Living with migraines can be painful and exhausting. Migraines are more than ordinary headaches. A migraine attack can last between 4 and 48 hours. During an attack, it may feel like you can’t escape the pain. Even the simplest movements or sounds can make your symptoms worse.
And if that sounds a bit dramatic to you, you have never experienced a migraine. And trust me, when you have experienced a migraine once- you can always identify the warning signs.
For me, it starts in my eyes and my neck and shoulder area. My eyes get incredibly sensitive, they start to feel pressure from the back, and my neck feels so tense. What works best for me is to catch a migraine when I feel those warning signs. I rub some herbal muscle cream on my neck and shoulder (or ask someone to help do it for me), and I get comfortable. Even tight clothing seems to egg it on when I feel the migraine knocking at the door.
But sometimes, you need an extra helping hand. And that is where pharmaceuticals, anti-inflammatories, and pain relievers come in. But if you’re anything like me, you want to find an alternative, hopefully, more natural and accepted by the body.
Quick Look: My Top CBD Strain Choice for Migraines
f you’re a fan of CBD flower, you’ve probably heard of Haze. But here’s something you might not know: Legend has it the Haze didn’t start in Hawaii. It actually started in California. It’s a tried-and-true crowd favourite that originated in 1960s California. The Haze we know and love was created by crossbreeding Haze with strains found in Southeast Asia and South America before spreading to other parts of the world. There’s been a lot of debate in the cannabis community about whether the Haze strain originated from California or South America. But like many great ideas, it didn’t just spring forth into being—it was actually bred and cultivated over time, with a lot of hard work (and likely some good music). Hawaiian Haze is an ideal choice for people who want to make the most out of their day without feeling too heavy or sluggish. This balanced cannabinoid and terpene profile is perfect for daytime use. And its unique fruity flavour makes it a top choice among consumers around the world- including me!
the thing about the Hawaiin Haze is that even if it wasn’t actually grown in Hawaii until the 21st century, I’m happy to carry on its legacy—because Hawaiian Haze is pretty much the perfect strain. It’s sweet and fruity, with an earthy, almost piney flavour on the exhale. And while you’ll love it in the morning when you wake up, it leaves you with a peaceful mellow feeling rather than an anxious or speedy buzz—so you can use it any time of day, which is perfect because a migraine won’t stick to a schedule that is convenient for you, or me.
Are All Migraines the Same?
For some people, a migraine is an agonising, excruciating experience. Migraines can include sensory warning signs (intense sensitivity to lights and sounds, flashes of light, blind spots, etc.), nausea, and vomiting.
Migraines strike more than 37 million people in the U.S., or about 13 percent of the adult population. More women suffer from migraines than men do, and the debilitating symptoms can last anywhere from four to 72 hours. Unfortunately, the condition can cause debilitating pain and often lasts for several days. The frequency with which people experience migraines can vary widely—from once per month to once per week—but the frequency of chronic migraines is much rarer, affecting less than 5% of all migraine patients.
Migraines are as varied as their sufferers. You may have a migraine triggered by specific events or situations, while others have attacks set off by varying stimuli.
What are the Different Migraine Triggers?
Some triggers, such as allergies, are seasonal or allergic. Triggers depend on the person. For example, certain foods and even some red wines can trigger me (with some red wines, just a sniff is enough to tell me it will be a trigger).
Here are Some Other Common Triggers
- Sensory. These are also called environmental triggers and include bright lights, flashing lights, loud bass music, or even potent smells.
- Stress. This is probably one of the most common triggers. And the worst part is that there are many different types of stress, such as work-related stress, muscular tension, and even depressive episodes.
- Lack of sleep. While this is a common problem for most adults, it can also be a common migraine trigger for those of us unfortunate enough to suffer at the hand of a migraine. As I write this, the lack of sleep (child-related, not work-related) is causing stiff tension to grip the back of my neck slowly. And while a tense neck is also familiar to most people and parents, it is one of my warning signs that a migraine is lurking around the corner. This is just one example to illustrate how the triggers are not mutually exclusive but are usually overlapping- in a devastating domino kind of way.
- Dietary changes. Some people are triggered when they skip meals, eat specific foods, eat too little of a specific food group, or too much. Some foods are more common triggers than others, such as chocolate and nuts. The worst part? The food triggers can change! Sometimes a piece of dark (dairy-free) chocolate is my knight in shining armour, riding in to release me from the vice grip of developing migraine. Other times, just the nibble of something sweet can cause the gremlins in my nervous system to cause a sugar rush that rapidly escalates into a full-blown military-style migraine attack.
As you can see, various triggers can look unique to each person. The trick is to get in touch with your particular triggers and monitor them. This will help you understand how your body responds to different triggers and lead to more power and control over how migraines take over your days.
But it’s not all doom and gloom! There are solutions to ease the pain and discomfort of a crippling migraine. While there are several over-the-counter medications to treat the symptoms of a migraine, there are also several natural remedies, including cannabis.
Let’s look at both the conventional and cannabis-related treatment options available.
Migraine Treatments: Cannabis and Conventional
When a migraine hits, it’s hard to imagine relief from the pain. Medicines can help dull the throbbing pain temporarily, but they may have side effects that you want to avoid. CBD (cannabidiol) might offer an alternative.
CBD is a non-intoxicating, non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis. Still, it’s become popular as a way to treat specific medical issues.
What Does the Research Say About CBD?
Due to federal legislation, there has been a negligible amount of CBD oil research. Because of this, much remains unknown about its effects. It is difficult to conclude whether CBD oil can effectively treat illnesses like migraines. However, some scientific evidence suggests that CBD may be effective at helping reduce migraine symptoms.
CBD oil is partially responsible for many of the reported health benefits of cannabis, including the alleviation of pain and inflammation. The U.S. government has an exclusive patent on cannabis plants and their extracts. In other countries, such as Canada, CBD oil is available without a prescription, but only at selected pharmacies.
People have been using marijuana to treat migraines for decades now, but it has only recently become public knowledge. A study published by the University of Colorado’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences found:
- 40% of 121 participants (all adults) had positive results.
- On average, migraine headaches decreased to 4.6 from 10.4 per month.
What are some more studies to peruse? If you are not interested in the studies, you can skip this section and move on to the next.
THC & CBD: Some Extra Studies
In 2017, researchers presented the results of a study on the effects of cannabinoids for migraine prevention. These results were presented at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology (EAN). In phase I of their study, 48 participants with chronic migraine received (via oral administration) a combination of two compounds: one compound contained 19% THC and another 9% CBD and virtually no THC. The compounds were administered orally.
Doses of less than 100 mg did not seem to help reduce pain. However, when the administers increased the dose to 200 mg, there was a 55 percent reduction in acute pain.
Researchers looked at 79 people with either cluster headaches or chronic migraines for the study’s second phase. The researchers gave a daily 200mg THC-CBD combination or a tricyclic antidepressant (25mg of amitriptyline).
People with cluster headaches (48 in total) received. The daily dose of THC-CBD or a calcium channel blocker called verapamil.
So, What Were the Results?
The results showed that the cannabinoid treatment (THC-CBD) reduced migraine occurrences rather dramatically, 40.4 % to be exact! Even a 10% reduction would be welcomed with open arms for people who suffer from frequent migraines. But the cannabinoid treatment also reduced the severity of the pain, and results show the cannabinoid treatment reduced pain intensity by 43.5%. The amitriptyline also yielded similar results, a 40.1 % reduction in the frequency of migraine attacks.
In stark contrast, those that suffered from cluster headaches did not report any significant changes (only a slight decrease in both pain and frequency) after the treatment.
What was the conclusion?
In the end, the researchers found that migraine sufferers could benefit from cannabinoid therapies (such as CBD oil).
While studies are great to showboat when you’re in a conversation, they don’t do much to demystify things. But don’t worry, I’ve got your back- let’s take a look at how CBD works and how it can be helpful to those of us with crippling migraines.
How Does CBD Work?
Have you heard of the body’s endocannabinoid system? If you haven’t, don’t worry- it is relatively simple to grasp. The body has internal cannabinoid receptors (the most commonly known are the CB1 and the CB2 receptors). These receptors work with the body’s immune system and have effects that we are still trying to decipher.
One way it works is this: through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system and the body’s immune system, CBD can block anandamide metabolization.
What is the Big Deal About Anandamide?
Anandamide and pain regulation go hand in hand. People with high levels of the anandamide compound may have higher pain tolerance, as the compound is directly related to how you feel pain.
Another critical component of how CBD interacts with the body is its ability to manage inflammation. And because inflammation is so often linked to pain and immune responses, this is excellent news for those with chronic pain related to auto-immune conditions.
Do we need more research on how CBD interacts and helps the body? Yes, we sure do. But just because we need more information doesn’t mean we need to disregard the studies we have seen and the positive results they have thus far yielded.
How to Use CBD
So, now you probably want to know the most asked question: how on earth do I use CBD?
It’s more straightforward than it seems, promise. Let’s take a look.
While the CBD trends that we see in almost every corner store and internet site lead us to believe that it is a relatively new discovery, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
For more than 3 000 years, cannabis has been a part of alternative medicine throughout several ancient cultures.
Although it is difficult to ask the mummies that were found buried with cannabis what exactly they used the substance for, here are some of the suspicions:
- Pain management
- Inflammation management
- Treatment of neurological symptoms
But we are not here to live in the past, are we? There are many suspected uses for CBD today, and there are equally as many ways to use CBD oil:
- You can vape CBD oil
- You can also ingest CBD oil (whether in foods, drinks, or ingested sublingually beneath the tongue)
- CBD oil can be applied to the skin (topical application), a common ingredient in massage or sports creams.
Are you a beginner? There’s no shame in it! I was a beginner, too, at one point. We all will be. It’s essential to know your level, especially if you want to have a good experience with CBD. If you don’t believe me, here’s a little story for you about a friend’s first experience with CBD oil. After being given her first CBD-infused edible (the first mistake was to accept it from someone who did not tell her much about how to take it and what to expect- I doubt he even knew it was her first time), she glugged it down without a second thought.
What followed was not a pleasant experience, and let’s just say she will not be retaking CBD soon. My friend got so afraid that she ended up begging her fiance to call the paramedics. Why am I telling you this story? To scare you off? No! But I want to illustrate how important it is to acknowledge when you are a beginner so that you do not end up with a CBD product that is way too strong for you. If she had just said, “Hey, I have never had this before, can you suggest something mild for me?” she would have had a much more pleasurable experience.
Here are Some Golden Guidelines for Beginners
- Oral CBD (such as vaping or sublingual) can be a milder way to reap the benefits of CBD.
- For sublingual, simply place a few drops underneath your tongue.
- CBD capsules are also a super gentle way to enjoy CBD. Its slower, steadier onset can be better for those new to the substance.
- If you want a CBD- infused edible, please make sure it is not too strong!
If you have a migraine, then vaping your CBD can be one of the best ways to relieve the pressure and pain. Is this a studied statement? It most certainly is not. But as a fellow migraine sufferer, it is one of my go-to responses when the migraine monster is knocking with enthusiasm on my cerebral door. If I feel a migraine creeping in, i.e., before a full-blown migraine attack, I usually take a capsule. But if I need immediate help, then a few drops of CBD oil underneath my tongue or vaping CBD is the best (and fastest) method for me.
What About the Correct Dose for Migraines?
There is no one correct dose. This makes it rather complicated for people just starting with CBD. The best advice I can give you (and remember, these are not medical recommendations or guidelines) is that it is wise to consult a doctor before starting with CBD for migraines.
It goes without saying, but if you are new to CBD, you should start with the lowest dose and then slowly and steadily work your way up in increments until you reach the recommended dose. By increasing your dose in increments, you allow your body to get used to the CBD oil gradually, and you end up getting the best out of it while minimizing the chances for side effects.
Do All Cannabis Strains Work Well For Migraines?
Not all cannabis strains have identical chemical make-up. Some do not even contain CBD! Cannabis cultivators specifically breed strains containing zero THC and high CBD levels and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids.
If you are one of the unfortunate few that has to suffer through periodic migraines, it might be helpful for you to check out the following strains:
These are the strains I find most beneficial- but remember that everyone is different! With that in mind, here are my favourite five strains to help relieve the migraine monster:
The Best CBD Strains for Relief from Migraines
The Canna-Tsu CBD strain takes the best of two prevalent strains, Sour Tsunami and Cannatonic, and brings us one of the most well-known strains for migraine relief. Carrying a high concentration of CBD, the Canna-Tsu could be one of the most helpful strains to relieve pain and help reduce inflammation. In my experience, this strain has the perfect balance of bringing mental focus and relaxing. This strain is my go-to when my migraines come from tension and inflammation.
Harlequin has high THC levels and is well-known for its ability to trigger a clear-headed response with a soft focus that permeates throughout the day. While the original HArlequin will contain some THC (typically a ratio of 5:2 CBD: THC), the Harlequin has also been bred to contain zero THC and high levels of CBD. The Harlequin is one of those strains that steers you away from sedation towards alertness but without the anxiety that can often accompany similar strains. This strain is used by many when experiencing intense, blinding pain but can’t take any sedating medication. I reach for this particular strain whenever I have an intense and painful migraine attack, but I can’t take the day off work.
The ACDC CBD strain is one of the most famous strains and will be your absolute favorite if you are smart enough to keep this in your pantry. The ACDC is one of the most liked strains amongst people who suffer from high inflammation, depression, and other anxiety.
If ever there was a strain perfect for people perusing the medicinal potential of CBD, it’s the Cannatonic. This was the first CBD strain that I added to my pantry when I was looking for alternative ways to reduce the pain associated with migraines. The best part of this strain is that it helps dull the intense and sharp pain that the migraine causes but does not make me drowsy. It does the opposite- it makes me feel just a tad bit less grumpy- and if you suffer from migraines, you know how difficult it is to shrug off the bad mood that comes along with a migraine. But you don’t have to take my word for it, just do a simple google search on the Cannatonic CBD strain, and you will discover precisely what I discovered first hand- it is one of the most acclaimed medicinal cannabis strains.
After a stellar review like the Cannatonic just got, you’d think it would be challenging to list another CBD strain. But, all strains are unique and should be treated differently. Or maybe that’s just my opinion because I am an absolute cannabis nerd. Before I delve too deep into my intense interest (no, it’s not an obsession) with the intricacies of the different cannabis strains, let’s get back to dissecting the Sour Tsunami. The Sour Tsunami is one of those particular cannabis strains that has been developed and bred with a specific purpose in mind: to have high levels of CBD. This is mainly because of CBD’s high potential to reduce inflammation. And as we have discussed, inflammation is one of the bad influences that trigger a migraine.
The Remedy is another one of the cannabis strains that many refer to it as a medicinal strain. It also has high levels of CBD (around15%) and is one of the more relaxing strains. Unlike most of the strains on my list, this one is great for the evenings as it brings on a mellow state that makes you feel like you are doing a Mathew MAcconohey rendition of his character from “Surfer Dude”.
Although similar to ACDC, this strain is more of a complete body relaxation that is usually a little more tricky to locate.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is Marijuana Legal?
Answer: the answer to this question is not as simple as it seems. When asked this, I always feel the need to brace people for a lengthy discourse. However, since we don’t have the pleasure of a face-to-face discussion where I can hold your attention with my tandem facial expressions, I will keep the answer as short and sweet as possible for you. When referring to “marijuana,” we are not referring to “CBD” products or the CBD compound itself. That is a significant distinction.
Traditional marijuana will typically contain the psychoactive substance THC. These plants and species contain THC and are illegal in some areas of the U.S. And here’s where it gets complicated: marijuana is illegal on a federal level, but despite this, several states deem marijuana to be a legal plant or substance within their state laws.
And if states have not approved marijuana as a legal substance, many have. However, a growing number of states have voted to approve cannabis for medical use only. Others have legalised cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use. Please remember that I am not a legal professional, and I do not claim to be one. So always check in with your local laws before trying to get your hands on CBD products. On that note, CBD derived from hemp should not be classified as a marijuana product, but this can get tricky with terminology and local state laws. So just make sure that CBD is legal in your state, and within what parameters, before you source CBD.
Question: Is CBD Legal?
Answer: Of course, this brings us to the following question: Is CBD legal? As I mentioned already, if CBD is derived from marijuana, it will be considered illegal on a federal level- but many states have already made it legal within their state laws.
Because of these types of legal issues, hemp-derived CBD products have surged in popularity over the past few years. This is because hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% THC- otherwise, it cannot be categorized as a hemp plant. Interestingly enough, despite the strict federal stance on the illegality of marijuana, hemp-derived CBD is legal on the federal level.
And if you are ready to have your mind thrown another curveball, some states within the U.S. have deemed all cannabis-related products, including those derived from hemp, as illegal.
With all these twists and turns, when you try to get to grips with the legal status of CBD and marijuana, it’s normal if it feels a little bit more than confusing. Your best bet? Check your state laws, and make sure you don’t cross any state borders with cannabis-related products.
Question: Will CBD Get you High?
This question is one of the most commonly asked. And within right too- it was my biggest concern at one point. But they say knowledge is power, but understanding the knowledge is where the real power comes from when it comes to CBD products.
Sure, CBD oils and CBD products are produced by extracting oils from the cannabis plant- but that doesn’t automatically qualify them with the ability to get you high. That’s because THC is the compound that causes people to feel the psychoactive effects, or as we all know it, “getting high.”
Always make sure that the CBD product you are purchasing does not contain any THC by checking with the brand’s third-party lab reports. And if they don’t have any third-party testing? Well, I highly recommend that you look for a company that does.
Final Thoughts About Cannabis as a Treatment for Migraines
I only really grasp the concept when a migraine attack grips me. When choosing a CBD strain to help with it, make sure you purchase from a reputable company that offers transparent lab reports. And before adding anything new into your supplement intake, check with your medical professional.
And remember, we need more research and tests to truly pinpoint the ins and outs of CBD for medicinal use, especially if we want it to become a conventional option. If you are looking at CBD for migraines, treat it as you would any new supplement- start low and go slow.
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