Have you ever wondered if CBD topicals can offer relief for migraine pain? Well, there may be some merit to using them. If you get migraines, you know they wreak havoc with even the most mundane activities. The Migraine Research Foundation studies indicate one in four U.S. households includes someone who gets migraines. So, if you don’t get them, you probably know people who do.
What is a migraine?
The American Migraine Association has this to say about them: “Migraine is not just a bad headache. It’s a disabling neurological disease with different symptoms and different treatment approaches compared to other headache disorders.”
Every person experiences a migraine differently, but they have some common symptoms.
- Severe throbbing or pulsing pain, generally on one side of the head
- Nausea and vomiting
- Extreme sensitivity to light
- Sometimes an aura (flashing lights, blind spots, shapes or bright spots) accompanies or precedes it
Medications are often prescribed and often self-care is recommended along with the medication. This where CBD topicals come into the picture.
What is a CBD topical?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one component of hemp. It’s nonpsychoactive so you won’t get high. It comes in various forms including, oil, edibles, inhalables and topicals. Topicals differ from the other applications. Eating, drinking, inhaling and sublingual use of oil get to the source of the condition through the blood stream. CBD topicals penetrate the muscle stopping short of the blood stream. As a result, it gets to the pain faster, relieving it minutes instead of hours.
Combined with essential and carrier oils, CBD topicals come in the form of creams, balms, salves and lotions. When you apply a topical directly to the area of pain, it goes to work fast to relieve it.
A February 2021 Forbes article touted a study that showed, “An overwhelming majority of migraine sufferers found relief with the use of CBD oil, according to the results of a recent study. Data from a clinically validated survey showed that 86% of respondents reported a decrease in headache impact after using a cannabidiol (CBD) formulation for a 30-day trial period.”
How does CBD relieve migraine pain?
CBD is a known anti-inflammatory as well as an analgesic (pain reliever). Inflammation causes pain. In a migraine, the inflammation occurs in the nerves. Two nerves in that are the culprit in migraines: trigeminal and occipital. The trigeminal nerve runs through the face. The occipital nerve is at the base of the head and neck.
To understand how CBD works, you first need to understand the endocannabinoid system (ECS) every mammal has. The ECS works to maintain homeostasis, or balance, of the messages shuttled about among our cells. If sickness, inflammation or injury occurs, the ECS gets to work resetting balance.
The ECS can be broken down into three components: endocannabinoids, receptors and enzymes. Here is what each does.
Endocannabinoids are molecules produced by your body. Two key endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglyerol, are produced on demand to keep your internal functions operating smoothly.
Endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, bind with cannabinoids to help regulate a deficiency. For instance CB1 receptors found in the central nervous system may bind with a cannabinoid to relieve pain. CB2 receptors on the other hand, manage the immune system and bind with cannabinoids to reduce inflammation, which is the culprit in many diseases.
Enzymes break down the endocannabinoids once their work is complete.
Relief for migraine pain
The skin has its own ECS that when it absorbs a CBD topical sends out the receptors to regain balance. CBD topicals counter what triggers migraines, a peptide called CGRP. This peptide released around the trigeminal and occipital nerves swells blood vessels causing inflammation.
Research has shown that people who suffer from migraines have low levels of endocannabinoids and high levels of CGRP. However, A study conducted by the European Journal of Pain stated that “Topical CBD had the ability to reduce pain, inflammation, swelling and CGRP in rats with arthritis. Pending further clinical studies on human subjects, it has been seen that CBD is indeed useful in treating severe inflammation and CGRP.”
Oxidative stress, which causes inflammation around the trigeminal nerve, unleashes the CGRP peptide. CBD, also a known anti-oxidant, fights oxidative stress by interacting with the CB receptors to block production of CGRP. The best part about CBD topicals is that they are safe to use as often as necessary. Side effects are practically nonexistent. Smooth the topical on your face, neck, ears, chin, forehead, shoulders and base of your skull to calm the affected nerves, which in turn reduce pain.
Don’t expect CBD topicals to cure your migraines, but they can help ease the pain, making it manageable. It can even help prevent severe pain if used prior to the onset if you experience auras or other migraine precursors.