CBD has recently been in the news with people reporting it cures everything from acne to cancer. What are the facts? And can CBD oil really help patients suffering with migraine pain? Here are a few things that you need to know.
What exactly is CBD oil?
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is an oil extracted from a marijuana plant or a hemp plant. CBD is one of nearly 100 compounds found in the cannabis plant. CBD oil that is extracted from a hemp plant is legal for medical use, but oil that is extracted from the marijuana plant is not legal in all states. The compound in the cannabis plant that causes an altered mental state is THC. CBD does not cause the user to get “high” and in fact, the hemp plant from which the CBD is extracted is usually very low in THC. Users of CBD oil have found the compound to improve symptoms of many medical conditions, which has made CBD a popular topic of discussion and interest with pharmacological researchers as well as with the general public.
How are migraines different from regular headaches?
Migraine headaches are different from other headaches in several ways. Migraines can last several days and unlike regular headaches, are usually not cured with over-the-counter medication. Additionally, migraines come with other symptoms that make it difficult to carry out activities of daily living. Some of the symptoms of migraine headaches are nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and to sound, dizziness, seeing spots or an “aura,” or temporary loss of sight. Some people can tell days in advance when a migraine is coming on with symptoms such as neck stiffness, yawning, and depression. Because migraines can be so severe and debilitating, it can be difficult for someone suffering from migraines to work, resulting in a lot of lost work days. The Department of Health and Human Services reports that 29.5 million Americans experience migraine headaches. Patients suffering from migraines take prescription medications for inflammation, nausea and pain. Unfortunately, if these medications are used for more than 10 days a month they can have a rebound effect and cause additional headaches.
What is the benefit of using CBD oil for migraines?
Most information we have about how CBD oil works for migraine sufferers is anecdotal, meaning it is based on personal, first-person accounts. However, there is some research showing that cannabinoids actually block the receptors in the brain which cause nausea and pain. Researchers also believe that migraine sufferers are deficient in endocannabinoids which normally calm parts of the brain that could trigger a migraine. If there are not enough endocannabinoids to level out the symptoms caused by triggers such as bright light, sound, hormones, or a certain smell, then the result is a migraine. If migraines do in fact result from a deficiency of endocannabinoids in the brain, that could explain why using CBD would fill that gap, provide the cannabinoids, and result in fewer symptoms and potentially fewer migraines. CBD has also shown to be linked to better sleep patterns which would be beneficial to migraine sufferers who have migraines triggered by lack of sleep.
Is there anything I need to know before I try it?
As with any kind of alternative medicine, having your doctor on board is important. Very early studies show that there may be some drug interactions that need to be monitored when using CBD oil for migraines, especially if you are using prescription drugs. If you use CBD oil made from hemp, it is unlikely that it would be found on a drug test as hemp has very little or no THC, but it is possible. It is a good idea to be aware if your employer has a drug testing policy. Also, be sure that your source of CBD oil is reputable. The actual amount of CBD in the oil varies widely between companies that produce the product, and you may not get a good result if the oil you use does not contain the stated amount of CBD.
The reality is, we don’t know for sure how CBD oil works in the brain to ease migraines, but other than potential drug interactions patients report few negative side effects from using CBD oil to treat migraines. According to Bonni Goldstein, MD, in her book Cannabis Revealed, “Unfortunately, little research exists that proves the mechanism by which cannabinoids alleviate migraines, despite the overwhelming anecdotal reports from patients suffering with them.” But because of the overwhelming anecdotal reports, more and more clinical research will be done to confirm the results migraine patients are already experiencing.
Darrik Cheney is a content crafter, marketer, and anthropologist who grew up in D.C. and Minnesota. He studied Socio-Cultural Anthropology at Brigham Young University, and seeks to continually apply the study of culture in presenting relatable and relevant content. Follow him on Twitter @darriklc.