CBD Oil for Migraine: Does It Work?
Migraine attacks go beyond the typical stress- or allergy-related headache. Migraine attacks last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. Even the most mundane activities, such as moving or being around noise and light, can amplify your symptoms.
While pain medications can help temporarily alleviate symptoms of migraine attacks, you may be concerned about their side effects. This is where cannabidiol (CBD) may come in.
CBD is one of the many active compounds found in the cannabis plant. It’s grown in popularity as a way to naturally treat certain medical conditions.
Keep reading to find out:
- what the current research says about using CBD for migraine
- how it works
- potential side effects and more
Research on the use of CBD for migraine is limited. Existing studies look at the combined effects of CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a different cannabinoid. There are currently no published studies that examine the effects of CBD as a single ingredient on migraine.
This limited research is due, in part, to regulations on CBD and obstacles with cannabis legalization. Still, some laboratory studies have suggested that CBD oil may help all forms of chronic and acute pain, including migraine.
Study on CBD and THC
In 2017, at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology (EAN), a group of researchers presented the results of their study on cannabinoids and migraine prevention.
In phase I of their study, 48 people with chronic migraine received a combination of two compounds. One compound contained 19 percent THC, while the other contained 9 percent CBD and virtually no THC. The compounds were administered orally.
Doses under 100 milligrams (mg) had no effect. When doses were increased to 200 mg, acute pain was reduced by 55 percent.
Phase II of the study looked at people with chronic migraine or cluster headaches. The 79 people with chronic migraine received a daily dose of 200 mg of the THC-CBD combination from phase I or 25 mg of amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant.
The 48 people with cluster headaches received a daily dose of 200 mg of the THC-CBD combination from phase I or 480 mg of verapamil, a calcium channel blocker.
The treatment period lasted for three months, and a follow-up occurred four weeks after treatment ended.
The THC-CBD combination reduced migraine attacks by 40.4 percent, while amitriptyline led to a 40.1 percent reduction in migraine attacks. The THC-CBD combination also reduced the intensity of the pain by 43.5 percent.
Participants with cluster headaches only saw a slight decrease in the severity and frequency of their headaches.
However, some did see their pain intensity drop by 43.5 percent. This drop in pain intensity was only observed in participants who’d had migraine attacks that began in childhood.
The researchers concluded that cannabinoids were only effective against acute cluster headaches if a person had experienced migraine attacks as a child.
Research on other forms of cannabis may provide additional hope for those seeking migraine pain relief.
Studies on medical marijuana
In 2016, Pharmacotherapy published a study on the use of medical marijuana for migraine. Researchers found that of the 48 people surveyed, 39.7 percent reported fewer migraine attacks overall.
Drowsiness was the biggest complaint, while others had difficulty figuring out the right dose. People who used edible marijuana, as opposed to inhaling it or using other forms, experienced the most side effects.
A 2018 study looked at 2,032 people with migraine, headache, arthritis, or chronic pain as a primary symptom or illness. Most participants were able to replace their prescription medications — typically opioids or opiates — with cannabis.
All subgroups preferred hybrid strains of cannabis. People in the migraine and headache subgroups preferred OG Shark, a hybrid strain with high levels of THC and low levels of CBD.
Study on nabilone
A 2012 Italian study explored the effects of nabilone, a synthetic form of THC, on headache disorders. Twenty-six people who experienced medication overuse headaches began by taking oral doses of either .50 mg a day of nabilone or 400 mg a day of ibuprofen.
After taking one drug for eight weeks, the study participants went without medication for one week. Then they switched to the other drug for the final eight weeks.
Both drugs proved to be effective. However, at the end of the study, participants reported more improvements and better quality of life when taking nabilone.
Using nabilone resulted in less intense pain as well as lowered drug dependence. Neither drug had a significant impact on the frequency of migraine attacks, which the researchers attributed to the short duration of the study.
CBD works by interacting with the body’s cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). Though the mechanisms aren’t fully understood, the receptors can affect the immune system.
For example, CBD may prevent the body from metabolizing anandamide . The compound anandamide is associated with pain regulation. Maintaining high levels of anandamide in your bloodstream may reduce your feelings of pain.
CBD is also thought to limit inflammation within the body, which may also help reduce pain and other immune-system responses.
More research is needed to further understand how CBD may affect the body.
Although lawmakers in the United States are currently debating the merits of cannabis and related products, the plant’s medicinal uses aren’t a new discovery.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) , cannabis has been used in alternative medicine for over 3,000 years. Some of these uses include the management of:
- neurological symptoms
- applied topically
Oral CBD is less likely to cause side effects than vaping, so some beginners may want to start there. You can:
- put a few drops of the oil under your tongue
- take CBD capsules
- eat or drink a CBD-infused treat
Vaping CBD oil may be beneficial if you’re experiencing a severe migraine at home and you don’t have to leave and go elsewhere.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) explains that the inhalation process delivers the compounds to your bloodstream much quicker than other methods.
Currently, there aren’t any formal guidelines for proper dosing for a migraine attack. Work with your doctor to determine a proper dosage.
If you’re new to CBD oil, you should start with the smallest dosage possible. You can gradually work your way up to the full recommended dose. This will allow your body to get used to the oil and reduce your risk of side effects.
Overall, studies show that the side effects of CBD and CBD oil are minimal. This is one of the main reasons why people are opting out of over-the-counter (OTC) or addictive prescription pain medications.
Still, fatigue, drowsiness, and upset stomach are possible, as well as changes in appetite and weight. Liver toxicity has also been observed in mice who’ve been force-fed extremely large doses of CBD-rich cannabis extract.
Your risk for side effects may depend on the way you use the CBD oil. For example, vaping may cause lung irritation. This can lead to:
- chronic cough
- breathing difficulties
If you have asthma or another type of lung disease, your doctor may advise against vaping CBD oil.
If you’re unsure about the potential side effects or how your body might handle them, talk with your doctor.
If you’re also taking other medications or dietary supplements, be mindful of drug interactions. CBD may interact with a variety of drugs, including:
Be extra careful if you take a medication or supplement that interacts with grapefruit. CBD and grapefruit both interact with enzymes — such as cytochromes P450 (CYPs) — that are important for drug metabolism.
CBD oils are made from cannabis, but they don’t always contain THC. THC is the cannabinoid that makes users feel “high” or “stoned” when smoking cannabis.
Two types of CBD strains are widely available on the market:
The CBD-dominant strain has little to no THC, while the CBD-rich strain contains both cannabinoids.
CBD without THC doesn’t have psychoactive properties. Even if you select a combination product, the CBD often counteracts the effects of THC, according to the nonprofit Project CBD. This is one of the many reasons you might select CBD oil over medical marijuana.
Is CBD Legal? Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.
Due to the psychoactive components of traditional marijuana, cannabis remains outlawed in some parts of the United States.
However, a growing number of states have voted to approve cannabis for medical use only. Others have legalized cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use.
If you live in a state where marijuana is legal for both medicinal and recreational use, you should have access to CBD oil, too.
However, if your state has legalized cannabis for medicinal use only, you’ll need to apply for a marijuana card through your doctor before purchasing CBD products. This license is required for the consumption of all forms of cannabis, including CBD.
In some states, all forms of cannabis are illegal. Federally, cannabis is still classified as a dangerous and illicit drug.
It’s important to be aware of the laws in your state and any other states you may visit. If cannabis-related products are illegal — or if they require a medical license that you don’t have — you may be subject to a penalty for possession.
More research is needed before CBD oil can become a conventional treatment option for migraine, but it’s worth talking to your doctor if you’re interested. They can advise you on the proper dosage as well as any legal requirements.
If you decide to try CBD oil, treat it like you would any other treatment option for migraine. It may take some time to work, and you may need to adjust your dosage to better suit your needs.Research on CBD oil for migraine is limited, but some evidence suggests that it may help relieve chronic or acute pain. Learn more.
Updated on May 25, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Headache disorders are debilitating, painful — and, sadly, traditional treatments are often inadequate for managing their symptoms. However, some case studies show a potential benefit of medical marijuana for cluster headaches as a treatment option.
How and Why Marijuana Can Be an Effective Treatment for Cluster Headaches
Medical marijuana, which is an option for treating cluster headaches, hasn’t been recognized in the U.S. for many years. However, it does have a history of treating headaches. Second millennium BCE Assyrian manuscripts suggested marijuana to “bind the temples.” In the third and fourth centuries BCE, Ayurvedic preparations recommended marijuana for “disease of the head” — referring to migraines.
We lack sufficient research regarding medical marijuana for treatment of cluster headaches. However, there is some indication it could help with this condition. The hypothalamus may be, at least in part, responsible for producing cluster headaches.
The hypothalamus has endocannabinoid receptors, to which the active components in medical marijuana attach, causing the wide range of responses medical and recreational marijuana users experience. If medical marijuana can affect change in the areas causing cluster headaches, it may be able to alter the course of cluster headaches, relieve them or even stop them.
A case study published by a group of researchers at the Montefiore Headache Center indicated inhaling medical marijuana could stop cluster headaches. During a headache, the study’s subject would inhale marijuana and experience cessation of the headache within minutes of administration. Furthermore, the subject experienced identical results after receiving a dose of synthetic THC in the form of dronabinol.
This patient experienced results with medical marijuana, despite having had no relief from typical cluster headache medications. If continued research shows similar results in other cluster headache sufferers, this could be a tremendous breakthrough for these unfortunate individuals, particularly those who do not respond to traditional treatment. More research is required to determine whether other synthetic marijuana medications will produce the same results.
Cluster Headaches and Medical Marijuana Studies
On its own, the study described above is not sufficient to determine whether medical marijuana will help a significant portion of cluster headache sufferers, since it only involved a single participant. However, the treatment of a similar type of a headache — a migraine — with medical marijuana has been more extensively studied and has produced promising results.
What Side Effects and Symptoms of Cluster Headaches Can Medical Marijuana Treat?
Medical cannabis for cluster headaches can effectively treat:
As a pain reliever, marijuana is very mild. It does not have even close to the same effect as opiates. However, it is safe in that it cannot produce overdose or death. It also has much more potential in other departments, apart from pain relief.
In many conditions — such as glaucoma — it’s quite likely marijuana can attack the root of the problem, not just the symptoms. Researchers think this will be the case with the successful treatment of cluster headaches with medical marijuana as well. In the study cited above, the patient reported almost immediate cessation of excruciating pain, despite marijuana only having mild pain-relieving effects. These results seem to indicate marijuana can treat the cause of the pain, not just the pain itself.
Secondary effects marijuana treats for cluster headaches are:
- Exhaustion — the body shuts down in response to intense stress and wants to repair/sleep
- Unable to organize plans and thoughts
Those who suffer from cluster headaches dread their next headache. They may need to ask for help to complete basic tasks or adjust their physical activities. Some don’t make plans out of fear a headache will strike, which leads to social isolation.
Best Strains of Marijuana to Use for Treating Cluster Headache Symptoms and Their Side Effects
A patient’s whole world seems to shatter when a cluster headache starts. Their headache pain can be debilitating. For extreme pain from your headaches, some strains you may wish to try include:
- White Widow
- OG Kush
- Dream Queen
- God’s Gift
- Purple Kush
When the pain of your cluster headaches starts to attack, you’ll wish you had any one of these marijuana and cluster headaches strains at hand.
Best Methods of Marijuana Treatment for the Side Effects and Symptoms of Cluster Headaches
Some patients experience beneficial effects by smoking medical weed. But, for other people, smoking it seems to trigger their cluster headaches. When having an attack, don’t smoke your cannabis, since it could amplify the attack.
However, when you’re not experiencing a headache, smoking medical pot could prevent your next headache. This does depend on the patient, but you may wish to experiment with it.
Not everybody likes to smoke the herb, however. Therefore, for those patients who prefer not to smoke it, there are other smoke-free alternatives to use medical cannabis you can try. These include:
- Ingestible oils
Becoming a Medical Marijuana Patient for Cluster Headaches
Now you know some of the methods of consumption and strains available, it’s time to purchase the products you’ll need to alleviate your cluster headaches. But first, you’ll need to search for a medical marijuana doctor to get a recommendation for cannabis.
With so many options available to you for finding your marijuana for cluster headaches treatment, you’ll want to know you’re in good hands. You can use MarijuanaDoctors.com to find a medical cannabis dispensary or doctor all in the same place.
What Are Cluster Headaches?
Cluster headaches are a rare, primary headache disorder. They occur when you have severe headaches occurring on one side of your head, typically accompanied by:
- Teary or red eyes
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Agitation and restlessness
- Sweating or flushing of the face
A cluster headache gets its name due to the recurrence of headache attacks, generally in cluster periods or in a series lasting for weeks or even months. Remission follows these periods where you don’t have a headache for months or even years.
Cluster headaches aren’t common and usually affect around one to two in every 1,000 individuals. Most of these individuals smoke. Because of hormonal influences, women experience these headaches more than men in a ratio of approximately two to one, according to the World Health Organization. However, the American Migraine Foundation has conflicting reports saying men are more likely to get cluster headaches than women in a three-to-one ratio.
People have reported cluster headaches as the most painful type of headache they have experienced. Individuals describe them as:
Sufferers have equated the pain of a cluster headache to sticking a hot poker in their eye. Some moms say they are more painful than giving birth. People also refer to them as “suicide headaches,” since the pain can get so intense, it’s caused some people to take their own lives.
The onset of cluster headaches typically starts between the ages 20 and 40.
Causes of Cluster Headaches
Physicians aren’t entirely sure what causes cluster headaches. However, they hypothesize the headaches are related to the sudden histamine release of the body. Histamine is a chemical the body releases when going through an allergic response. A sudden serotonin release may also cause them. Either way, doctors believe the hypothalamus — a small area at the base of the brain — plays a role.
Cluster headaches tend to run in families, and may have triggers such as:
- Air travel, trekking and other high altitudes
- Cigarette smoking and alcohol
- Certain medications
- Sunlight or other bright light
- Nitrate-rich foods, such as preserved meats
A common trigger for these types of headaches is the season, with headaches occurring more in the spring and autumn seasons. Doctors frequently link cluster headaches with sinusitis or allergies by mistake, due to their seasonal nature. Cluster headaches developing during the seasons are most likely due to activation or stimulation of the hypothalamus.
While going through a cluster period, the patient is more sensitive to the action of nicotine and alcohol, and even a small amount of alcohol could be a trigger for these headaches. However, when the patient isn’t going through a cluster period or is in remission, they can drink alcohol without triggering a headache. Smoking may also make cluster headaches worse when the patient is in the middle of a cluster period.
Types of Cluster Headaches
There are two cluster headache types.
1) Episodic cluster headaches: These are more common. Patients who are suffering from episodic cluster headaches tend to have one to three cluster periods where they are susceptible to the onset of headaches. They then have a six-month-or-more remission period where they’re free of the headaches. Approximately 90 percent of individuals who have these headaches have episodic cluster headaches.
2) Chronic cluster headaches: These headaches occur in patients for at least 12 months without remission. Around 10 percent of individuals suffering from cluster headaches have this type.
History of Cluster Headaches
Dutch physician Nicolaes Tulp published the first concise explanations of cluster headaches in 1641. About a dozen different names for a cluster headache have surfaced, including “erythroprosopalgia of Bing” and “sphenopalatine neuralgia.”
American physician E. Charles Kunkle gave cluster headaches their name in 1952, when he noticed they “cluster” together. Doctors categorized these types of headaches as a variant of migraines until recently, when the first International Classification of Headache Disorders established cluster headaches as a separate disorder in 1998.
Symptoms of Cluster Headaches
Cluster headaches typically start abruptly. Some people experience flashes of light or other aura-like visual disturbances before they get a headache. The headache may even start a couple of hours after you’ve fallen asleep and will often wake you up because they’re so painful.
The pain of a cluster headache becomes severe around five to 10 minutes after the headache begins. The headaches tend to last for a few hours, with intense pain lasting anywhere from a half hour to a couple of hours.
You typically get a cluster headache on only one side of your head, but it could switch sides. These headaches present pain around or behind the eye. Patients describe them as deep burning, constant and piercing pain. The pain can spread to your:
You may experience other symptoms on the side of your head where you’re experiencing the pain, such as:
- A constricted pupil
- A droopy eyelid
- Sensitivity to light
- Excessive tearing from the eye
- A stuffy or runny nose
- Swelling around or under one or both eyes
- Restlessness or agitation
- Flushing or facial redness
Nausea and vomiting don’t usually accompany cluster headaches. Those with these headaches seem to have the same light and sound sensitivity as those with migraines. It’s possible you can also suffer from migraines when you have cluster headaches.
Those struggling with cluster headaches, particularly those with cheek or tooth pain during their cluster attacks, are at a higher risk of getting a stomach ulcer.
Your cluster headache symptoms may appear like other medical conditions or problems. Therefore, it’s essential you see your physician for an accurate diagnosis.
Effects of Cluster Headaches
Cluster headaches don’t cause permanent brain damage and aren’t life-threatening. However, they are recurrent, chronic and can interfere with work or your lifestyle. They’re typically a lifelong issue with potential outcomes including:
- Prolonged remissions
- Recurrent attacks
- Possible transformation of a chronic cluster to an episodic cluster and vice versa
With the extreme pain cluster headache patients endure, it’s no wonder many also struggle with anxiety and depression.
A recent study shows those suffering from cluster headaches tend to experience an increase in mood disturbances, memory problems and a poorer quality of life than individuals who don’t have this disorder. Thirty-three people participated in this study: 11 of them with chronic cluster headache, 11 with episodic cluster headache and 11 controls.
Around a third of the participants with a chronic and episodic headache struggled with depression. Seventy-five percent with chronic cluster headache also struggled with anxiety when compared to the 38 percent with episodic cluster headache. Both groups reported high levels of disability.
Cluster Headache Statistics
The National Center for Biotechnology Information reported the following information about cluster headaches:
- Cluster headache patients experience severe attacks of strictly unilateral pain lasting between 15 to 180 minutes and occurring from once every other day to as many as eight times daily.
- These attacks link to one or more of these ailments: nasal congestion, conjunctival injection, facial and forehead sweating, lacrimation, miosis, eyelid edema, ptosis or rhinorrhea.
Current Treatments Available for Cluster Headaches and Their Side Effects
OTC pain medication like ibuprofen or aspirin is not effective for many cluster headache sufferers, since the pain begins and ends so quickly the headache is practically gone by the time the medication kicks in.
When it comes to cluster headaches, doctors recommend fast treatment, since the patients have severe pain. Nasal sprays and injectables work far faster than pills, but to treat a cluster headache the fastest, doctors give the patient a mask blowing high-flow oxygen for several minutes or so.
Pain medicine relieves the pain of your headache the minute it starts. Treatments include:
- Oxygen — You can relieve your symptoms by breathing in 100 percent pure oxygen right when a headache starts.
- Triptan medicines — These usually involve using a nasal spray medicine like Imitrex (sumatriptan) or other types of medications to ease your headache by constricting your blood vessels. Some side effects may include a headache, dizziness, tingling of the skin, fatigue, flushing and dry mouth.
- DHE — Dihydroergotamine is an injected medication that helps relieve the pain of cluster headaches within a few minutes of using it. Some side effects may include dizziness, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, flushing and headache.
- Capsaicin cream — This is a topical cream you apply to the area of pain. Some side effects requiring medical attention may include pain, burning, blistering or swelling of the skin.
Potential Future Treatments
Some new treatment options that are still under consideration include:
- Occipital nerve stimulation — The doctor implants a small device over your occipital nerve, where it sends impulses through electrodes. It is safe to use and well-tolerated.
- Deep brain stimulation — The doctor implants a stimulator inside your hypothalamus, where it links to the timing of your cluster headache. It changes your brain’s electrical impulses.
Researchers are considering hypothalamus-targeted treatments to be the most effective at treating cluster headaches. The most attractive option is deep brain stimulation if you aren’t responding to other treatments.
You should take prevention medicines every day to keep headaches away. These include:
- Anti-seizure drugs — side effects are drowsiness, diarrhea, nervousness, dizziness
- Beta-blockers — side effects are dry eyes, diarrhea, slower heart rate, nausea
- Some types of antidepressants — side effects depend on the antidepressant
Other preventive methods for cluster headaches are a short course of steroids or a daily dose of verapamil.
To receive a diagnosis of cluster headaches, your doctor will inquire about your symptoms and give you a neurological and physical exam, which could include a CT scan or MRI of your brain to see if there are any brain tumors or other causes of your headaches.See how medical marijuana could help treat cluster headaches. Get information about treatment options and local doctors from Marijuana Doctors. ]]>