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Asger Hee Stjernholm, MSc

Is CBD Oil an Effective Migraine Treatment?

The search for effective migraine relief feels never-ending, doesn’t it?

Finding that one antidote that helps you cope can change your life. But with so many new remedies on the market, how do we know what’s simply a craze… and what’s actually worth investing in?

CBD oil in particular has been touted as a ‘cure-all’ for a multitude of ailments. And, as a result, it’s been popping up everywhere — in treats, drinks, beauty products and even pet food! But can we trust it? And how well does CBD oil work to treat migraines?

To better understand CBD oil and its uses, let’s start from the beginning…

What is CBD oil?

CBD (Cannabidiol) oil is a naturally occurring substance derived from the marijuana plant — or Cannabis Sativa, to use its official name.

Unlike the other substances marijuana is known for, CBD doesn’t result in a feeling of being ‘high’ (that comes from another one of the substances, THC). Instead, CBD has risen to fame thanks to its impressive pain relief and calming benefits. From anxiety to autoimmune diseases, epilepsy and general aches and pains, people have been using the oil to treat various physical and emotional issues.

The oil comes in two different strains: CBD-dominant (mostly CBD with little to no THC) and CBD-rich (equal parts of more CBD than THC). Both can be taken orally or applied topically, depending on the use case.

Currently, CBD is legal in the vast majority of countries, available both over the counter and online. That being said, there are restrictions in place concerning the potency (i.e. the ratio of THC to CBD) — where stronger mixes are outlawed, to keep users safe.

Does CBD oil help with treating migraines?

CBD oil has tested well as a means of treating chronic pain, and as a mild relaxant for anxiety sufferers. Yet, whilst research is ongoing in other areas, there’s little in the way of hard evidence confirming that CBD oil will work for migraine relief.

So does that mean CBD isn’t worth a try? Not necessarily.

After all, in a 2017 review of studies, it was shown that marijuana could be effective in treating headaches and migraine — but this study used the whole cannabis plant, and not just CBD. What’s more, the American Migraine Foundation has cited the potential benefits of CBD for neck pain or other migraine-induced muscular pain — just not migraine itself.

Essentially, how CBD oil works is still relatively unknown. This means that how effectively it alleviates migraine headaches, and other symptoms, will likely vary from person to person. It may work, it may not — that’s about as far as the research can take us today.

But are there any proven downsides to using CBD oil to treat migraines? In a word: yes.

Some of the potential drawback to consider are:

Legality and regulation

As mentioned before, CBD is a relatively new phenomenon meaning a lot of CBD usage is left to the users discretion. In 2018, a purified version of CBD with 0% THC was Federal Drug Agency (FDA) approved for the treatment of epilepsy with prescription. However, there is no approval as a migraine treatment.

As the FDA have stated on their website, “FDA is aware that some companies are marketing products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and that may put the health and safety of consumers at risk.”

This lack of regulation means that there is little control over potency, and some CBD oils can be mislabeled with regards to its levels of THC. This can also become an issue if high potency hemp-derived products are illegal where you live.

When in doubt, play it safe: only purchase CBD oil where it is legal and locally grown to ensure quality.

Cost and lack of information

While a lot of people love the natural elements of CBD oil, its rise in popularity has seen a surge in price too.

Shopping for CBD oil can be confusing, as various manufacturers sell oil at various strains, and to really get the benefit you’re after you have to know what you are buying. A lack of medical research and consumer knowledge on what to look out for means that — no matter what the cost — how much you gain from CBD often comes down to a little experimentation and personal opinion. If you’re ever confused by CBD oil packaging, ask a shop assistant to help you, or make sure you research the brand online, before buying.

Medication side effects

Although the majority of CBD users experience mild-to-no symptoms, CBD can still cause a few side effects including dry mouth, fatigue, diarrhea and reduced appetite.

With many migraine sufferers already dealing with severe symptoms, taking something that could potentially add to or elevate these issues is not ideal.

Also, there is sufficient evidence to show that CBD oils do not interact well with certain medications, specifically blood thinners and those with the grapefruit warning. This is because CBD works in a similar fashion to citrus juices, which can lead to a higher concentration of the medication in your body, causing side effects and potential overdose. Any usage of CBD with medications must be used under the supervision of your doctor.

Okay… so is it safe to use CBD oil for migraines?

To sum up, yes, it can be safe in most cases to use CBD oil for migraine treatment.

But is it effective? We simply can’t say.

The rules and responses surrounding CBD oil for migraines remains unclear, as there just aren’t enough studies to support it yet. Plus, with the potential legal ramifications — along with the effect CBD can have on other medication — treating migraine with CBD oil could do more harm than good.

Of course, when you’re searching for the best pain relief for you, it’s worth exploring all avenues (especially if other pharmaceuticals aren’t doing the trick). So, seek the right medical advice, do your homework, only buy from trustworthy and approved retailers, and introduce CBD into your treatment plan a little at a time and, who knows, this much-hyped natural product may be exactly what you need.

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