Are there alternative remedies to opioids and over the counter painkillers for headaches and migraines? In this guide, we discuss different types of headaches, their symptoms and causes, and how CBD combined with essential oils can be used in different ways for headache relief.
Headaches are annoying. There is almost never a convenient time or place to get one, and getting through everyday activities like work, commuting, or even social interactions with head pain can be unbearable. Whether you suffer from chronic headaches or only experience them once in a while, it’s always good to have a go-to remedy to chase the pain away. Follow this guide to help you accurately diagnose, treat, and manage your headaches with CBD and essential oils.
If you are an occasional headache sufferer, you may not be aware many different types of headaches come with very different symptoms and levels of severity. Some of these headaches are nothing but short painful episodes while others can be chronic, dangerous, and even life-threatening. Before you begin to use remedies for a headache, it’s important to know what type of condition you are treating. Often, headaches are easily self-diagnosed, however it’s always a good idea to get an opinion from your trusted healthcare professional if you are unsure.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They can be caused by a variety of things, like staring at a screen for too long, poor posture, or fatigue. However, tension headaches are believed to be mostly due to stress from work, school, or personal relationships. These headaches can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a week and can vary in severity. Finding out if you are experiencing a tension headache is simple, just ask yourself the following questions:
If you answered yes to most of these questions, you are probably experiencing a tension headache. Tension headaches afflict 80% of adults, and are more common in women. This type of headache can become a chronic condition, and the symptoms can become worse over time.
Cluster headaches cause incredibly intense pain in the trigeminal nerve, which surrounds the eye, then travels across the cheek and spreads up over the ear and down through the jawline. The pain from this headache is typically located around one eye, but can radiate down the side of the face, neck, or shoulder. They are non-hereditary and not believed to be stress related. This type of headache comes on quickly and without warning, and can last anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours. Not sure if you are experiencing cluster headaches? Ask yourself these questions:
If you answered yes to many of these questions, you are probably suffering from cluster headaches. Cluster headaches happen in a period of time called “cluster periods,” where an individual will experience 3 or more of these headaches per day for anywhere from two weeks to three months, sometimes even longer. Once they subside, they are usually pain-free for two weeks or longer. Cluster headaches are the least common type, and men are more susceptible to them than women.
Migraines are possibly the most misunderstood: many people think they are just really intense headaches, but they are much more than that. Migraines cause severe, debilitating pain on one or both sides of the head that can last anywhere from 4 hours to several days. If you think you may be experiencing migraine headaches, ask yourself:
If you answered yes to most of these, you are likely experiencing migraine headaches. Migraine headaches are relatively common, and can be triggered by many factors: stress, light and sound, foods or preservatives, medications, family history, and hormones, to name just a few. Many chronic migraine sufferers learn to identify their migraine triggers, which helps them manage their symptoms. In children, boys are more vulnerable to migraines, however, after adolescence, the roles reverse: up to 75% of adult migraine sufferers are women.
Other things that can trigger headaches:
It’s important to take every factor into account when attempting to diagnose a headache. Many times, headaches can be remedied by drinking electrolytes, taking a nap, or going for a slow walk. But when you need more help and pharmaceuticals aren’t an option, CBD could be your answer.
If you’re reading this guide, you probably already know a little bit about CBD. Understanding what it is and how it works is essential when using it to treat headaches. Cannabidiol – or, CBD – is a compound extracted from marijuana or hemp plants. No matter how you use it – smoke it, vape it, slather yourself in CBD oil, or eat it in a brownie – it won’t get you high. But just because you can’t feel any significant effects from CBD doesn’t mean it’s not working.
CBD and Headache Relief
The human body has a system called the Endocannabinoid system (ECS) which works well when in contact with cannabinoids, or CBD for short. The Endocannabinoid system is accountable for controlling many human functions, including ones that relate to migraines and headaches such as:
Typically, our bodies express natural cannabinoids (called endocannabinoids) that help keep the ECS running properly and, in turn, our bodies in balance. However, sometimes, these endocannabinoids don’t express the way they should, which starts a domino effect of Endocannabinoid System dysfunction, immune system imbalance, then illness and disease. How this plays into headaches: researchers believe that migraine headaches, headaches that involve trigeminal nerve, and headaches caused by stress could be linked to Endocannabinoid System Dysfunction. An article posted by Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research April 2017 states:
These findings support the proposed theory that alterations in endocannabinoid function with reductions in endocannabinoids such as AEA may be one of the mechanisms underlying migraine. A feature of headache disorders is that they are highly associated with other comorbidities, including anxiety and mood disorders, allergies, chronic pain disorders, and epilepsy. The endocannabinoid deficiency hypothesis provides a possible mechanism underlying not only migraine but also diseases such as fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome. Although the endocannabinoid deficiency hypothesis is still speculative and in need of further study, it suggests that exogenous stimulators of the endocannabinoid system, such as cannabis, could treat these diseases at their source
What this means: cannabinoids (like CBD) could be used to make up for Endocannabinoid System dysfunction in the treatment of migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches.
What Method Works Best?
The type of CBD you choose to treat your headache with largely depends on your lifestyle, the frequency and type of headache you are treating, and how accessible CBD products are in your area. One of the most impressive things about the Endocannabinoid System is that it has receptors in areas of the brain, throughout our body (mainly the immune system), and on the surface of our skin. That means CBD can work its magic no matter how you use it – internally or externally. CBD comes in many different forms, but a few are ideal for treating headaches. Let’s explore the top four:
For now, vape pens and sublinguals are the quickest, most effective way to combat a headache or migraine. You can use them at the beginning of an attack to take the edge off right away, and their painkilling and muscle relaxing effects can last up to 6 hours. Edibles and topicals are a great addition to your vape or sublingual for round-the-clock management or on those days you need an extra bit of relief.
Essential oils used in aromatherapy are made by extracting the aromatic compounds (called terpenes) from various parts of plants, fruits, herbs, spices, and seeds. These compounds are responsible for much more than just making a lemon smell like citrus or a forest smell like pine: each terpene has a different effect on the body and mind, anywhere from giving you a boost of energy to suppressing nausea to instilling peace and calm. Marijuana is a plant that also contains terpenes, which is why one strain can taste and smell so different from another. The terpenes found in marijuana are the same terpenes that we get in many of the foods, herbs, and spices we eat. In the past, focus in the marijuana industry has been primarily on cannabinoids and their medicinal uses, but terpenes have recently stepped into the limelight and changed the market completely – for the better. Researchers believe that using the plant as a whole (whole plant therapy) is more effective than isolating cannabinoids from other beneficial properties of the plant. They have found that cannabinoids are actually more effective when used in conjunction with terpenes and other cannabinoids. Whole plant therapy can be as simple as lighting up a marijuana bud to vaping cannabis oil to even juicing the marijuana plant as a dietary supplement.
If whole plant therapy is not an option for you, essential oils are a great way to implement powerful terpenes into your headache management regimen. Here are three ways to do it:
Aromatherapy is more than dropping oils into a diffuser for better smelling air. Aromatherapy is using the therapeutic properties of high quality essential oils for physical or psychological well-being. You can manage chronic headaches or migraines by using essential oils in a diffuser daily while you work, or nightly while you sleep.
If you have someone around who will rub you down with essential oils to help take the edge off of your headache, consider yourself lucky. If not, don’t sweat it: you can massage essential oils into specific trigger areas for headaches and migraines.
Really want to get the best bang for your buck? You can use essential oils in your CBD oil vape pen. Remember that essential oils will change the flavor of your CBD oil, so make sure you stick with the ones your nose (and taste buds) can tolerate:
When To Call A Doctor
Most types of headaches can typically be managed at home, however, there are some headaches that should not be treated alone. If you experience chronic headaches or migraines, you’ve likely already seen a doctor for a diagnosis. If you think you may be experiencing cluster headaches or any other type of new or unfamiliar headache disorder, contact your trusted healthcare professional for a proper evaluation. These headaches are often treatable, however, in rare cases they can be a secondary sign of a more complex issue. Call your doctor if you experience:
Suffering occasional headaches? Reach for CBD and essential oils over pharmaceuticals and pain killers. If you do suffer from debilitating migraines, cluster headaches, or any type of chronic headache, talk to your doctor about finding real relief with a regimen using CBD products.