Given the health implications of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it makes sense that many of us are paying closer attention to our physical well-being. To curb the spread of the virus, many of us are stuck inside (where 80% of cell phone calls are already made), staring at screens while we work remotely. And while you might not be as exposed to viruses while you stay home, that doesn’t mean that your health isn’t suffering.
That’s probably the case if you’re one of the 39 million Americans who experience migraine headaches. Migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world, with one in four U.S. households including someone who suffers from migraine headaches.
And while migraines tend to run in families, they’re also more prevalent among women than men. In fact, 85% of chronic migraine sufferers are women, with three times as many women experiencing migraines as adults compared to men. Though far from the only exacerbating factor, hormonal fluctuations are a known trigger for many migraine sufferers; women produce one-tenth to one-twentieth the amount of testosterone as men, but changes in estrogen levels have been linked to the onset of migraines for countless sufferers. There’s actually evidence to suggest that men who experience migraine headaches have higher estrogen levels than men who don’t suffer from migraine. Along those same lines, stress — which causes fluctuations in cortisol, among other chemical reactions in the body — is also tied to migraine, in addition to certain foods, lack of sleep, caffeine or alcohol, hunger, weather patterns, physical exertion, and more.
For those who suffer from migraine headaches, the condition can be debilitating. Migraines are more than mere headaches; it’s actually a neurological disease that often features throbbing head and neck pain, nausea, visual disturbances and auras, extreme sensitivity to sound and light, vomiting, or bodily numbness or tingling. And because migraine attacks can vary widely from person to person (and even from episode to episode), they can be notoriously difficult to treat. Conventional medications may not always work, while some are simply inaccessible. As such, many rely on a combination of trigger aversion and home remedies to address the problem — but migraine headaches may still considerably diminish the quality of life of many sufferers.
Those who may want to avoid prescription drugs while addressing their condition, however, may be heartened by a trendy-yet-natural treatment option. Despite the fact that possessing less than 35 grams of marijuana in states like Missouri is still considered a misdemeanor offense, the solution might be found in the cannabis plant.
There’s a lot we don’t yet know about cannabidiol, also known as CBD. Derived from hemp, consumption or exposure to CBD does not create any psychoactive effects. That’s the job of THC, another chemical component of marijuana. CBD, in contrast, doesn’t produce a high or produce any known dependence potential, according to the World Health Organization. But it does show major promise for treating a number of health conditions, including epileptic seizures, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. It’s certainly not a cure-all, but it’s become a go-to for many who haven’t found a reliable way to treat their concerns without more serious medical intervention.
So can CBD be used to treat migraines? We don’t have definitive proof that CBD is the answer for every migraine sufferer, but research does suggest that CBD could relieve neurological pain. An American Migraine Foundation report acknowledges that there’s a lack of formal research pertaining to CBD and migraine but that CBD oil could still be a promising option for migraine treatment, particularly for those who experience migraine-related joint and muscle pain. And while the FDA has yet to approve CBD for migraine treatment, the agency has dragged its feet on regulatory guidance pertaining to CBD for quite some time — which means that a lack of approval does not mean it’s dangerous or ineffective.
Experts speculate that CBD could ease migraine pain due to the effect it has on brain receptors. Research has already linked CBD with the reduction of pain, nausea, and inflammation, so it makes sense that some migraine sufferers may find relief in using CBD products to treat their symptoms. An analysis of studies conducted in 2017 prompted researchers to guess that cannabis itself could ease migraine suffering, though CBD oil might have different effects. It’s worth noting, however, that CBD can most likely be used in conjunction with other migraine medications without any harmful side effects. And just this past December, one survey found that 86% of participants reported improvements in their chronic migraine headaches after using CBD oil.
Anecdotally, countless migraine sufferers have turned to CBD as part of their treatment plans and swear by it. That said, it’s not always easy to find the products that will work for you. CBD is available in many forms, including tinctures, salves, balms, oils, and edibles. Because there’s very little oversight in terms of regulation, it can be difficult for consumers to figure out which kinds of CBD products are worth their time and money.
Generally speaking, you should confirm that the company displays third-party, independent lab results on their website and verify the maker’s reputation. When inspecting the product, confirm that the amount of CBD within the bottle is displayed somewhere in both volume and milligrams. You should also determine whether the CBD is derived from hemp or cannabis, as the two terms are not interchangeable, and that the hemp is grown by a state-regulated supplier. The CBD’s extraction method should also be clearly labeled; CO2 extraction is considered to be the cleanest and highest-quality option. It’s also a good idea to consult with your personal physician before adding CBD into your treatment routine to minimize potential risk.
Unfortunately, no one can yet say that CBD is the one-size-fits-all solution to migraine headaches. But with so many finding relief in this popular product, it may be worth trying in order to stop suffering in silence.