Most people will suffer from headaches at some point in their lives. But for sufferers of more severe migraines or cluster headaches they can be severe and debilitating. And with a wide range of possible treatments, but no guaranteed cures, it’s not surprising more and more people are looking at CBD for migraines and cluster headaches.
Migraines are common, affecting roughly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 15 men in the UK. Cluster headaches are thankfully rarer, and tend to affect more men, in their 30s and 40s.
What Causes Migraines and Cluster Headaches?
The exact causes of migraines and cluster headaches are not yet known. Migraines are suspected to be the result of changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain. Cluster headaches are associated to increased activity in the hypothalamus part of the brain.
Migraine and cluster headaches may often occur if a close relative also has the condition, suggesting that there may be a genetic link in making people more susceptible. Smokers can also find themselves at a higher risk.
Specific periods of attacks are inclined to be associated with migraine triggers. These can include stress, tiredness, particular food or drink, strong smells, or if you are light sensitive, or, for women, starting your period (also known as hormone headaches or menstrual migraines).
Cluster headaches also tend to occur at the same time each day, often at similar times of the year.
There are different types of migraine, but they are generally categorised as a moderate or severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head, often accompanied by feeling sick, vomiting or increased sensitivity to light or sound. A cluster headache is a sharp, excruciating pain often felt around the eye, temple and sometimes face on one side of the head.
Common Migraine Symptoms
The most common types of headaches are very often linked to tension, and most people will be familiar with a continuous aching on both sides of the head, tighter neck muscles and a feeling of pressure between the eyes. These can also be brought on due to the cold or flu, dehydration, not eating regular meals or overindulging in alcohol, and fortunately tend to be mild enough that they don’t stop everyday activities.
Migraines are more severe, and can mean some people are confined to their bed for days at a time. There are various types including:
- migraine with aura – where there are specific warning signs just before the migraine begins, such as seeing flashing lights
- migraine without aura – the most common type, where the migraine happens without the specific warning signs
- migraine aura without headache, also known as silent migraine – where an aura or other migraine symptoms are experienced, but a headache does not develop
Cluster headaches can start without warning, with a pain akin to a sharp, burning or piercing sensation on one side of the head. Attacks can last between 15 minutes and 3 hours, occurring between 1 and 8 times a day. Often accompanied by:
- a red and watering eye
- drooping and swelling of 1 eyelid
- a smaller pupil in 1 eye
- a sweaty face
- a blocked or runny nostril
If you think you have had a cluster headache for the first time, or have migraines, you should see a GP as soon as possible to exclude other potential causes.
Is CBD good for migraines and cluster headaches?
There are currently no absolute medical cures for migraines and cluster headaches, but treatments to prevent attacks and relieve symptoms range from over-the-counter painkillers for migraines, to injections and electrical nerve stimulation for cluster headaches.
There are lots of ways we can help prevent these from happening on a regular basis, the main one ensuring our day to day lifestyle is as healthy as possible. Reducing stress, maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough good quality sleep and exercise can all contribute to lowering the risk. It goes without saying that life today is stressful for many and with the current pandemic, anxiety, tension and stress has significantly increased.
Currently there are relatively few studies looking at the role of CBD for migraines and cluster headaches. One study looked at cannabinoids as “Effects of Medical Marijuana on Migraine Headache Frequency in an Adult Population” (link)
The studies that do exist suggest that CBD may help to relieve the pain of migraines and cluster headaches. For example, “Medicinal Properties of Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Flavonoids in Cannabis, and Benefits in Migraine, Headache, and Pain: An Update on Current Evidence and Cannabis Science” (link), “The Use of Cannabis for Headache Disorders” (link), and “Emerging Role of (Endo) Cannabinoids in Migraine” (link).
Many migraine and cluster headache treatments focus on prevention, rather than pain relief. And this is where CBD could be beneficial as part of general well-being to reduce causes of headaches including stress, anxiety and tiredness.
How to take CBD for migraines and cluster headaches?
There are a variety of ways to integrate CBD into your general daily routine, and the most common are either as a CBD Oil, or CBD Capsules. Both are quick and simple ways to see if CBD is the right choice for you, although we’d always recommend checking with your doctor before taking any supplement, especially if you’re already on any medication.
Anyone starting out with CBD should begin with a low dose to allow your Endocannabinoid system to be introduced to your new routine. So you might begin with the 4% Full Spectrum CBD Oil for a time before moving to our 8% or 15%
If you prefer, CBD Capsules are also available, and our 1.5% capsules are vegan friendly, and infused with Turmeric and Black Pepper.
Useful migraines/cluster headaches links
- The Migraine Trust
- The National Migraine Centre
- British Association for the Study of Headache
- Organisation for the Understanding of Cluster Headache
Ultimately CBD is not a cure for migraines and cluster headaches. But the potential benefits of CBD taken for general well-being can contribute to less frequent attacks and lower pain during bouts of headaches.