CBD and Migraines
Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about a product known as CBD. You may have seen it in health food stores, in supplements for pets, even in your local drug store. Proponents of CBD oil claim that it calms anxiety (for people and animals), relieves pain and inflammation and can help with insomnia. There are a lot of rumors around how CBD oil works, but what do we really know about it, and can CBD help patients who have migraine?
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is one of the extracts of the marijuana plant.1 Unlike delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, another common marijuana extract, CBD is not psychoactive, which means that does not have intoxicating or “high” effects that THC does. There are many combinations of THC and CBD, but none of them have been studied clinically in migraine patients. All of the studies that have been done are either retroactive case studies, surveys or unscientific and preliminary studies.1,2,3
How does CBD affect migraines?
While there is little scientific information about CBD and how it affects migraine, there is information that suggests that patients with migraine could potentially benefit from CBD.1 Historically, marijuana was used medicinally to treat headaches with success.2,3
Researchers do know that CBD and THC both affect a neurotransmitter known as serotonin, which can have a role in migraine. There have been case studies show that patients in California and Colorado who used medical marijuana (which has CBD and THC) to treat their chronic headaches and migraine had a 40-85% self-reported success rate in reduction of their headaches.1,2 However, there has also been one study that showed that CBD had no effect on headaches but did show that CBD could affect some of the causes of headaches, such as anxiety.2
Are there any guidelines around CBD and migraines?
There are no active guidelines around CBD and migraine, but this is simply because there aren’t enough studies studying the effects. While there are quite a few studies about the use of marijuana (both inhaled and consumed) and its effect on headaches, there are no rigorous clinical trials that show how effective marijuana is compared to current prescription therapies and no clinical trials on CBD.
Currently, there are no regulations around the manufacture of CBD oil.4 As such, there is no standardization of CBD products and dosing, and no testing to prove that there is even CBD oil in products that claim to contain CBD. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved one CBD product, and that is only approved for treating seizure disorders.
Is there any new research about CBD and migraines?
Currently, there are no clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov that are researching the effects of CBD on migraine. While there may be no active trials in the United States, there may be others happening in other parts of the world. Many researchers recognize that there is a need for quality clinical trials to determine the efficacy of both CBD and THC in the treatment of migraine.1,2 There also needs to be research around appropriate dosing of CBD and THC for migraine treatment.1 The FDA also recognizes that there is a need for research around CBD, and as of the writing of this article is holding a hearing with stakeholders to discuss the experiences and challenges of the use and study of cannabis-based products.4
If you are interested in the use of CBD oil, you should check your state laws about CBD and other marijuana-based products. As of the time this was written, 33 states have legalized medical marijuana.5 Currently, the legality CBD oil is a grey area.4 CBD has the potential to help treat migraine, but there is simply not enough science to prove that this compound actually helps with migraine symptoms. Talk to your health care team if you are interested in using CBD products and if it is a right fit for your treatment needs.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?