CBD For Migraines: What Should You Expect?

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There are many arguments in favor of and against the apparent medical potential of CBD. Those who believe CBD can help with various medical issues point to its effects on the cannabinoid receptors in our endocannabinoid system (ECS). They also suggest that it is safer than prescription medication with fewer side effects and hardly any chance of addiction.

Certainly, it is becoming popular amongst individuals with migraines. According to the National Institute of Health, an estimated 36 million Americans suffer from migraines. Let’s see if CBD oil can help those among this number.

Conventional Migraine Treatments and Their Side Effects

Before discussing CBD oil for migraines, let’s look at the most popular over-the-counter and prescription medication options and their potential side effects.

Many doctors admit their first recommendation for migraine sufferers is a simple over-the-counter combination analgesic like Excedrin. This drug is effectively a mixture of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine. This medication is relatively safe if taken sporadically. However, frequent use could lead to ulcers, kidney damage, and even stroke or heart attack.

In more severe or chronic cases of migraine, physicians usually prescribe a class of drugs called triptans like Imitrex or Treximet. These drugs work by increasing serotonin levels and constricting blood vessels in the brain. While they’re effective, they’re prone to causing dizziness, nausea, extreme drowsiness, and/or tightness in the chest.


Another class of migraine medications is called ergotamines, and mild opioids like morphine and Oxycontin are also common prescriptions for acute migraine sufferers. However, the side effects of these drugs are truly devastating. Opioid overdose deaths have quintupled since 1999.

Meanwhile, ergotamines like Migranal and Ergomar could promote various serious medical conditions. These include heart attack, stroke, congenital disabilities in pregnant women, and even toxicosis if taken along with antibiotics or antifungal medications.

Preventative (as opposed to acute onset) treatment options are also common. These include drugs like verapamil (a calcium channel blocker), amitriptyline (an antidepressant), and anticonvulsants, which act by “calming” overactive nerves in the brain.

These drugs are not as dangerous as ergotamines or opioids. Nonetheless, preventative treatments can produce a sweeping array of side effects. These include nausea, low blood pressure, weight gain, and decreased libido (low sex drive).

CBD for Migraines: What Is CBD?

For the uninitiated, CBD (cannabidiol) is the non-intoxicating component of cannabis. This means that, unlike THC, it doesn’t cause an intoxicating high. Rather, it works by interacting with an endogenous (naturally occurring inside the body) network of cannabinoid receptors, specifically, G-protein coupled CB-1 and CB-2 receptors in the central nervous system.

Under normal circumstances, these receptors interact with naturally occurring endocannabinoids. They influence such factors as – among other things – pain sensation, appetite, memory, and immune response.


If there is a deficiency or lack of naturally occurring endocannabinoids in the body, the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors will have nothing to bind to. Therefore, they can’t carry out the chemical reactions required for healthy, normative functioning.

This is where CBD comes in. It acts as a supplement or “replacement” in the instance of an endocannabinoid deficiency. Unlike THC, it can do its job perfectly well without having to entirely overwhelm the cannabinoid receptors (i.e., without causing intoxication).

Let’s say someone visits the doctor and discovers that their chronic muscle cramping is due to potassium deficiency. A simple enough fix, right? They eat some bananas, and the muscles can now function as they’re supposed to.

It is the same with CBD. Perhaps an individual’s migraines are due to an endocannabinoid deficiency in a particular brain area. Migraines are possibly related to endocannabinoid deficiencies. A simple CBD regimen could potentially help quell the pain.

Is CBD for Migraines Effective? What Does the Research Say?

The major underlying problem with considering CBD as a viable option for migraines is the lack of data and scientific research to quantify its effectiveness.

However, there are studies on CBD oil for migraines. Forbes published an article on a study presented by its authors at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) in 2017. It showed the active compounds in CBD were more effective at reducing acute migraine pain than prescription medications.

Moreover, it also had fewer side effects than both amitriptyline and verapamil, which were the prescription meds in question.

The active compounds in CBD were more effective at reducing acute migraine pain than prescription medications.

This only backs up a host of earlier publications that have showcased nearly identical results.

In a study published in Pharmacotherapy in 2016, which featured 121 adult participants, those who used CBD daily reported decreased overall migraines per month. Their rate of migraines decreased from 10.4 a month to 4.6.

There are a handful of publications we can reference from. However, CBD is still a far cry from receiving the clinical attention necessary to become classified as an effective treatment option in a general medical setting. We’ll have to continue relying on the minimal research available for the time being. We can also look at the results reported by millions of people who have already used it (and are still using it) to provide relief.

How to Use CBD Oil for Migraines

There are a host of CBD products and consumption methods available. CBD oil is the biggest seller. Using it involves placing a few drops beneath the tongue, holding the oil there for up to 90 seconds, and swallowing. The CBD is absorbed sublingually and travels to the bloodstream. The effects of sublingually consumed CBD are potentially noticeable within 30 minutes.

CBD edibles such as gummies offer an alternative for those who don’t like the taste or texture of oil. While CBD gummies are convenient, orally consumed cannabidiol has the longest onset time. It could take up to two hours to have an effect. This is far from ideal when someone experiences a sudden migraine.

CBD vape juice is a viable option because it can take effect within minutes. This liquid is designed for use with a vaporizer, and sellers of CBD vape juice generally offer a variety of flavors.

Using CBD Oil for Migraines: Risks & Adverse Effects

In a general sense, the cannabinoid is recognized as safe. However, there are a few potential side effects of CBD, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Changes in appetite
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea

There are also risks associated with vaping, including:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Wheezing
  • Chronic cough

CBD interacts with enzymes such as cytochrome P450 that are essential for drug metabolism. It is wise to avoid using CBD with any medication that carries a grapefruit warning. This is because such drugs are processed by cytochrome P450 and are likely to interact with cannabidiol.

CBD for Migraines: Is It Legal?

Technically speaking, CBD is not federally legal. The prescription drug, Epidiolex, which contains cannabidiol and is FDA-approved, is an exception when treating certain conditions.

However, CBD is broadly tolerated in almost every state. That is, as long as it comes from industrial hemp and has a THC content of no more than 0.3%. There are exceptions in some states, so please check local laws before buying any CBD products. Ultimately, most people can try cannabidiol as a potential treatment for migraine without being concerned about legal repercussions.

Those who want to use products with a higher THC count must ensure they live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal. Alternatively, they must have a valid MMJ card and live in a state with a medical marijuana program.

Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Migraine

Research is ongoing, but what we know to date reflects CBD’s potential efficacy for helping reduce the severity and frequency of migraines. Whether the cannabinoid will ever replace prescription and OTC drugs is another matter.

Before buying CBD oil, bear in mind that some tinctures are higher quality than others. Those looking for something to help with migraine should check out the following reputable CBD brands.

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