How CBD Can Defeat Migraines
A Complete Guide
Hemp extract that is high in cannabidiol (CBD) is becoming a top migraine remedy. Migraine sufferers are using it for both migraine prevention and pain relief. Is it legal? Is it safe? Does it work? How do I use it? How much do I use? What’s the research say? What are migraine sufferers saying?
This complete guide gives you answers to all of these questions.
25 Things You Should Know About Hemp Extract for Migraine
1. What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid found in cannabis and is widely studied for its medicinal value. CBD is also found in legal hemp.
2. Does it get you high?
No. Unlike the THC found in cannabis, CBD is not psychoactive. CBD may provide the same medical benefit as cannabis, but does not get you high.
3. Is CBD legal?
Yes. However, CBD is only legal when derived from hemp. Hemp has been classified by the 2014 Federal Farm Bill as containing less than 0.3 percent THC. CBD derived from medical marijuana (with high THC levels) is not federally legal.
CBD is still a bit of a grey area. The DEA lists CBD as a narcotic, but according to a hemp industry ruling in 2014, it would take an act of congress to classify CBD as a drug (source). Moreover, hemp is legal and according to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, the government cannot prohibit the sale of hemp products (source). CBD is found in phytonutrient-rich hemp.
Congress will need to clarify the confusion by passing a new bill to classify CBD and its relation to legal hemp extract. For now, hemp extract is federally legal.
4. How do I take CBD?
There are several ways to take CBD: inhalation, oral, sublingual, or topical cream.
Inhalation of CBD is the fastest method and can increase CBD in the blood in just a couple of minutes.
CBD inhalation provides the shortest amount of relief time (approximately 1-3 hours). CBD in the blood is immediately raised to high levels and gradually leaves the body over a four-hour period (study). Most CBD vape juice is missing other cannabinoids, terpenes, vitamins, and nutrients that may increase the medicinal value of CBD.
Inhaling CBD is often used at the first sign of a migraine because acute migraine medications work best when absorbed in the fastest possible method. Vaping CBD can prevent the migraine trigger of stress and anxiety during stressful situations. “OMG you did what? Hold on, let me get by CBD vape,” said the migraine suffer.
The pill form of cannabinoids lasts the longest (approximately 7 hours) (study). A full-spectrum hemp extract can provide all of the cannabinoids, terpenes, vitamins and nutrients that improve the effectiveness of CBD. Healthy fats found in hemp extract and added hemp oil may increase the absorption of CBD by three times (study). The pills also have no taste.
The pills last the longest, but take the longest to absorb. Pills can take 30-90 minutes to absorb. The pill dosage is not adjustable and, therefore, it’s difficult to experiment with a lower dose. Inflammation in the gut is very common for migraine sufferers and absorption may be a problem for some migraineurs.
Daily doses of the soft gel caps avoid the taste of hemp and can be successful if you find a dosage that works. It’s the easiest and most socially acceptable way to discreetly take CBD.
Hemp extract can be taken sublingually by placing it under the tongue for 30-90 seconds before swallowing.
Sublingual absorption begins in a minute or two. High levels of CBD are found in the blood within 15 minutes. Peak levels of CBD can be found in the blood in about one hour (study). Sublingual administration bypasses the gut and quickly absorbs CBD through the capillaries in the cheek and under the tongue. Swallowing the remainder of the extract will allow the body to slowly absorb other cannabinoids and nutrients that improve the medicinal value of CBD. As with the pills, an extract with healthy fats may increase absorption by three times.
Cannabinoids and terpenes taste “earthy.” It’s not a good taste. Hemp extracts with artificial and “natural” flavors are potential migraine triggers and should be avoided. If it tastes too good to be true, it might be a fake product.
Sublingual administration is the most popular method because it absorbs fast, provides a full spectrum of nutrients, lasts almost as long as the pill form, and it is easy to adjust the dosage. Sublingual hemp extract can be combined with the inhalation, oral, or topical method.
Muscle tension can inflame the trigeminal nerve in the face and occipital nerve in the neck. These nerves are associated with triggering migraines (study 1, 2). Botox, nerve blocks, and massages help prevent migraines by reducing inflammation to these nerves.
Try using a CBD topical cream or mixing CBD extract with a topical cream and apply it to the face, neck, and shoulders. Applying CBD directly to the muscles bypasses the stomach and quickly calms the nerves associated with trigger migraines.
5. What dose of hemp extract do I take?
There is no definitive answer to this question. I recommend working with a doctor to experiment and find the right dose. This is the same approach as most prescription medications.
Everyone has a different endocannabinoid system that uses different amounts of natural cannabinoids. Research has not defined recommended CBD doses for any conditions. Furthermore, dosages from pure CBD studies may not be as effective as full-spectrum hemp.
Average doses of products:
A low dose is about 5 mg of CBD per day. Higher doses commonly used for chronic pain are 15 mg or 25 mg of CBD per day or multiple times per day.
Ultra-high doses of isolated CBD have been used in research for epilepsy and anxiety. However, this ranges from 100 mg to 600 mg per day (study). Some studies go as high as 1500 mg per day! This inconsistency and lack of research leaves the possibility that 5 mg per day or 200 mg per could be beneficial. However, many people can’t afford the cost of 200 mg per day. A dose this high may also be unnecessary.
Less is more:
We know that too much or too little CBD may be ineffective. Most hemp extract manufacturers recommend starting off with low doses and working up to higher doses to find the sweet spot.
For example, you could start off at 5 mg per day and increase this dose by 5 mg every week until you find your desired dose. You may feel best with 5 mg per day, 15 mg per day, 25 mg per day, or 100 mg per day. We need more surveys and more research to give a recommended dose.
6. Is CBD used to prevent or treat migraines?
Both. Many people use CBD to treat migraine pain. It may also work to abort migraines when taken at the first sign of an approaching migraine. Like most prevention therapies, hemp extract may start working immediately or take over a month for you to notice the benefits.
7. Endocannabinoid Deficiency in Migraine
Chronic migraine sufferers have an endocannabinoid deficiency.
The endocannabinoid system is a natural system in the body that plays a role in mood, energy, and the immune system. According to Medscape, “modulation of the endocannabinoid system may be a cure for more chronic neurologic and immune conditions.”
CBD improves the endocannabinoid system (study).
A study just published in Nature suggested that the neurological disorder which causes migraines may be an immune system disease. This may open up the possibility of using immune system treatments like CBD for migraine (study).
An Italian study published in 2008 found that chronic migraineurs had an endocannabinoid system that only functioned at 50 percent compared to that of healthy people (study).
An endocannabinoid deficiency may also explain why migraine is linked to fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome, which all share the endocannabinoid deficiency (study).
The chart above shows that most medications do not help fibromyalgia sufferers, while 62 percent say that cannabis is a very effective treatment (study).
Fun fact: William Gowers, “the father of modern neurology”, was the first person to identify fibromyalgia. He was the first to suggest that migraine be treated by healing the gut, and he was the first to link migraine and epilepsy. Gowers was also among the first Western doctors to advocate the use of cannabis for migraine relief.
To learn more about how cannabinoids can improve migraines, read this study published in 2016.
8. Cannabis Success in Migraine Treatment
The first migraine clinical trial for cannabis was published in May of 2016 (study). In the study, 103 of 121 migraineurs reported a decrease in migraines.
Average migraine days per month dropped from 10.4 to just 4.6 days per month.
A new study presented at the Congress of the European Academy of Neurology found that cannabinoids were just as effective as the leading migraine prescription drugs. Not only did cannabinoids slightly outperform amitriptyline, they also reduced pain intensity during attacks by 43.5 percent (news).
The cannabinoids used in the study were a combination of 18 mg of CBD and 38 mg of THC per day. It’s possible that just CBD would have a similar effect.
Amounts under 9 mg of CBD had no effect, suggesting that users need to adjust their dosage until they find an amount that works.
There are many studies that suggests cannabis is a powerful migraine treatment. But, it’s possible that you can get all the benefits from just CBD with none of the side effects.
What does the research say?
9. Antioxidants, Neuroprotectants, and Migraine Protection
Inflammation is a migraine trigger and anti-inflammatories are commonly used to abort migraines (full article).
Stress is the most powerful migraine trigger (full article).
CBD is also being studied as an anti-depressant for raising serotonin levels and may treat migraines in the same way as prescription anti-depressants (study). You can find many anecdotal testimonials online from people using CBD for depression and anxiety.
“CBD suppresses nausea and vomiting,” according to a 2011 study published in Canada (study).
Nausea is one of the most common side effects of a migraine.
13. Prevents Excitotoxicity
14. Improved Gut Health
Controlling gut inflammation may be the most important factor in eliminating migraines (full article). There is a huge link between inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS/IBD) and migraine.
Gut inflammation may come from an endocannabinoid deficiency (study).
A new CBD chewing gum produced by AXIM Biotech was successful in its first trial for treating IBS. The second trial is currently underway. Patients are using CBD gum sticks (50 mg up to six times per day) to control their symptoms (news).
The most profound use of CBD is documented in epilepsy sufferers. A study published in 2014 found that a little girl named Charlotte went from 50 seizures per day to just 2–3 night-time seizures per month after the use of CBD (study). Since then, there have been numerous reports of CBD stopping violent seizures.
It’s also popular for dog epilepsy.
Epilepsy medications are used to treat migraines. They work by slowing down glutamate. CBD may have the same effect (study).
Epilepsy and migraine also share many similarities (source).
16. Traditional Medicine or CBD?
“Nearly half of people who use CBD products stop taking traditional medicines,” according to a survey report in Forbes. Insomnia, depression, anxiety and joint pain were the most common uses. All of these conditions will increase the probability of migraine attacks if not treated.
A fellow firefighter I worked with in the past was recently injured on the job and told me that he managed pain from surgery with hemp extract. He said it was more effective than his opioid prescription, which he ended up throwing away. That’s impressive pain relief!
While CBD has not caused any serious side effects in research, you should speak with your doctor first before using CBD for any condition or with any other supplements or medications.
17. Opioid Strength
A recent study found that 93 percent of patients preferred cannabinoids over opioids for pain management (study).
Opioids are not recommended for migraine, but are often prescribed for migraine pain relief (full article, #6).
18. What are migraine sufferers saying?
I’ve interviewed several migraine sufferers who say CBD has helped them prevent migraines. One migraineur told me that low doses (4mg) were not effective, but over 16 mg per day resulted in a migraine-free month. A chronic migraineur wrote me that CBD cream is one of the only things that are helpful during attacks.
Testimonials in online migraine support groups have a lot of people saying that CBD does help with migraine prevention, sleep, and anxiety.
Kelsey wrote: “This morning I woke up with a 9/10 migraine. I took CBD (and no Maxalt – I wanted to test the oil) and within 1 hour the pain had subsided marginally. Then at the 2-hour mark, my migraine was gone. I still had the migraine hangover… But was relatively pain-free.”
Lucy writes: “CBD oil really works for migraine!!! I tried it today and my migraines are gone!”
A chronic migraine sufferer shared her migraine diary before and after using CBD. The results are incredible. She started off with low doses of CBD and slowly increased to 50 mg per day. She occasionally skipped days and was in the process of reducing her dose.
She started off with chronic daily migraines. The image below shows her headache hours (in red) for the first week of using CBD, which was typical of weeks prior.
After using CBD for about four months, her headache hours in a typical week were just a fraction of what they were before. From about 87 hours to just six hours per week.
These are just anecdotal online testimonials and some migraine sufferers are writing that CBD didn’t help them personally-with most unsuccessful migraineurs questioning if they used the right brand, method, and dosage. However, the research and online feedback make it likely that we are going to see a lot of migraine sufferers helped by CBD.
Please email me at Jeremy@migrainekey.com to share your experience with CBD. Your feedback is part of the first step that pushes for clinical trials.
What You Should Know About Hemp Extract
19. Are the small amounts of THC in hemp extract effective?
It is possible that the small amounts offer some benefit even though they don’t elicit psychoactive effects. A little THC goes a long way. “THC has twenty times the anti-inflammatory potency of aspirin and twice that of hydrocortisone,” according to a study published in 2008 (study).
You may even want to try a high THC/CBD extract in a state where it is legal. However, many people do not want to feel the side effects of high doses of THC (brain fog, “high,” sleepy, etc.) on a daily basis. The absence of serious side effects makes legal hemp extract a good option for daily migraine prevention.
20. Will hemp work if marijuana didn’t?
Some marijuana strains have high THC and are “virtually lacking CBD or other phytocannabinoids,” according to research published in 2008 (study). If marijuana didn’t work for your migraines, hemp extract still might. Finding the correct dosage is also important.
21. CBD vs. Full Spectrum Hemp Extract
CBD is the most abundant cannabinoid found in full-spectrum hemp extracts. However, there are over 80 different cannabinoids, vitamins, minerals, and terpenes (used in aromatherapy) found in hemp that may increase the medicinal value of CBD.
Researchers refer to this synergy as the “entourage effect” (study).
Some research suggests that full-spectrum hemp extract prevents the bell-shaped effect that pure CBD oil has (study). The bell-shaped effect shows that pure CBD becomes effective in moderate doses, but may lose all benefits as the dose increases to an ultra-high dose. Full-spectrum hemp extract continues to show anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties in higher doses. It’s still important to find that “sweet spot” for medical benefits, but the risk of taking too much is lower with full-spectrum hemp extract.
22. Is hemp seed oil the same as hemp extract?
No. Hemp seed oil and many hemp products do not contain CBD. However, hemp seed oil does have vitamins and nutrients that may improve the effects of full-spectrum hemp extract.
23. What kind of hemp extract do I look for?
You want hemp extract that is from the whole plant (including aerial parts) of a CBD-rich hemp. However, the term “CBD” is taboo. “Phytochemicals”, “phytonutrients”, or “full spectrum” are often mentioned instead of CBD. Many products will only list the milligrams (mg) on the front of the bottle, which is typically the amount of CBD or cannabinoids in the product. Purchase from a reputable manufacturer and ask for the cannabinoid profile and purity analysis.
24. Are some CBD oils and hemp extracts fake?
Yes. According to a study published in 2017, most CBD products tested by the FDA contained little-to-no CBD (study). Others contained excessive amounts of THC. Only purchase from a reputable brand that does third-party testing.
25. Is there sufficient CBD research for migraine?
No. We need multiple studies with varying doses for CBD to be recommended as a treatment for any condition. Despite a U.S. government patent which states that cannabinoids are antioxidants and neuroprotectants, strict federal guidelines do not allow companies to promote CBD for any condition.
Hemp extract has the potential to stop migraines. The research suggests it can do this with the power of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, stress relief, improved sleep, and more. This is only the start of your quest for using hemp. You should do your own research and speak with a medical professional to guide your migraine journey. Most importantly, join the migraine conversation and let other migraine sufferers know about your experience. Conclusive research often starts with what people like you are saying. Let’s start a movement.