Several days ago I was out to dinner for a buddy’s birthday, and ended up getting into a pretty vile argument with a good friend about the “medical potential” of CBD. It was all pretty cliche; I went on and on and on about CBD as the “miracle drug”, about how it manipulates receptors in our central nervous system, about how much safer it is than prescription meds, and yada yada yada – rattling off statistics like that bossman down in Miami who p’wned the Fox News reporter on Hurricane Irma.
When it comes to CBD, at least, I know my stuff.
But my friend wasn’t having it – he was like me whenever I get into an argument with my girlfriend and she ends up proving me embarrassingly wrong. It was like trying to have a conversation on climate change with Donald Trump.
Anyway, the interesting part of the whole deal was that there was a physician there at the same table who ended up offering his two cents on the debate. While he said he does not specifically recommend CBD to his patients (more on that later), he did offer some fascinating insight from the medical/professional side of things, and in fact had some specific things to say in particular about CBD oil for migraines. So for all of you migraine sufferers out there (and the National Institute of Health estimates there’s about 36 million of you), you might want to tune in to this one.
Conventional Migraine Treatments and Their Side Effects
Before we get straight into talking about CBD oil for migraines, though, let’s take a look at the most popular over the counter and prescription medication treatments, and the dizzying (no pun intended) array of side effects that potentially come with them.
The doctor I talked to said that generally his first recommendation for migraine sufferers is that they try a simple over the counter combination analgesic like Excedrin; a mixture of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine. Though these are relatively safe if taken sporadically, they do pose significant risk of ulcers, kidney damage, and even stroke and heart attack for people who rely on them day in, day out.
In more severe/chronic cases of migraine, triptans like Imitrex or Treximet are commonly prescribed. These drugs work by increasing serotonin levels and constricting blood vessels in the brain – while effective, they’re very prone to onset dizziness, nausea, extreme drowsiness, and/or tightness in the chest.
Ergotamines and mild opioids like morphine and Oxycontin are also common prescriptions for acute migraine sufferers, though the side effects of these drugs are truly devastating; opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999, and ergotamines like Migranal and Ergomar have been well-documented to promote heart attack, stroke, birth defects in pregnant women, and even toxicosis if taken along with antibiotics or antifungal medications.
And still, the FDA allows them to be dished out like halloween candy.
Preventative (as opposed to acute onset) treatment options are also common, and these include drugs like verapamil (a calcium channel blocker), amitriptyline (an antidepressant), and anticonvulsants, which act by “calming” overactive nerves in the brain. While not as dangerous as ergotamines or opioids, preventative treatments can produce a sweeping array of side effects that range from nausea and low blood pressure, to weight gain and decreased libido (low sex-drive).
Not exactly our idea of a quality remedy.
CBD for Migraines: What is CBD?
For the uninitiated, CBD (cannabidiol) is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis; unlike THC, it doesn’t get you 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 and 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, and therefore will not be able to carry out the chemical pathways 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. And the beauty of it is that, unlike THC, it can “do its job” and function perfectly well without having to entirely overwhelm the cannabinoid receptors (i.e. without having to get you stoned).
Think of it this way: you go to the doctor and discover that the chronic muscle cramping you’ve been suffering from is due to potassium deficiency. A simple enough fix, right? You eat some bananas and voila, the muscles can now function as they’re supposed to.
Same with CBD. Perhaps the migraines you’re suffering from are the result of an endocannabinoid deficiency in a particular area of the brain, and can be potentially remedied with a simple dosage of CBD supplement.
Current Research on CBD for Migraine Treatment
The major underlying problem with considering CBD as a ‘serious’ medical treatment option for migraines, though, (and this is what the doctor I was talking to the other day was saying), is that there’s simply a lack of data and scientific research available to ‘quantify’ its effectiveness.
And this, he said, comes directly down to the fact that there’s no financial incentive for drug manufacturers to do so.
Consider this: CBD exists 100% naturally in the form of the cannabis plant, so why in the hell would Big Pharma (which is the most lucrative financial sector in U.S. history) care to advocate for its effectiveness? Or much less, to dish out heaps of money on its research?
He said he has nothing at all against CBD as a potential option for migraine (or other health condition) treatments, but as an MD and a medical professional, he simply cannot recommend (much less prescribe) the drug without proper scientific and FDA backing.
However, that’s not to say that there hasn’t been any studies done on CBD oil for migraines, and this was the point that I was so desperately trying to get across in my argument.
Just this past summer, in fact, Forbes published an article on a recent study out of the European Academy of Neurology which showed the active compounds in CBD to be more effective at reducing acute migraine pain than prescription medications. And moreover, it also was shown to have fewer side effects than both amitriptyline and verapamil, which were the prescription meds in question.
And this is only the most recent scientific confirmation — it only backs up a host of earlier publications that have showcased nearly identical results.
Some of the key numbers, in case you’re wondering?
Out of 121 adult participants, a daily dosage of CBD proved to decrease the number of overall migraines per month from 10.4 to 4.6. Additionally, 85% of subjects claimed to experience fewer migraines overall during their time using cannabis, and 1 in 5 claimed that it (cannabis) was successful as a preventative treatment.
The bottom line is, while there are a handful of publications out there that we can reference from, CBD is still a far cry away from receiving the kind of clinical attention that would be necessary for it to become a first-choice treatment option in a general medical setting. For the time being, we’ll have to continue relying on the minimal research that is out there, or better yet, continue relying on the millions of people who have already used it (and are still using it) to provide relief.
Best CBD Oil for Migraine?
Before you jump right into buying the very first oil you come across, though, bear in mind that some tinctures definitely have proven to be more effective at treating migraines than others. We tend not to play favorites and therefore, here’s a quick look at some of the most well-known brands in terms of migraine treatment:
- Full-spectrum Hemp extract
- No pesticides, solvents or chemical fertilizers
- 3rd party laboratory tested
- Price Range ($48.00 – $139.00)
- Maximum potency and purity
- Compounded by a licensed pharmacist
- Highly concentrated extraction process
- Price Range ($26-$169)
- Over 5 Years Experience
- 3rd party laboratory tested
- Organic hemp CO2 extract tincture
- Price Range ($62.00 – $204.00)
- Organic hemp CO2 extract tincture
- Available in Cinnamint & Natural
- Full-spectrum extract
- Price Range ($39 - $249)