You probably know someone who suffers from migraines, in fact 1 in 7 people in the UK suffer from them. A migraine is a debilitating and complex neurological condition that is usually described as a ‘very bad headache’, but in reality it is a lot more complicated that a headache. Migraines are extremely complex, with some even being present without a headache. Other symptoms include vomiting, nausea, visual disturbances and pins and needles in the limbs. Migraine attacks can last between 4 and 72 hours, normally leaving the sufferer unable to go about their daily tasks, so the condition can really affect peoples quality of life. There is no cure for migraines, but there are treatments available with some more effective than others. Sadly, there are many individuals who don’t respond to any of the common drugs that are prescribed, and a lot of the time they come also with nasty side effects. This is one of the reasons why CBD oil is increasingly being used as an alternative to help manage the symptoms and as a form of migraine prevention. Today we’re exploring how can CBD help with migraines and what the research has shown so far.


What Can Cause A Migraine?

At the moment there is no known cause for migraines, but a number of triggers have been identified – including light, stress, eating certain foods, and a change in weather among the most common. Most of the medication prescribed aims to help the symptoms of a migraine, so a lot of doctors and sufferers will look to strong painkillers, anti-depressants or even in severe cases mild opioids like morphine. Although they may help, long term use can hinder their effectiveness, cause addiction and can be harmful to the stomach and liver. In contrast, CBD oil has been found to be safe to use, even in high doses, and early research has suggested it can be beneficial in even chronic cases of migraines.


How Could CBD Help With A Migraine?

One of the main ways CBD oil has the potential to help with a wide range of conditions, including migraines, is its interaction with the endocannabinoid system. This is a natural network of receptors in the body that controls some of our natural functions like the immune system, appetite, sleep and mood. The function of this system is to maintain our natural functions, and create a balance within the body – called homeostasis. We produce natural forms of cannabinoids already in our body, but sometimes these aren’t enabling the endocannabinoid system to function at its best. CBD, as a ‘phyto-cannabinoid’ can bind directly to the receptors around the body, but has quite a low affinity – meaning it’s not the body’s preferred cannabinoid. But, CBD can bind to the proteins that normally break down one of our main cannabinoids made within the body called anandamide – one which has a high affinity to the receptors – and effectively sacrifices itself to prevent anandamide from being broken down. As a result, this increases anandamide levels and can therefore boost the function of the endocannabinoid system.

It has been suggested that the endocannabinoid system is linked to migraines. One study mentioned that anandamide activates 5-HT1A receptors and inhibits 5-HT2A receptors, these are both serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with our mood and also pain perception, it’s also one that CBD can influence. Interacting with these receptors supports therapeutic efficacy in acute and preventative migraine treatment. The same study also said anandamide is also active in periaqueductal grey matter, which is known as a migraine ‘generator’. The periaqueductal grey matter is the primary control centre for descending pain modulation, in other words the pain pathway (how pain signals travel from the brain stem to the area of pain).


How Can CBD Help With Pain Relief?

Another study also concluded that endocannabinoids inhibit the release of neurotransmitters controlling nociceptive inputs. This all sounds very complex, but essentially the body’s ready made cannabinoids stop the release of neurotransmitters that are in charge of causing and controlling sensory (or nociceptive) pain. As a consequence, the pain signals are reduced, and the interactions with the serotonin receptors can help to increase mood and reduce pain. As CBD can interact with cannabinoid receptors and other receptors to help control the release of certain neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that transmit signals (including pain signals), this is the main reason why it has the potential to be effective in helping the symptoms of migraine. Many of the traditional treatments for migraines sometimes bring about short term relief, or do not work at all, and can have unwanted side effects. So using CBD as a supplement which is safe, even in high doses with minimal, if any, side effects could be an avenue for migraine prevention and management.