Dr. Stephen Silberstein outlines what patients should know about CBD oil as a treatment for migraine, including effects and regulations. Can marijuana help treat or prevent migraines? WebMD explores how pot works for headache pain and the possible side effects.
Migraine and CBD Oil
Dr. Stephen Silberstein outlines what patients should know about CBD oil as treatment for migraine
Cannabidiol has taken the U.S. by storm recently. Commonly known as CBD, the active ingredient found in the cannabis, or marijuana, plant, is becoming increasingly available through online retailers, with claims of pain and inflammation reduction. And those living with migraine have taken notice.
In an effort to understand the benefits and risks of using CBD oil for migraine, we recently spoke with Dr. Stephen Silberstein, director of the Headache Center at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
The Effects of CBD
Unlike THC, another widely known derivative of the cannabis plant, CBD oil does not have psychoactive properties or effects. “It works locally, and even if taken orally, it won’t produce intoxication,” says Dr. Silberstein.
There is no scientific evidence or research on CBD as an effective treatment for migraine—in large part because it has not been formally studied. However, it may still be a viable topical option for some patients with joint and muscle pain associated with migraine. “If you have a lot of neck pain or soreness, it is perfectly reasonable to use CBD oil. It may even prevent nausea and vomiting,” Dr. Silberstein says.
Despite the fact that CBD oil does not elicit the same response as marijuana, it is not legal in all 50 states. So one side-effect could be the legal ramifications of partaking in using CBD oil in a state where it is not permitted by law. To determine if it is legal in the state where you reside, visit Americans for Safe Access.
Lack of Regulation
For patients interested in CBD oil for the acute treatment of migraine, Dr. Silberstein says it is important to ensure that you are using a pure product. You are likely to receive a pure and safe product in states where CBD oil is legal and grown. Local dispensaries will also be of use in determining origin and quality.
Dr. Silberstein advises against obtaining a product in states in which CBD oil is not currently legal or regulated. Illegal forms of CBD oil could be spiked with artificial THC which could be very harmful to patients. Additionally, there are legal implications if you attempt to purchase it where it is currently illegal, so it is important to speak with your healthcare provider and check your local and state laws.
Consult a Physician
Before beginning any treatment, it is important that you consult your healthcare provider and be open and honest about your plans. Having a strong doctor-patient relationship is key to establishing trust and determining an effective treatment plan that takes into account your lifestyle. “These drugs do interact with the body,” Dr. Silberstein says. “If you’re getting funny symptoms and you’re taking something that the doctor doesn’t know about, how’s he going to help you?”
Dr. Silberstein also cautions against CBD oil or marijuana in use in adolescents, as it may affect the developing brain. “In general, it should be avoided by adolescents until more research has been conducted,” he adds.
For more information on treatments for migraine, visit our doctor-verified resource library. You can also use our find a doctor tool to find a headache specialist in your area.
Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundation’s subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. Click here to read about our editorial board members.
Medical Marijuana and CBD Oils for Migraines
Migraine headaches can be tough to treat. If your pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light or noise don’t get better with over-the-counter or even prescription drugs, is there another option?
Marijuana might be one under-the-counter remedy for migraine relief. Some research shows that it may help ease migraine symptoms or possibly keep them from starting. But most studies haven’t found solid proof of that.
And in some states, it isn’t legal to buy, grow, own, or use marijuana, even for medical reasons. Make sure you find out about your state’s laws before trying it.
How Does Pot Ease Pain?
Marijuana is another name for cannabis, a bushy plant that’s used to make paper, rope, and other products.
Inside your brain and other parts of your body, you have a network of cannabinoid receptors. These are tiny loops of protein that affect how you feel pain.
Marijuana has natural compounds called cannabinoids. When you use it, these cannabinoids go into your body and look for the receptors. They change how the receptors work, and they may calm down pain signals.
Cannabinoids may also help with nausea, anxiety, muscle spasms, or other health problems.
THC is the cannabinoid in marijuana that gets most of the attention. It’s what makes you feel high or relaxed. But another product made from cannabis called cannabidiol (CBD) doesn’t make you feel intoxicated and may help ease pain. Several states have made it legal for CBD to be used for medical reasons.
Does It Work for Migraines?
There’s not a lot of research on this. In a study at the University of Colorado, 121 people who got regular migraine headaches used marijuana daily to prevent attacks. About 40% of them said the number of migraine headaches they got each month was cut in half.
The people used different types of marijuana, but they mostly inhaled it to ease a migraine in progress and some found that it did help stop the pain. Edible products didn’t seem to work as well.
The people who inhaled or smoked marijuana also said it was easier to control the amount of the drug they took in, and they had fewer negative reactions.
What Are the Risks?
If you smoke or eat marijuana, it can make you feel dizzy, weak, confused, sleepy, or moody. And smoking it on a regular basis could harm your heart and lung health over time. Regular use could also lead to addiction and other problems. Short-term use doesn’t seem to be bad for your general health.
Marijuana is legal for medical use in more than half the states in the U.S. But each state has different laws about how you can buy it or how much you can have. In several states, it’s still illegal to have it even if you have a medical problem that it could treat.
If you have a job, it’s a good idea to know your employer’s rules around drug testing and use, even if it’s legal for medical use in your state. Tests can tell if you have marijuana in your system. And it can stay there up to 30 days after you’ve used it.
National Headache Foundation: “Migraine.”
Baron, EP. Headache. June 2015.
University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health: “Medical Marijuana for the Treatment of Migraine Headaches: An Evidence Review.”
National Conference of State Legislatures: “State Medical Marijuana Laws.”
Manzanares, J. Current Neuropharmacology. July 2006.
Benbadis, S. Expert Reviews of Neurotherapeutics. Published online Nov. 2014.
Project CBD.org: “What Is CBD?”
Rhyne, D. Pharmacotherapy. Jan. 2016.
Americans for Safe Access: “Guide to Using Medical Cannabis.”
Degenhardt, L and Hall, WD. Canadian Medical Association Journal. June 2008.
National Association of Attorneys General: “The Effects of Marijuana Legalization on Employment Law.”
National Institute on Drug Abuse: “The Biology and Potential Therapeutic Effects of Cannabidiol.”
State of Oregon: “Frequently Asked Questions About Marijuana in the Workplace.”