Migraines can often affect a person’s quality of life and day to day activities. It takes a lot of time, as well as trial and error to find the right treatment for them. So many individuals wonder, can CBD oil be considered an option used for migraines?
What Are Migraines?
Nearly everyone has had a headache. However, according to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraines aren’t only a terrible headache. They are an extremely incapacitating assortment of neurological symptoms that normally include a severe throbbing recurring pain on one side of the head. But in one-third of migraine attacks, both sides are affected. Attacks last between four and seventy-two hours and are frequently accompanied by at least one of these disabling symptoms: visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to noise, light, touch and smell, and numbness or tingling in the face or extremities. Obviously, everybody is different, and symptoms vary by individual and at times by migraine attack.
The cause of migraines is still being researched. Researchers now think that migraines are a neurological disorder involving neural pathways and brain chemicals. We are aware that migraines frequently run in families. But genes are not the sole answer – environmental factors play a significant part, too.
There are various sorts of migraines. The type of migraine is generally identified by its own overriding symptom. Migraines are a moving target: symptoms may vary from one attack to another, and lots of sufferers have multiple types of migraines.
Treatment for Migraines
Most people that have a migraine attack start by self-treating with over the counter (OTC) pain-relieving drugs such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a combination of a pain reliever with caffeine. Sufferers sometimes consult with a physician as symptoms become more intense and disabling, but unfortunately, over half of all migraine sufferers are never diagnosed.
They are diagnosed by a process of elimination since there is not a test or biomarker to reveal if they are present. Migraines are diagnosed by assessing the signs and symptoms, reviewing family history, conducting clinical evaluations, and eliminating other potential causes of the headache. Diagnosis isn’t always easy due to symptoms usually presenting as other problems. It is important to seek advice from a headache specialist if your symptoms are disabling, start changing, or are not responding to your standard headache therapies.
Prescription medications for migraines can include those that decrease pain after they start such as the drug class of triptans (i.e. sumatriptan) or those that prevent migraines which include the drug classes of beta-blockers, seizure medications, or antidepressants. You can learn more about these types of treatments from the American Migraine Foundation website. Other non-drug treatments include mindfulness meditation and stress management.
Mindfulness meditation is the act of focusing one’s attention on the present moment from a non-judgmental mindset. The purpose is to take an inventory of the current state of your mind and body and focus on feeling instead of thinking. In the context of migraine treatment, mindfulness meditation is sometimes cited as a method of stress reduction since stress is a common migraine trigger. Many people with migraine seek alternative treatments that may offer relief or prevention without medication. For some, medicine induces intolerable side effects, contributes to Medication Overuse Headache, or is simply ineffective in reducing or halting their attacks.
Researchers are currently trying to learn more about what happens in the body during meditation. Meditation may inhibit the part of the nervous system responsible for stress. Frequent migraine attacks can be triggered by or aggravated by stress, tension, and anxiety, and mind-body techniques like meditation may relieve headaches by alleviating underlying stress.
Tension, stress, and anxiety are common migraine triggers. Meditation may help to alleviate these by inhibiting the part of the nervous system that’s responsible for them, according to the American Migraine Foundation (AMF). Research has found that meditation also can have a positive impact on heart rate variability, which tends to be affected by stress.
Meditation has been looked at specifically to determine its effects on migraine pain. In one small but significant study that will likely be a springboard for further research, 10 people with episodic migraines (fewer than 15 per month) participated in a standardized, eight-week meditation practice called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). They were compared to a group nine subjects who followed their usual care for episodic migraine.
The people who did MBSR had headaches less often and experienced positive changes in “headache severity, duration, self‐efficacy, perceived stress, migraine‐related disability/impact, anxiety, depression, mindfulness, and quality of life,” the researchers reported.
CBD oil is known for helping to relieve pain and inflammation, but does it help with migraine pain specifically? As of now, there is little data to support CBD oil as an option for helping with migraine pain.
Whatever an individual chooses for relief, experiences are likely different for each person, but unfortunately, for now, anecdotal evidence is all we have when it comes to learning about meditating with CBD. There has been virtually no research published on effects of CBD and meditation, according to Jennifer Whitney, a psychology PhD candidate at the New School, in New York City, who specializes in meditation research and who also teaches meditation in the mixed Vipassana and Zen tradition of the late Buddhist psychotherapist Michael Stone. She said that the recent interest in CBD is “too new” for researchers to have completed the peer-review process.
“I am sure all the people are researching it now,” Whitney said, “but the process of doing research and getting an article published generally takes around two years.” It will take even longer before we have definitive studies on the long-term effects of CBD use, she added.
As a researcher, Whitney does not think the evidence is strong enough yet to fully support the claims of CBD’s benefits, but in her capacity as a meditation teacher, she said students and colleagues have reported similar anecdotes about CBD’s ability to reduce anxiety.
“With CBD, they’re finding a certain level of anxiety and stress reduction that other things hadn’t afforded them or a similar effect but without the side effects,” she said. “My concern is about the potential reliance on the CBD doing the job for you rather than actually doing the meditative work. So maybe it could be like a boost that you could eventually let go of, instead of doing CBD plus meditation for the rest of your life.”
But Whitney said that few people report that anxiety has prevented them from developing a meditation practice. “It’s more that they don’t have the time,” she said. “That’s one of the biggest things that keeps people from finishing any of the intervention studies.”
In the end, CBD has not become a regular part of my meditation practice (though I have continued to use it as a sleep aid). I find that sitting with anxious thoughts can be helpful, and the anxiety does not feel overwhelming for me like it does for some. But self-care regimens are different for everyone.
CBD Oil for Migraines Research
Before getting into the various uses of CBD and all the health benefits of CBD Hemp Oil, it is important to explain the difference between FDA approved indications (or uses) and unapproved indications. FDA approved indications are medical uses that are accepted by the FDA. For this to happen, there are multiple phases of testing that drugs must complete before being approved. First, drugs go through pre-clinical trials in animals or cell cultures to determine if it may work in humans. Next, they go through Phase 1 which is done in a small group of healthy people to determine safety and dosages. Then, it goes through Phase 2 testing in a larger group of people with the disease they want to treat to test for efficacy and possible side effects. This is followed by Phase 3 testing in an even larger group of people with the disease to test for efficacy again and monitor any side effects. Phase 3 testing usually lasts longer than the other phases to help gather more long-term data. When it passes all these phases to prove safety and efficacy, the drug gets approved by the FDA and goes on to Phase 4 testing. This is monitoring that is done by health care professionals. If patients have side effects or reactions to drugs, health care professionals can report these to programs like MedWatch. If drugs get too many complaints, they can be taken off the market. As for unapproved indications, these are reasons why people take drugs even if it is not the official use for them. As of right now, there are a limited number of FDA approved uses of CBD. The most famous use is for epilepsy or seizures. Epidiolex is the first drug containing a purified drug substance from marijuana plants that obtained FDA approval. It is approved for treatment of seizures in people two years of age and older. More specifically, it is for two rare and severe forms of seizures known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
Many people take CBD to help with other health issues besides seizures. However, it is important to note that these uses have not been studied to the extent that seizures have been. The data behind them are mostly preclinical data, specific case studies, or small groups of people. It is also hard to extrapolate this data to the general population because a lot of evidence is from special populations of people, such as children, elderly patients, or immunocompromised patients (meaning they have a disease that affects their immune system such as cancer). There is also a lack of long-term data, meaning that we do not know the effects of CBD when taking it for a while. Therefore, we cannot say that CBD will treat any of these conditions.
There is evidence to support use of CBD oil for pain and inflammation. However, these studies do not focus on CBD oil and migraine pain specifically.
A 2017 review discussed the potential for cannabis as a treatment for headaches. It highlighted preliminary results that suggest cannabis may help with reducing migraine pain once the migraine has started and possibly help prevent migraines. A 2016 study in Pharmacotherapy did a retrospective data review to see if cannabis helped with migraine pain. They found that marijuana use was associated with decreased occurrence of migraines. Retrospective studies like this one are not as “evidence based” as prospective clinical trials because they look back in time to make connections between things. They are useful to help provide reasons why clinical trials should be performed, which is what the authors state in their conclusion.
Another study presented in 2017 showed that a combination of THC and CBD may have similar results to a prescription migraine medication (amitriptyline). A more recent study from Frontiers in Neuroscience provided a possible mechanism for how cannabinoids can be used in migraine pain. They stated that their study provides a reason for future clinical trials involving cannabinoids and migraines.
As you can see, the data for migraines is centered around cannabis or THC and CBD combinations. There really are not any studies out there now that show only CBD oil and migraines. However, many people swear that CBD oil helps with their migraines. Further research is needed to help support these claims. If the research is positive for use in migraines, CBD oil could be a great alternative option for those suffering with migraines. Many migraine treatments have unpleasant side effects such as weight gain, fatigue, and sedation. CBD oil would be an option with less side effects that are generally tolerable to most patients. Important Note
If you are already taking medications to treat your migraines be sure to check with a healthcare professional before starting CBD oil to help with migraines. Some medications can interact with CBD oil and may alter the drug levels in your body which could lead to serious side effects. For example, higher doses of CBD with valproic acid (a seizure medication and migraine prevention medication) may lead to liver damage.
Although many people use CBD to help with relieving pain and reducing inflammation, there is not as much data out there to support CBD oil for migraines yet. However, everyone responds differently to various drugs and supplements, so CBD oil may be an option to try out for those who have tried the traditional migraine treatments and failed. As with all drugs and supplements, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking CBD oil to ensure that it is safe to take with any other medications you might be taking. Overall, there definitely needs to be more research with CBD oil for migraines so we can begin to form more educated opinions on its use.