciating pain that accompanies them, alongside other symptoms.

Migraines are no frivolous matter. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks migraine as one of the top 10 most disabling illnesses experienced worldwide.

Unfortunately, migraines can occur with little to no warning, significantly impairing functioning for chronic disease patients. Thankfully, however, many find that alternative treatments like CBD offer relief and even prevention where conventional treatments fall short.


What are migraines?

Sometimes erroneously described as a “bad headache,” migraine is actually a neurological disease that causes additional symptoms. It’s true that migraines are characterized by extreme, debilitating headaches; however, additional symptoms include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, or smell
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Aura, or visual disturbances
  • Blurred vision
  • Temporary loss of vision
  • Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability

Migraine headaches are typically described as throbbing, pounding, or pulsating, though some find that the sensation is more akin to a dull, steady ache.

Most migraines arise with mild symptoms and progress into moderate or severe pain. Although it most commonly occurs in the forehead, migraines can affect either or both sides of the head, or even shift from one side to the other.

Migraine attacks typically last around 4 hours. Without proper treatment, they can endure for 72 hours to a week.

For many, migraines are considered episodic, occurring very rarely. However, for roughly 12% of Americans, migraines constitute a chronic condition that negatively impacts daily functioning. Chronic migraine sufferers often find that the illness interferes with their ability to effectively participate in their careers and social activities.


What causes migraines?

Chronic migraines are largely genetic, often affecting multiple members of a single family. Research also indicates that other environmental factors may play a role.

Those who suffer from chronic migraines typically find that certain stimuli bring on or exacerbate migraines, including:

  • Stress
  • Overexertion
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Hunger or dehydration
  • Food sensitivities
  • Too much caffeine or caffeine withdrawals
  • Shifts in weather, altitude, or barometric pressure
  • Daily use of certain medications, especially pain relievers
  • Menstrual periods or menopause
  • Bright lights
  • Loud noises

How is migraine treated?

There is currently no known cure for chronic migraines, but treatment is available. Prescribed treatments often come in the form of pharmaceutical medications. These can be divided into two classes: abortive medications and prophylactic, or preventative, medications. Common medications include:

  • Over-the-counter analgesics (e.g., Excedrin or Advil)
  • Triptans (e.g., sumatriptan or zolmitriptan)
  • Beta blockers (e.g., atenolol or nadolol)
  • Calcium channel blockers (e.g., verapamil)
  • Antidepressants (e.g., amitriptyline or doxepin)
  • Anti-seizure drugs (e.g., valproic acid or topiramate)
  • Calcitonin gene-related (CGRP) monoclonal antibodies (e.g., erenumab or galcanezumab)

Some prefer to avoid medications if possible and opt for home remedies such as:

  • Resting in a dark, cool, quiet room
  • Applying a warm or cool compress
  • Scalp massage
  • Yoga or meditation

Although a variety of treatment options exist, many migraine sufferers find themselves without sufficient relief, especially when attempting to prevent migraine altogether.


How can CBD help?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive compound derived from the legal hemp plant. In recent years, this cannabinoid has gained mainstream popularity due to its versatility of uses.

According to an array of studies, CBD may help relieve the symptoms of ailments ranging from Crohn’s disease and fibromyalgia to Parkinson’s disease and restless legs syndrome. Research indicates that it may help alleviate migraines, as well!


CBD may prevent migraines

Eliminating a migraine that’s already begun is difficult enough, but many patients find prevention to be the greatest challenge. Luckily, CBD may lend a hand here, reducing the frequency of migraine altogether.

This study found that CBD and other cannabinoids induced an entourage effect of benefits, effectively preventing the incidence of migraines long-term. In addition, patients treating migraines with cannabinoids were able to significantly lower their intake of conventional antimigraine medications.


CBD may reduce chronic pain and inflammation

Excruciatingly painful headache is the trademark symptom of migraines, and recent research indicates that this pain results from neurogenic neuroinflammation or inflammation of the neural and glial cells in the brain.

Several studies have found that CBD reduces the chronic pain and inflammation that accompanies conditions like migraines. This review examines the ways in which CBD relieves inflammatory pain by attaching to CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that regulate inflammation markers and the overall pain response.

Additionally, this review draws a similar conclusion: CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory agent by triggering CB2 receptors and subsequently decreasing levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, inhibiting inflammatory cell proliferation, curtailing migration and adhesion of immune cells, and reducing oxidative stress.

This study focuses on how CBD interacts with CB1 receptors in the ECS, suggesting that a general cannabinoid deficiency may be central to chronic pain conditions including chronic migraine. Researchers here find that CBD helps patients achieve overall internal stability by triggering the CB1 receptors in the brain that regulate homeostasis.


CBD may inhibit nausea and vomiting

Following painful headaches, nausea and vomiting are two of the most common symptoms that accompany migraines.

One 2011 study found that CBD interacts with the serotonin receptors in the brain that regulate nausea and vomiting. Researchers here concluded that CBD may suppress severe and ongoing nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients. Anecdotal evidence suggests CBD treats similar symptoms in those suffering from chronic migraines, as well.

In addition, this study suggests that CBD significantly reduces the incidence of nausea and vomiting with continuous dosing. Other cannabinoids like CBDA, THC, and THCA also appeared to strengthen the antinausea effects promoted by CBD alone.


When CBD was legalized with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, few could predict the waves it would create in the world of health and wellness. Lucky for those suffering from chronic conditions like migraines, CBD’s legalization has led to a massive increase in research on the cannabinoid and its many healing capabilities, leading many to consider it as an alternative treatment for the debilitating illness.

We hope that, as researchers continue to gain interest in hemp-derived CBD, we gain a better understanding of the cannabinoid and the ways it not only helps alleviate but also prevents chronic disease.

time Oct 12, 2023

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