Migraines affect a huge percentage of the population. They are severe, prolonged headaches with no seeming cause; they just happen and there’s nothing you can do about it. Often times there are visual auras that occur leading up to a migraine, and some sensitivity to light during an episode. There are many medications and remedies that have been tried, but they only work for some patients, and to varying degrees. CBD offers a new hope for sufferers of migraines because it represents a new way to treat an old disease. First, some context:
What are migraines?
The exact root cause of migraines is largely contested, and there are different kinds of migraine but the lines between them are blurry. While it is true that the brain has no pain receptors (often times patients are awake and alert during brain surgery), the brain is not very good at locating the source of pain. For example, some headaches are caused by swelling of the eyes or sinuses, but the pain may be “felt” near the geometric center of the brain. In addition, some migraines have vastly different symptoms from others, such as light sensitivity or numbness on one side of the body.
What does CBD do to help migraine?
While CBD has the ability to diminish sensitivity of the main receptor on pain cells, and to potentiate the body’s natural endocannabinoid system, it may have additional mechanisms of inhibiting migraines that are still to be researched.
The general consensus among researchers thus far is that CBD has shown (profound) therapeutic promise due to its interactions with many systems and receptors in the brain and body in addition to CB1 and CB2 receptors. Another strong theory for its apparent treatment of migraines is that CBD is a regulator of the endocannabinoid system, and that deficiencies of this system are causal of migraines, and other chronic pain-related conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or fibromyalgia. Accordingly, far lower levels of anandamide, the primary endocannabinoid compound, have been found in the cerebrospinal fluid of migraine sufferers relative to levels found in healthy individuals; CBD has strong efficacy to both increase levels of this substance and decrease its rate of breakdown.
The bigger picture
Digestion, mood, sleep, and pain threshold are all mediated in large part by the endocannabinoid system. Recent research is proving that a disruption in the normal functioning of this system is correlated with the majority of disorders that involve a chronic pain component, including migraines. CBD serves to regulate endocannabinoid synthesis and metabolization, in addition to its other neurological properties of protecting nervous tissue and regulating output and intake of other neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Because there are many different causes of migraines, the fact that CBD is able to regulate so many different systems in the brain could be telling of its ability to curb severe migraines, which are clearly the result of a dysfunction of the brain. CBD helps the brain to work properly on a cellular level and in a chemically well-balanced manner; the positive health implications of this are extremely far-reaching.
Most medication is like a fire hose to the brain, causing one single extreme effect. CBD acts more like a sprinkler, imparting a subtle effect but to many different areas of the brain, promoting an overarching system that is more efficient and healthier.