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CBD for Migraines

Twelve percent of the US population suffers from an illness with symptoms that can include pulsing pain, blurred vision, and nausea. Migraines aren’t just debilitating, they’re surprisingly common, and most people who experience them never seek medical help. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some people successfully use CBD for migraines. But does it really work?

Read on to find out what the current research says.

About CBD for Migraines


CBD prevents and/or cures migraines.

Research Shows

While some researchers think that CBD holds promise for treating migraines, there haven’t been any clinical trials specifically looking at the efficacy of CBD for treating or preventing migraines.

Just the Facts

CBD may help some people with migraines, but the support for that claim is largely anecdotal.

About Migraines

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraines are the world’s sixth most disabling illness. One out of four American households includes at least one person who suffers from migraines.

These pulsing headaches usually occur on one side of the head. They can last for hours or even days, and are often accompanied by other symptoms, like:

  • Visual disturbances like flashing lights or zig zags
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to light and sounds
  • Lightheadedness

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Migraines aren’t well understood, and treatment options are either focused on preventing headaches, or on relieving the pain when headaches occur. They can range from lifestyle changes to botox injections—or even opioid medications.

How CBD Could Help with Migraines

Before it became prohibited in the United States, physicians frequently used cannabis to treat migraines. In fact, from 1842 to 1942, doctors preferred cannabis preparations over other types of treatments for these severe headaches.

But CBD is just one component of cannabis. How might it work to treat migraines?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of many cannabis-derived substances called cannabinoids. In the body, these substances interact with a network of chemicals and receptors known as the endocannabinoid system. They’re able to do this because they closely resemble chemicals that the body naturally produces.

The endocannabinoid system has receptors throughout the body, in locations as varied as the brain, organs, and immune system cells. It plays a role in regulating various processes, from mood to cellular life cycles.

There haven’t been clinical trials studying the efficacy of using CBD to prevent and treat migraines. Still, there are a few reasons to think that CBD might work for some people.

The research on using CBD for pain in general is much more robust, and has shown that CBD increases levels of the neurotransmitters glutamate and serotonin. These are both thought to play a role in pain regulation.

CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, and that may indirectly help with pain by dealing with its cause. In addition, some researchers have suggested that CBD could be used to counteract some of the vascular phenomena that are associated with migraines.

Finally, there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence from people who use CBD to treat their migraines. Some chronic migraine sufferers say they’ve seen a substantial reduction in their headaches.

Research Highlights

We’ve summarized a few of the studies that are relevant to using CBD for migraines. Read on to learn more.

2018: Medical Cannabis Usage Patterns for Migraine
The authors of a paper published in the Journal of Headache and Pain surveyed medical marijuana users who suffered from migraines.

Those who smoked or vaporized their cannabis prefered high-THC, low-CBD strains. On the other hand, patients who chose to ingest capsules or oils tended to select high-CBD products.

It’s important to note that this study did not evaluate the efficacy of different strains. Rather, it looked at patients’ preferences, which could be influenced by a number of other factors like cost or availability.

In general, patients reported reducing prescription medications like opioids when using medical cannabis.

2016: Endocannabinoid Deficiency and Migraine
This paper considered the possibility that an endocannabinoid deficiency could be implicated in a range of chronic illnesses, like migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and other hard-to-treat conditions.

The author specifically proposes CBD as a treatment for migraines and says that clinical trials using high-CBD strains of cannabis are “long overdue.”

1987: Cannabis for Migraine Prevention
This paper followed three cases in which long-term cannabis users began experiencing migraines after abruptly stopping cannabis use.

The paper’s author suggested that this phenomenon might indicate that cannabis has a preventative effect for migraines, and called for additional research investigating cannabinoid-based treatments.

Concerns About Using CBD for Migraines

Most experts agree that CBD is probably safe to use. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently reclassified CBD, saying that it has multiple potential medical applications with little potential for abuse.

Patients in clinical trials have experienced very few adverse side effects when using CBD. But the ones that have occurred have sometimes been the result of interactions with other drugs. That’s because a group of liver enzymes known as cytochrome P450 (CYP) metabolizes CBD. These enzymes also break down a lot of common medications. So if you take other medications for migraines, adding CBD to your regimen could make your medication’s effects feel more or less intense than usual.

Always talk to your doctor before you start using CBD, especially if you’re taking other medications. Your physician may want to adjust your dosage to compensate for CYP interactions.

You should also be aware that some people report that CBD either doesn’t help with their migraines, or that it actually triggers them. That could be because of the CBD itself, or because of another ingredient in the products that people use.

When you are considering a CBD product, read the ingredients closely. Avoid anything that contains ingredients that you know trigger your migraines.

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The Author

Meg Kramer

Meg Kramer

Meg Kramer is the Managing Editor of CBD Hacker. She's a writer and editor who has covered topics in science, health, and education.

When she's not writing about CBD, you can find her playing with her dogs or perfecting her bagel recipe.