Migraines are the worst.
But even regular headaches from sinus infections, or even a hangover, can have a huge impact on our ability to get on with our day-to-day lives.
Luckily, CBD in the form of gummies and oil, for example, can help.
Below I take a closer look at CBD and how it can help relieve headaches. I’ll breakdown the science so it’s easy to understand, and share my personal experience with CBD.
Understanding Your Headaches
The first step in properly treating a headache is understanding its cause.
Medical experts start by separating headaches into 2 different categories:
- Primary headaches, which are not symptomatic of another underlying condition.
- Secondary headaches, which are caused by another condition or health problem.
Here’s a closer look at primary and secondary headaches and how they work:
There are 3 Types of Primary Headaches
- Migraines: These headaches tend to be recurring and intensely painful. They tend to cause a deep, throbbing pain affecting just one side of the head. The pain of a migraine can be extremely debilitating and last for hours or, in extreme cases, even days. Migraines can cause sensory disturbances (called aura), such as flashes of light, blind spots, tingling, and other hallucinations.
- Cluster Headaches: Cluster headaches tend to strike extremely quickly. They often happen at night, causing extremely sharp pain that wakes people from their sleep. The pain from a cluster headache tends to be centered (or "clustered") around one eye. Cluster headaches can be recurring and tend to strike regularly for periods of around 6-12 weeks. Cluster headaches can sometimes cause a drooping or bloodshot eye, a blocked or runny nostril, and sweating.
- Tension Headaches: Tension headaches are less intense than clusters or migraines. They cause a more diffuse, aching pain that tends to run like a strip around the center of the head. Tension headaches are the most common type of primary headaches.
Primary headaches are common, accounting for around 50% of all headache cases.
Unfortunately, we still know very little about primary headaches and what causes them.
In fact, the exact causes of primary headaches aren’t clear.
Some suspect causes of primary headaches include:
- Over-Sensitive Nociceptors in the Brain. Nociceptors are pain receptors that are designed to respond to damaging or potentially damaging stimuli by making us feel pain. This pain helps direct our attention to the affected area and treat/protect it against further damage.
- Spasming Blood Vessels. Tension headaches, for example, have been shown to cause pulsing in some parts of the head, causing blood vessels to contract and expand. Other primary headaches may also cause similar “spasms” of the blood vessels which could be the cause of that iconic throbbing pain.
- Chemical Imbalances in the Brain. Scientists suggest that some primary headaches may be caused by imbalances of certain brain chemicals. These imbalances may affect the proper functioning of nerves and blood vessels in the head which cause migraines and cluster headaches.
While scientists haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact cause of primary headaches, they have been able to identify some of their triggers.
- Smoking and drinking alcohol
- Bright lights
- Strong smells
- Physical strain
- Sleep disturbances
If you suffer from primary headaches, you’ll know just how debilitating they can be.
For some people, the pain of a migraine or cluster headache can be so intense as to cause vomiting, diarrhea, and a plethora of other disabling symptoms.
We Also Have Secondary Headaches
Secondary headaches are just as common as primary headaches but they are much better understood.
Doctors have identified over 150 different diagnosable types of secondary headaches.
Their triggers can vary from something as simple as dehydration to more serious issues like a head injury or heart disease.
Some common triggers of secondary headaches include:
- Sinus Infections: When our sinuses are infected, they become inflamed and swollen. This is a natural response caused by our body’s immune system. As the sinuses swell and increase in size, they put pressure on pain receptors in surrounding areas.
- Head Injury: Trauma to the head can activate nociceptors in the area, which then send pain sensations to the brain. Most injury-related headaches will disappear after roughly a day. However, some people may experience headaches for months or even years after an injury. These types of headaches are clinically called post-traumatic headaches and can cause symptoms very similar to those of a migraine or tension headache.
- Hangover: Alcohol contains toxins and causes dehydration. Drinking too much alcohol can cause a build-up of toxins in the body as well as severe dehydration, both of which can cause that iconic headache after a night out.
- Caffeine Withdrawal: Caffeine is the most commonly used drug in the world and, like any other drug, it can cause certain degrees of dependence. When we don’t meet our body’s demand for caffeine during the day, it can respond with certain withdrawal symptoms including an acute headache.
- Menstruation: Women experience drastic hormone changes right before their periods, including sharp drops in estrogen and progesterone levels. These changes produce a wide variety of symptoms that make up Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). Headaches are a major physical symptom of PMS.
- Medication: Some medications can cause MOHs (Medication-Overuse Headaches). These headaches can be recurring for over 15 days and last for hours. Frequently using pain medications, for example, can trigger these headaches. Other supplements and medications may also cause headaches for a few days while your body adjusts to them.
Very rarely, headaches can be a sign of serious health conditions like encephalitis, brain tumors, or hydrocephalus.
However, this is very rare, and most secondary headaches are caused by less serious causes like those mentioned above.
CBD for Headaches: What Does the Science Say?
Studies show that CBD can offer effective relief from the pain and discomfort of headaches.
It does so by activating the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which processes cannabinoids like CBD when they enter the body.
The ECS processes these chemicals because they resemble, in a variety of ways, cannabinoids that our body produces naturally.
Thanks to a growing body of research, we now know that the Endocannabinoid System plays a central role in keeping our body functioning properly.
We know, for example, that it is extremely important for managing the way we experience pain.
That’s exactly why scientists have started looking at the topic of cannabinoids and headaches in more detail:
By activating the Endocannabinoid System, cannabinoids like CBD can drastically reduce the pain of a headache.
Plus, because CBD is very safe and well-tolerated, it can be an attractive alternative to the pain medications normally used to treat headaches.
Below I’ll take a closer look at the pain-relieving effects of CBD, its side effect profile, and some of the studies on the ECS and headaches:
CBD is Nature’s #1 Painkiller
If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you already know a little about CBD’s painkilling potential.
These effects come from its ability to boost endocannabinoid activity.
The Endocannabinoid System can inhibit the release of neurotransmitters that send pain signals from our nociceptors (pain nerves) to the brain.
It does so in the presence of cannabinoids, which can either be produced naturally by the body or sourced from plants like cannabis or hemp.
One of the cannabinoids our body produces naturally is anandamide.
CBD has similar effects.
Now, unlike other plant-based cannabinoids like THC (the main psychoactive chemical found in marijuana), CBD doesn’t actually fit into human cannabinoid receptors.
Instead, it seems to act on the Endocannabinoid System in more indirect ways.
And while our understanding of how CBD acts on the body might be limited, one thing is clear:
CBD is extremely effective at reducing pain, including the pain caused by headaches.
CBD is Extremely Safe and Well-Tolerated
Another reason CBD has so much potential as a headache remedy is this:
It’s extremely safe.
The medications normally prescribed to treat headaches range from basic OTC drugs like ibuprofen to opioids like Percocet.
All of these drugs have side-effects, which can range from stomach upsets to ulcers, liver/kidney issues and, in the case of opioids, tolerance and addiction.
CBD, on the other hand, has a very safe side-effect profile.
Studies on the side-effects of CBD tend to report:
- Appetite changes
- Dry mouth
- Low blood pressure
Note: Some people experience headaches when first trying CBD. These can last for a few days while the body adjusts to the supplement, especially if is taken suddenly. Luckily, the adverse effects of CBD can be avoided with proper dosing.
Studies Show CBD Can Be Effective at Treating Headaches
The body of research into CBD and headaches is limited.
Nonetheless, the existing studies on the topic show a lot of promise.
Below is a list of some of the studies looking into the efficacy of CBD as a treatment for headaches:
My Experience With the Health Benefits of CBD
You might be wondering why I’m writing this.
Well, turns out I use CBD on a daily basis.
Now, I don’t suffer from headaches more than your average person.
Instead, I use CBD as part of my workout routine to help me perform better and recover faster.
I often use CBD gummies, oils, and creams to help me deal with the pain and muscle soreness from training.
My wife Sara, on the other hand, uses CBD to deal with skin issues like acne as well as anxiety.
Sara works an extremely stressful job and carries a lot of responsibility.
Her workload definitely takes a toll on her health, and she often gets stress headaches after or during a particularly tough day at the office.
That’s where CBD works its magic.
Sara and I are both familiar with CBD and we use a variety of CBD products for different ailments.
When it comes to headaches, Sara’s first stop for relief is CBD.
For fast-acting relief, I’d recommend taking a mid-strength CBD oil (300mg or 600mg oils are a great place to start) directly under the tongue.
Applying the oil underneath the tongue allows it to be absorbed faster than if it is swallowed, and you should start feeling relief within 15-20 minutes.
CBD gummies are another great option for relieving headaches too.
While they take longer to take effect, gummies are super easy to dose and can offer long-lasting pain relief from both primary and secondary headaches.
For best results, suck on the gummies for a few minutes to allow some of CBD to be absorbed via the mucous membranes of your mouth.
Get Fast Relief From Your Headaches Today
If you suffer from headaches, I recommend you try CBD today.
Not only can it provide fast, reliable relief from the pain of your headaches, but it may also prove to be a great alternative to regular medications.
Right now my top recommendation would be the Premium CBD Gummies from Hemp Bomb.
They are one of the original brands in this industry and have a ton of great reviews.
To learn more about the health benefits of CBD, keep reading my blog.
For detailed reviews of CBD gummies and other CBD products, make sure to check out my homepage.