CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of many molecules belonging to the cannabinoid class. Cannabinoids are mainly produced within the trichomes of cannabis plants and they are being investigated for their effects on a number of conditions. CBD has risen in popularity with studies suggesting anti-inflammatory[1], antioxidant[2], anticonvulsant[3], and neuroprotective[4] effects. CBD is particularly popular as a cannabinoid due to its non-psychoactive nature, allowing many people easy and legal access.

Ongoing research implies there is still much to learn about CBD's versatility, and one area of study is the effect on migraines. A study published[5] within the scientific journal Pharmacotherapy has already determined that inhaled and edible medical cannabis significantly decreases the frequency of migraine headaches.

However, this form of cannabis includes a variety of cannabinoids, including psychoactive THC, as well as different terpenes. Therefore, this example does not speak for what CBD oil could achieve for this condition in isolation. Regardless of the effects of whole cannabis on migraine headaches, many users prefer isolated CBD products due to the lack of psychoactivity. So, what exactly can CBD do for migraines?

WHAT ARE MIGRAINES?

Migraines are experienced as mild to severe headaches that are perceived as a throbbing sensation occurring usually on one side of the head. As well as causing irritating and sometimes unbearable pain, migraine headaches can also initiate other symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Migraines are a common phenomenon that affects more than 38 million people within the United States alone. 6% of men experience these headaches, alongside 18% of women, with a massive 5 million US citizens experiencing at least one migraine headache each month.

There are numerous forms of migraines, each with distinct characteristics. 70–90% of people experience migraine without aura, a type that lasts between 4–72 hours and features pulsating pain on one side of the head. Migraine with aura is another common form that stems from neurological symptoms caused by the headache. Symptoms include blind spots in the field of vision, coloured spots, tunnel vision, and flashing lights in the eyes. Another form of migraine is chronic migraine, a type that can persist for more than 15 days in a month.

The exact cause of migraine headaches is still unknown, however they are believed to be the result of alterations of chemicals, nerves, and blood vessels within the brain.

Reasons Migranie

MIGRAINES AND THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM

The research within this area is admittedly still very early and incomplete, partially due to the restrictions put on cannabidiol until fairly recently. Although there is no clear-cut answer within scientific literature as of yet, there are some indications from pre-clinical trials that CBD may impact migraine headaches.

Many of the effects of this molecule are thought to stem from its interaction with the endocannabinoid system. This system is comprised of receptor sites that occur on many different cell types within the body, and works to regulate many physiological systems. These receptor sites are known as the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Chemicals synthesised within the body, known as endocannabinoids, regulate this system. These chemicals are similar in structure to phytocannabinoids, cannabinoids form the cannabis plant, hence their similar effects within the body.

The endocannabinoid system has been proposed as a big player when it comes to migraines. A paper published within the journal Experimental Neurology states that this system may be centrally and peripherally involved in pain signal processing. This may in part be due to endocannabinoids inhibiting the release of neurotransmitters that control pain signalling via interaction the CB1 receptor. The authors of the paper state that the endocannabinoid system could serve as a "promising therapeutic tool for reducing the physiological and inflammatory components of pain that are involved in migraine attacks".

CBD, ANANDAMIDE, AND MIGRAINES

If this concept is indeed true, then Dr Ethan Russo[6] believes a lack of endocannabinoids within our body may well be a contributor towards migraine, and other conditions. He proposed that clinical endocannabinoid deficiency could be the cause of migraine headaches in some people.

Anandamide, or AEA, is one of several endocannabinoids synthesised within the human body. A paper published within the journal Neuroendocrinology Letters states that this molecule has the ability to both increase and decrease the activity of certain serotonin receptors, suggesting that it has therapeutic applications within the domain of migraine headaches. The authors of the paper also state that AEA is tonically active within the periaqueductal gray matter, a migraine generator.

Further research published within the Journal of Headache and Pain has explored the role of AEA administration with animal models. Such research confirms that a dysfunction within the endocannabinoid system may contribute to the development of migraine attacks. The authors of the paper also suggest that modulation of endocannabinoid system receptors, such as that which occurs with the administration of AEA, can be useful in the treatment of migraine pain.

A 2015 review of Cannabinoids and Epilepsy found that CBD "inhibits the uptake and enzymatic degradation of anandamide via FAAH". While it isn't CBD's potential impact on epilepsy we are interested in, CBD allows anandamide to remain outside of the cell for extended periods, where it may exercise the effects mentioned above.

Endocannabinoid System

USING CBD FOR MIGRAINES

CBD can be taken in many different forms. For those who enjoy inhaling cannabis, CBD flowers can be loaded into joints or vaporizers. As the popularity around CBD continues to rise, more and more seed banks are selectively breeding strains to have much higher CBD concentrations, with next to no THC.

Perhaps the easiest and most discreet way to dose CBD is by using CBD oil. This oil can be placed under the tongue where it is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream. CBD oil is also available in capsules, which can be taken alongside an existing daily supplementation regimen.

A review[8] by the WHO outlined CBD as having little to no known side effects. If you have never taken a CBD product before, start off with a small dose and gradually increase it over time as you assess how your body reacts.

External Resources:
  1. Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: A review of their effects on inflammation https://www.researchgate.net
  2. Cannabidiol and (−)Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants | PNAS https://www.pnas.org
  3. Cannabidiol--antiepileptic Drug Comparisons and Interactions in Experimentally Induced Seizures in Rats - PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  4. Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  5. Effects of Medical Marijuana on Migraine Headache Frequency in an Adult Population - PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  6. Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD) Revisited: Can This Concept Explain the Therapeutic Benefits of Cannabis in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Other Treatment-Resistant Conditions? - PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  7. Cannabinoids and Epilepsy https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  8. Critical Review Report https://www.who.int
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