Headaches are one of the most common health nuisances in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least half of the world’s adults have experienced headaches in the last year. While some are relatively mild, causing a bit of discomfort for a few hours at worst, others can be debilitating and have drastic effects on a person’s quality of life.
Natural remedies for headaches abound, from magnesium to multivitamins. Essential oils like eucalyptus are also often used to reduce the pain — and today, some people are wondering if they might be even more effective when mixed with CBD oil.
In theory, it sounds nice — take a bit of eucalyptus oil, add a dash of everyone’s favorite non-intoxicating cannabinoid, and enjoy side-effect free relief from the pounding in your head.
But does the science match the hype?
Almost everyone alive is familiar with the symptoms of a headache — a literal pain in the neck (or any other part of the head) that can be sharp or dull, localized or general, brief of seemingly never-ending.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are two main types of headaches: primary and secondary. Primary headaches can occur when parts of the head — like neck muscles or optic nerves — are subject to too much exertion. Lifestyle triggers, like drinking too much, can also trigger primary headaches. Chronic conditions like migraines can be responsible as well.
Secondary headaches can also be recurring issues for many people. These are triggered by a variety of conditions — from dental problems to brain tumors — that stimulate pain-sensitive nerves in the head.
Though there is little direct evidence that CBD combats headaches, many headache sufferers already self-medicate with cannabis — and pain relief is the most common reason people use CBD. While that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of CBD’s anti-headache properties, there’s a small body of tangential research that suggests it could potentially be useful.
For instance, some research shows that CBD is effective at reducing chronic pain and inflammation through interacting with the endocannabinoid system in the body. Since many headaches are caused by reactions of pain-sensitive nerves, it’s possible that CBD’s ability to alleviate pain could make some people less susceptible to headaches.
Speaking of the endocannabinoid system, a 2017 paper in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoids Research suggested that an “endocannabinoid deficiency” could be responsible for migraines and other forms of headaches. Endocannabinoids are compounds produced by the body that closely resemble phytocannabinoids like CBD, so supplementing the body’s supply could help address the root causes of chronic headaches.
As with CBD, the research into eucalyptus oil’s ability to treat headaches is limited at best. Derived from the eucalyptus plant, the oil has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to reduce inflammation and clear the sinuses (both of which can contribute to headaches).
In recent years, Western scientists have finally acknowledged that these age-old uses might be based in something more than folklore. A 2013 study in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that inhaling the oil could be effective at reducing pain and blood pressure after knee replacement surgery.
In theory, this suggests that eucalyptus oil could also be useful in treating other types of pain (such as that caused by headaches), though most scientists would hesitate to put too much stock in such a limited body of evidence.
Despite the relative lack of scientific evidence that either CBD or eucalyptus oil is effective against headaches, a number of companies have designed products containing the two ingredients specifically for headache management — most commonly in roll-on form.
For instance, Sagely Naturals makes a Recovery Roll-on that contains 50 mg of CBD as well as a mix of essential oils like eucalyptus. This product goes for $29 and claims to alleviate headaches by working with local endocannabinoid receptors in the brain.
As for the verdict, one user said on Bustle: “While I was pleasantly surprised to find that my headaches generally retreated when I applied the roll-on, every time I wondered if it worked because of the CBD, the essential oils, or the rollerball’s cooling effects themselves — or even if it was the placebo effect. People who get headaches a lot will likely agree with me, however, when I say that it doesn’t always matter *why* a particular remedy works — just that it does.”
There are several other products containing CBD and eucalyptus designed specifically for headaches, or more generally for pain and tension relief. These include Blue Ridge Hemp’s Headache and Stress Roll-on ($20), Grove’s Hemp Muscle Relief Roll-on ($15), and Basic Jane’s Relief Aromatherapy CBD Oil ($25) designed for headaches, joint pain, and sore necks.