Migraine is the sixth most disabling illness in the world, with nearly one in four U.S. households including someone who suffers from them.
If you have migraines, you know they are much worse than normal headaches. Indeed, they can be extremely incapacitating. The main symptom is throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head, often accompanied by other symptoms like nausea and vomiting, dizziness, intense sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances.
More than four million adults experience chronic migraines, meaning they suffer from awful headaches at least 15 days out of the month. Unfortunately, there is no cure, and scientists still don’t truly understand what causes the condition or how to stop it.
There are some medications available that may help reduce the number of migraines that occur each month. But most of these come with unwanted side effects that make them difficult to stick with long-term.
Fortunately, recent research has suggested that CBD (cannabidiol) may help.
CBD May Help Treat Migraines
In a recent survey designed by Axon Relief, a company that creates migraine supplements, 86 percent of respondents reported a decrease in headache impact after using a CBD formulation for 30 days.
For the clinically validated survey, researchers selected about 100 participants who suffered from chronic migraine, episodic migraine, and non-migraine headaches. They found that respondents experienced an average of 3.8 fewer headache days (23 percent reduction) after using CBD oil. Chronic migraine sufferers saw a 33 percent reduction in headache days.
This is the most recent research to come out concerning CBD and migraines, but it is not the only study looking into the potentially beneficial effects of cannabis.
Does CBD Oil Work for Migraines?
CBD is known to be a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, which is one of the main reasons why scientists believe it may help ease the pain of migraine headaches. There is evidence that the pain is the result of intense stimulation to sensory nerves—a response to the inflammatory agents released when a migraine occurs.
Taming that inflammation, then, should help ease the pain. Of course, CBD has possible analgesic or pain-relieving effects too, so the two properties seem like the perfect combination to address difficult migraine headaches.
So far, however, we have few studies on CBD and migraines. There is more research on cannabis in general. In a 2019 study, researchers found that inhaled cannabis reduced self-reported headache and migraine severity by about 50 percent. The effectiveness, however, seemed to diminish across time, with patients having to use higher doses.
In another recent survey, scientists questioned nearly 600 adult cannabis users living in states with full legal access. A total of 161 of those reported that they experienced migraines, and over three-quarters of them (76.4 percent) endorsed using cannabis to treat their migraines. Those endorsing cannabis also reported significantly more severe migraines compared to those who didn’t use cannabis and said they experienced more relief with cannabis than with other migraine medications.
Cannabinoids Promising in Treating Migraine
In a review published in 2018, researchers examined the role of cannabinoids in controlling the nerve system underlying migraine pain. They concluded that because of their anticonvulsive, analgesic (pain-relieving), antiemetic (anti-vomiting), and anti-inflammatory effects, cannabinoids “present a promising class of compounds for both acute and prophylactic [preventative] treatment of migraine pain.”
In another 2017 study, scientists noted that there was not enough evidence from well-designed clinical trials to support the use of cannabis for headaches. They also said, however, that significant anecdotal evidence and preliminary study results suggested that more research was warranted.
Can CBD Cause Migraine Headaches?
There is some evidence that higher doses of cannabis may trigger headaches, while lower doses may alleviate them. In a 2021 study, for instance, researchers found that cannabis users were six times more likely to suffer rebound headaches.
This is why we need more research—to find out how much CBD works against migraines, and how much may make the headaches worse.
For now, you have to do your own experimentation. Typically, CBD manufacturers and sellers will advise consumers to start with a small dose—around two drops twice a day of the oil. If this causes a headache, try half the dose.
How Do You Use CBD for Migraines?
There is no clear answer to this question yet, as we don’t have the research showing which form is best, particularly when it comes to CBD. For now, try these tips:
- Start with one drop of CBD oil under the tongue once a day. If you experience a headache, try half a drop.
- Vape CBD for super-fast relief of a headache that’s already started. Do be sure that you have a pure product, as contaminated ones can cause lung injury.
- Apply CBD oil to the temples, forehead, and back of the neck, and rub it in.
Like most potential benefits of CBD, more research is needed to fully understand how CBD oil may help with migraines, although some studies have found promising potential benefits. You should always consult with your physician before trying CBD as a potential remedy for migraines or other health problems to ensure that it’s safe for you and won’t interfere with other medications or supplements you’re already taking.