Can CBD Oil Treat a Migraine?

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With the laws governing the legal use of medical marijuana beginning to loosen up, there’s quite a bit of focus on the use of CBD oil—a component of the marijuana plant—for treating everything from arthritis to chronic pain, including migraines. But what is CBD oil, and does it really work to relieve migraine headaches?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is just one of over 100 different substances found in the the Cannabis sativa plant. The portion of the cannabis plant that produces a high (the psychotropic effect) is called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. CBD oil contains very little (or is completely void of) THC, depending on how it’s processed.

Properties of CBD Oil That Relieve Migraine

  • Potent analgesic (pain relieving) properties
  •  Antiemetic (preventing nausea and vomiting) properties
  •  Powerful anti-inflammatory effects

Due to the pervasiveness and debilitating effects of migraine headaches, there’s been a lot of clinical research studies aimed at trying to find an effective treatment to minimize the frequency of migraines and alleviate the pain.

Medical experts currently consider the pain from a migraine headache the result of intense stimulation to sensory nerves—a response to inflammatory agents which are released when a migraine occurs. This would explain why powerful analgesic and anti-inflammatory agents, such as CBD oil, may be effective in the treatment of migraines.

CBD oil has gotten a lot of attention recently for its powerful pain-relieving properties, particularly since it is getting legalized in many states: 30, to be exact. In addition, in June of 2018, the FDA approved CBD for the very first time for a new seizure medication called Epidiolex (cannabidiol) [CBD] oral solution.


According to a study published in Frontiers in Pharmacy, while there are many experts who advocate for the use of CBD oil for migraines, there is still not enough evidence to prove that treatment will CBD oil will be completely effective for alleviating migraine headaches. 

The researchers add that given time, as the legalities around medical marijuana and CBD oil change, there will be a lot more research that may be able to prove that CBD oil works well enough and consistently enough to treat migraines.

“Cannabinoids—due to their anticonvulsive, analgesic, antiemetic, and anti-inflammatory effects —present a promising class of compounds for both acute [short-term, severe] and prophylactic [preventative] treatment of migraine pain,” explained lead study author, Pinja Leimuranta, at A.I. Virtanen Institute for Molecular Sciences, University of Eastern Finland. Although the researchers in the study say that we are not completely there yet, they add that CBD oil can “absolutely help relieve some symptoms related to migraines.”

The Migraine Centers of America has shared several other studies about the promising use of CBD oil to treat migraines. A few examples include:

  1. A survey conducted in 2015 by Care by Design found that 100 percent of those who suffered from migraines got some relief from CBD oil, but 37 percent exhibited a decrease in energy levels.
  2. A 2016 study, published in Pharmacotherapy, revealed evidence that the frequency of migraines was reduced from nearly 10 per month to only approximately four per month in a group of marijuana users.
  3. In 2017, a review was published that exhibited a history of effective cannabinoid treatment for the reduction of frequency and treatment of pain caused by migraine headaches.

Uses and Safety

Previous research studies have shown that CBD oil, unlike THC, does not cause a euphoric high or psychotropic effects, and is typically less controversial and safer for medicinal use. CBD oil has been shown, in a limited number of studies, to be effective in the treatment of many disorders, including diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and migraines. 

A recent study discovered that the type of cannabis that CBD is composed of is very well tolerated and safe in humans. The researchers who conducted the study reported that when the type of cannabis with THC was given to study subjects, there was an increased heart rate, anxiety, and psychotic symptoms noted; but, when CBD oil—lacking THC—was given, there were no side effects (including psychotic symptoms).

Should You Use It?

Anyone considering the use of CBD oil for migraines should consult with their healthcare provider before taking it. It’s important to note that not all sources of the product are reputable, and because the FDA has not yet approved CBD to specifically treat migraines, safety and efficacy is considered controversial.

Prescription drugs with CBD do not have any THC at all. But if a person goes online to order CBD oil, most of the products offered contain trace amounts of THC.

Another important action step to take before deciding to use CBD oil is to check to ensure that it is legal in the state that a person resides. Many states still consider that even the prescribed use of CBD oil is illegal, due to its link to marijuana.

Those considering the use of CBD oil for migraines should be advised that one study, conducted in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, discovered that the effectiveness of CBD treatment for migraines varied. Those who took low doses of CBD were more likely to get relief from migraine pain than those who took higher doses. Higher doses reportedly triggered headaches in some study subjects. These results indicate that prescriptions for CBD oil should be highly individualized for safe and successful outcomes.

This certainly does not indicate that people with migraines should stop searching for an effective treatment to alleviate pain and discomfort, nor should they give up hope. There are many proven effective solutions available for those who suffer from migraine headaches.

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