Does CBD Oil Work for Migraines? Benefits & Risks

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CBD oil for migraines and headaches is increasingly becoming a popular and a possible treatment for people, like you, who live with these debilitating headaches.

The question is, does CBD help migraines?

After treating thousands of people who suffer from migraines with CBD oil, I will share with you my thoughts on how effective CBD for migraines is and what you can do to live a migraine-free life.

What is a Migraine?

Does CBD Help Migraines

A migraine is no ordinary “I am tired” headache. If you have experienced a migraine, you will know what I mean.

It is an intense crippling pain that wipes you out and writes the entire day off. It leaves you unable to function. The idea of continuing work, study, cook or look after the kids is thrown right out the window.

You may find yourself needing to isolate from the world into a dark corner, swallow a bunch of pharmaceutical tablets and then doze off to sleep. This is after possibly vomiting once or twice off course.

Light and noise become your worst enemy as they usually just make it worse.

Although the headache resolves usually within the day, you spend the next few days recovering and putting yourself together again.

You just wish it was over and would never happen again, ever. But you know deep inside that you live day to day anxious that the migraine can come back at any time.

Is this sounding familiar?

How common are migraines?

Migraines are more common than we think. They also affect people to different degrees, some worse than others.

The reality is about 10% of New Zealander’s get migraines! And women are three times more likely.

CBD for Headaches

Migraines are often onset by triggers, including stress, insomnia, hormonal changes, bright or flashing light, even certain smells – it depends on the person.

One-third of chronic migraine sufferers can predict when a migraine is coming because they see an “aura.” Also unique to the individual, these “auras” can appear as flashing lights, zig-zag lines, or temporary loss of vision.

Migraines affect 10% of the population with women 3 times more likely to be affected.

Can CBD Oil Help With Migraines?

In one study, CBD for migraines was shown to reduce the frequency of attacks by 56%. CBD oil also reduced the intensity of migraine attacks by 50%.

In a survey done, for those who are having a migraine attack, 29% found that it stopped their headache completely.

Although these are by no means considered to be conclusive results, they do give us an indication about using medicinal cannabis for migraines.

In another study, 1655 people using medicinal CBD and THC for migraines found that 40.8% of people found significant improvement in their migraines.

It is important to point that these encouraging results need to drive more research into the field to come up with concrete conclusions about effectiveness. For now, CBD oil for migraines is prescribed on a case by case basis. 

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There are also many people who are self medicating with CBD oil for migraines themselves. For example, in a 2015 survey by Care By Design which included 2495 people using CBD oil, in 100% of cases, the CBD oil decreased pain. All patients (100%) with headaches and migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and spinal cord injury reported a decrease in pain or discomfort.

My own experience in treating thousands of migraine sufferers with CBD oil is that about 50% of people find a positive benefit in reduced migraine frequency and intensity. One of our own doctors at the clinic has also experienced this first-hand.

CBD HEMP Oil for Migraines

But CBD oil is a natural, plant-based medicine, so people seem to react differently to it and in differing doses.

Which CBD Oil Products May Work Best for Migraines?

I usually recommend that patients use CBD oil on a continual daily basis as a possible preventative measure for migraines to try. Usually, this means taking about 50 – 100mg of CBD oil per day. I have found this to be a good dose when trying to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.

When having a migraine attack, I encourage the use of inhaled CBD as opposed to CBD oil. Inhaled CBD (either as a vape or flower) works much faster than having it in an oil form.

Oils usually take 30 – 60 minutes to become effective whereas inhaled CBD enters the blood stream within a few minutes.

Using THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, also becomes important here. THC works may work well with CBD when it comes to treating an episode of acute pain due to a migraine attack.

These considerations are best done by your doctor. Because medicinal cannabis is considered an unapproved medicine, there is no set guideline or advice around it’s effectiveness and the ideal treatment plan for the doctor to prescribe. We take into account your history, current medication use and severity of symptoms to create a tailored plan for you. 

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Prescribing medicinal cannabis means tailoring the treatment plan for the person and selecting the most suitable products. Consulting with a specialist doctor is the best way to approach unapproved medicines such as CBD oil. 

How do CBD Oil Products Possibly Work for Migraines?

CBD oil works on a hormonal system inside your body called the endocannabinoid system. It is thought possibly that those with a deficiency in this system are more likely to get migraines and using CBD for migraines may help reduce this deficiency. Proving this remains to be determined but it is a starting point towards understanding how CBD may work inside our body.

This endocannabinoid system is fascinating, it is a multi organ system and responsible for many functions in your body, from pain to appetite. As I have talked about previously, many organ systems in the body contain receptors for cannabinoid chemicals and your body makes it own version of these compounds itself. These internally made compounds are called endocannabinoids. 

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2007 study showed that those who have migraines had a below average level of Anandamide, a type of cannabinoid chemical your body makes naturally.

This may be why so many people find relief in using cannabis.

Dr Ethan Russo, both a neurologist and cannabinoid researcher, has combined years of expertise and research and was the one to come up with the “Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency” theory and idea.

It is exactly what it sounds: a deficiency in your body’s own endocannabinoid system may be responsible for many “unexplained” diagnoses, such as migraines, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome.

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What about other medications that reduce migraines?

Your doctor may have suggested starting medications to prevent migraines. This is usually using amitriptyline, nortriptyline, propanolol gabapentin or sodium valproate.

However, this is not a decision to take lightly. Let me tell you why.

Let’s look at a commonly used medication, amitriptyline. This medicine is also used as an anti-depressant and for chronic nerve type pain in general.

Does it work? Yes. Does it have side effects? Yes. The image below is pulled directly from the New Zealand Formulary:

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That’s a long list of potential side effects.

Let’s have a look at another commonly used migraine preventing medicine: propranolol. This is what is called a beta blocker. It works by binding to beta receptors in your body and is used in those who have had heart attacks and heart problems in the past. Again, look below to see the list of side effects:

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Why do we as a society place more taboo on using a plant based supplement, CBD oil, compared to taking other medicines with so many side effects?

There is no convincing answer to this! CBD oil has been shown to be well tolerated with few potential side effects. It is non-addictive and has no potential for abuse. Does CBD oil help with migraines? It remains to be told but if that’s the case, it presents itself as an excellent option instead of having to take other medications which may come with undesirable side effects. 

CBD Oil and Migraines: How long has it been used for treating migraines?

CBD oil and medicinal cannabis use dates back thousands of years to treat various ailments.

As a matter of fact, Chinese history makes the first mention of marijuana in 2900BC when Emperor Fu Shi and emperor Shennong documented it’s healing properties for malaria, gout and rheumatism. Cannabis is one of the “50 fundamental herbs” in Chinese medicine and used to treat multiple disorders.

As noted above, it works on the endocannabinoid system present in the body.

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Medicinal cannabis and CBD oil has been used for thousands of years to treat health conditions and promote wellbeing.

How Do I Get Prescribed CBD Oil?

CBD oil is a prescription-only medicine in NZ and is available in other countries without a prescription.

You can speak to one of our medicinal cannabis specialists today!

Conclusion

CBD hemp oil for migraines is a possible treatment for you and your doctor to consider. There is some evidence to suggest that it can help with the management of migraines. 

Using CBD for headaches taken as a daily dose may be possibly effective as a prevention for migraines.  When a person is experiencing a migraine attack, using an inhaled form of CBD and THC is a better approach as it acts quickly in the body.

Although medicinal cannabis has not been proven to treat migraines, it is a great natural option to try if your quality of life is suffering as a result. We would be happy to discuss this with you in a confidential consultation so please get in touch. 

Disclaimer – medicinal cannabis and CBD oil are unapproved medicines in NZ which means that there is no conclusive evidence for their effect, apart from Sativex. Many doctors do not routinely prescribe cannabis medicines. The above article was written for general educational purposes and does not intend to suggest that medicinal cannabis can be used to treat any health condition. Please consult with your healthcare provider. 

 

MBChB (Otago), BSc (Auckland) - As our tele-medicine doctor and author, Dr. Waseem keeps busy educating both patients and doctors about medicinal cannabis. He also consults with people from all over New Zealand, offering a listening ear and giving the most relevant advice.

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