CBD Oil

Does it work? Maybe – there is no evidence currently linking CBD oil to migraine directly, but it’s known to help with anxiety and other types of chronic pain

How do I use it? Sublingual drops are best choice when purchasing a supplement, and a common starting dose is 250mg.

The Basics

CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, is one of the natural chemicals found in cannabis. Cannabis is a species of flowering plant that has been used medicinally for thousands of years.

Cannabidiol doesn’t contain any chemicals that give you a “high” – instead, CBD is known for its calming, relaxing properties. While cannabis still has limited legality throughout the world, CBD oil tends to be more widely accepted.  

CBD oil exploded in popularity during recent years, with many people turning to it as a potential migraine treatment. While the science is limited, some people find that its ability to relax muscle tension and calm anxiety makes it a perfect supplement for migraine.

The Science: CBD and Migraine

Cannabis has two varieties with which you are probably most familiar – marijuana, and hemp. Both contain CBD but have a few key differences that impact how they react in your body.

Marijuana is a plant with limited legality throughout the world due to its ability to alter your mental state (aka it gets you high). This is due to the THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, it contains. Hemp, on the other hand, is much more widely accepted and does not contain any compounds like THC that give you a high.

While CBD is found in both marijuana and hemp, CBD oil sold in supplements is most often extracted from the hemp plant.

Currently, there are no studies that look at how well CBD works for migraine. Existing research examines a combination of CBD and THC, the two main natural chemicals found in cannabis. These chemicals, when used together, have been shown to reduce the severity of migraine headaches by an average of 50%.

Cannabidiol works on your body’s cannabinoid receptors (including ones located in your brain), although we don’t fully understand what it does yet. So far it appears that CBD oil has the ability to increase the amount of a chemical called anandamide in your blood, which is linked to reduced pain. It also seems that CBD can reduce inflammation and have a positive impact on your immune system. 

Although there is no research currently on CBD used on its own for migraine, there are some ways we can evaluate how useful it may be by looking at the science available to us.

The main conditions cannabidiol has been shown to have a positive impact on are:

  • social anxiety
  • epilepsy
  • neuropathic pain (some consider migraine a type of neuropathic pain)
  • cancer-related pain
  • fibromyalgia
  • arthritis
  • nausea
  • poor sleep (animal studies)

Based on this, combined with a knowledge of how CBD appears to work in the body, cannabidiol shows promise as a potentially beneficial supplement for migraine – although more research is needed to confirm this.

CBD Forms: Full and Broad Spectrum

One thing to be aware of when choosing CBD supplements is whether they are full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate.

Full-Spectrum means that thesupplement contains all natural chemicals that are found within the plant. This includes CBD, terpenes, and other beneficial phyochemicals (plant chemicals) in addition to trace amounts of THC.These trace amounts will not get you high, but they can show up on drug tests.

Having all of the compounds naturally found in the plant in addition to CBD produces what is referred to as the entourage effect. This means that all of the plant compounds work together to produce a more beneficial effect. 

Broad-Spectrum very similar to full-spectrum, with the only difference being that the trace amount of THC has been removed. This form is best for people who have drug tests done regularly or live in an area where THC is illegal.

CBD Isolate is what the name implies – only CBD, plus whatever it is mixed with (like oil). These products contain a much higher concentration of CBD, and as such are usually much more expensive. Before the entourage effect was discovered, it was thought that CBD isolate worked better than spectrum products. 

Which form should you take? It’s up to you! I personally take broad-spectrum because I live in a state where THC is illegal, I have drug tests done for work, and it’s more affordable! 

CBD Supplement Forms

CBD supplements also come in many, many forms – but not all of them are likely to have a positive effect! Let’s look at the most popular forms available and evaluate how well they are likely to work for migraine. 

Sublingual Oil: great choice

Sublingual CBD oil is likely the best supplement choice when it comes to absorbability. CBD oil is absorbed by the tiny blood vessels under your tongue, which means it’s able to hit your bloodstream much more quickly and bypass digestion, where some of the supplement would be wasted. 

When using CBD oil, be sure to let is sit under your tongue for approximately one minute so it can be absorbed. Swallowing the oil straight away or mixing it into drinks is not the best way to use these products and will decrease the absorption greatly.

Topical: great choice

Topical CBD, found in lotions and creams, is a good choice if you’re using CBD for joint or muscle pain. This form is not ideal, however, for conditions like migraine, anxiety, and insomnia, as we don’t know how well it’s absorbed beyond the skin/muscles/joints.

Capsules: good choice

Capsules are most often used in research studies and seem to work well. While you don’t absorb as much CBD from capsules (meaning you may have to take more than you would from a sublingual oil), capsules are good for people who can’t stand the taste of CBD oil or want a quick option to take with them on the go.

Gummies: not the best choice

CBD gummies and other edibles are a popular choice because they’re fun and tasty! But when looking at the therapeutic effects of these products, they tend to come up short. Gummies usually come in 5-25mg doses per gummy, meaning you would have to take quite a few of them to reach the recommended doses. They also contain a slew of ingredients that some migraineurs may notice trigger a migraine episode.

Vape: not the best choice

Vaping has become increasingly popular, and CBD is one of the newest products available to people who are fans of this trend. Unfortunately the safety of vaping is still a point of controversy, with more and more studies pointing to its potential harmful effects.

Hemp Oil: not the same thing

In your search for CBD oil, you may come across products labeled as Hemp oil. These are not the same! Many of these products do not contain any CBD at all, so make sure to check the back of the label for how many milligrams, if any, the product contains before purchasing. 

Common Usage

Most studies evaluating CBD oil use a dose between 10mg and 1,000mg in either capsule or sublingual form. This is a wide range! In general, especially when using CBD for anxiety or pain, doses between 200mg and 600mg are used.

Most manufacturers recommend starting at a low dose (250mg is a common starting amount) and increasing your dose over time as needed. Some people do not notice any effect at a lower dose, while others who may have more sensitive receptors notice a significant difference even when using small amounts.

Side Effects and Warnings

Cannabidiol has been shown to be a relatively safe supplements in studies so far. Side effects are most commonly experienced when taking CBD long term, but in general cannabidiol is a well-tolerated supplement.

Common side effects of CBD oil include:

  • dry mouth
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • low appetite
  • sleepiness

There is a potential for developing a tolerance to CBD over time, meaning you may need more of it to produce the same effect. 

Be sure to check with your doctor or dietitian before starting CBD, as it has the potential to interact with many medications. Some of these medications include:

  • blood thinners
  • antibiotics
  • steroids
  • any medication that comes with a “grapefruit” warning

Bottom Line

While there is no evidence currently linking CBD oil to improved migraine symptoms, current science hints that it may be a beneficial supplement for migraineuers. Sublingual drops are best choice when purchasing a supplement, and a common starting dose is 250mg.

References

The Role of Cannabidiol (CBD) in Chronic Pain Management: An Assessment of Current Evidence

Short- and Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on Headache and Migraine

Cannabinoids and Pain: New Insights From Old Molecules

Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain

Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment

Dosage, Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol Administration in Adults: A Systematic Review of Human Trials

Atlanta, GA·Updated Thu, October 8, 2020

Kelli Yates, RDN, CLT

Host

Kelli Yates, RDN, CLT

Hey friends! I’m Kelli, your favorite dietitian and trusty migraine guide.

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