topical cbd oil for headaches

How To: Using Topical Cannabis to Break Any Headache

In my years immersed in the cannabis industry my most favorite products to recommend are still topicals. Topical cannabis products include bath bombs and salts, lotions, salves and balms; essentially anything that we can rub onto our skin. There are topical cannabis brands all around the nation because CBD only products are federally legal, but each brand offers their own spin on the pain relieving balms, salves and lotions.

Doc Green’s is a topical company based out of Berkeley and serving medical dispensaries in the California Bay Area and have been in operation for about seven years. Over in Colorado Dixie Elixirs is responsible for putting out a pretty legendary drinkable and edible line along with their healing topicals, the goal for Dixie is to be “the future of cannabis” which is apparent by their branding alone. On a completely opposite playing field Maggie Murphy, owner and founder of Moon Rore Organics utilizes age old traditions of herbology and crystal magic to infuse special order topicals with super charged healing powers.

Each of these topical brands has a slightly different mission but they all have one thing in common; they want to help people understand the immense powers of cannabis in the realm of topical healing

How Do Topicals Work?

Ramona Rubin, avid adventure seeker and co-founder of Doc Greens out of the California Bay Area eloquently informed us that, “Topicals work because we have cannabinoid receptors on lots of different cell types. So there’s CB1 and CB2 receptors … and the cannabinoids as well as endocannabinoids that are our body’s own endogenous neurotransmitter signal” Topical cannabis doesn’t cross the blood brain barrier to the CB1 receptors located there which is why it has no “high” or psychoactive effects involved with application. What topicals can do is interrupt pain signals and break up the inflammation that is causing the pain. These fantastic qualities make topicals a top choice for anyone dealing with chronic pain that can’t be mentally altered while adulting.

Topicals and Headaches

There are various types of headaches that can plague us and they can strike at any time of the day. People suffer from chronic headaches of all kinds and in this post we explored how to relieve or even prevent stress & tension headaches as well as migraines with cannabis topicals.

Stress & Tension Headaches

Personally, I get horrific tension headaches that start at the base of my skull right where it meets my neck. On these days I will always put copious amounts of cannabis topical balm onto my neck and shoulders than plop on the foam roller for what is probably too long. Joe Hodas , PR guru at Dixie Brands and lover of all things Colorado, told us that Dixie has gotten quite a bit of positive feedback regarding their Relaxing Bath Soak in relieving stress and tension headaches since they offer all around topical pain relief, but he was sure to add, “sometimes for women it can actually have a psychoactive effect versus men, just to be cognizant of that compared to other topicals.”

Adding on to that wisdom Rubin let us in on where to apply cannabis topicals to get rid of stress headaches, “On the neck and even on the scalp … try to just get the cream onto the fingertips and then get the fingertips through the hair so that you can just rub it into your scalp as close to the (pain emanating from the) headache as you possibly can.” Maggie Murphy also recommends applying the cannabis lotion to the temples along with CBD strains or even “a heavy Indica loaded in a Pax or other type of vaporizers. The effects are faster than if eaten through an edible.”

Chronic Migraines

While tension headaches are horrible in their own right, migraines tend to be more intense, more painful and just downright worse to deal with. Almost all people that suffer from migraines are aware of the signs that the storm is coming, and if cannabis is used right at these warnings then sometimes we can stop the migraine from even coming on. Dixie Brands edible line includes Synergy mints with a 1:1 CBD:THC ratio that is ideal for headaches and pain. If it is already too late, then topicals should be the go-to and sometimes it takes multiple applications.

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In an attempt to beat a migraine with topicals use the same technique Ramona Rubin mentioned above, rubbing the topical directly through the hair into the scalp, except repeat the process three times every 5-10 minutes. Expert advice from Rubin lets us in on how to “chase” a headache when the pain seems to evade our efforts. She stated, “it will take three applications to remove a headache. It’s not because it doesn’t work the first time, it’s because it works so well the first time.” The cannabis topical expert continued that after the first application “the headache runs and the area where you applied the pressure feels better, but everything around there now becomes the focal point of the headache.”

The reason that a migraine can run away from us is because the topical will relax the tissues and blood vessels where our headache is located and improves the circulation of the affected area but the relief causes the areas just outside of the healing reach of the cannabinoids hyper aware of that same constriction. Three healthy doses of balm or lotions applied directly to the scalp where the headache is giving us trouble will really get rid of a headache that has staying power.

Topical CBD for Migraine Relief

CBD is a breakthrough in migraine treatment. You can absorb CBD from vapor, capsules, and edibles as well as sublingually and topically. This article discusses topical CBD, a lesser-known method of CBD absorption that will provide a powerful new option for migraine prevention and relief.

If you’re wondering why so many migraine sufferers are using CBD, you can learn about some of the science here or in my book Hemp for Migraine.

8 Things You Should Know About Topical CBD for Migraine Relief

8. Where Do I Apply Topical CBD for Migraine Relief?

CBD creams may prevent or relieve migraines when applied to the forehead, temples, jaw, neck, and shoulders by soothing the nerves associated with migraines. You can also apply CBD to any area of pain on the body because the nerves that trigger migraines can be influenced by the body’s total levels of stress and inflammation.

Actually, we jumped the gun a bit here. You’ll want to keep reading to understand why topical CBD is competing with the strongest migraine medications.

The best CBD products for migraines

7. The Nerves That Trigger Migraines

The nerves responsible for triggering migraines are the trigeminal nerve, which spreads throughout the face, and the occipital nerve, which is located on the back of the neck and head. Notice that the image of where to apply CBD targets the trigeminal and occipital nerves (images above). Tension in the neck, shoulder, and back as well as total levels of stress in the entire body can also affect these nerves. People with jaw pain are more likely to suffer migraines and people with neck injuries are nearly five times more likely to suffer migraines than the general population. [1] [2] While pain in the area of these nerves can trigger migraines, migraines can also inflame these same nerves. [3] It’s a vicious cycle and part of the path of a migraine detonating, even in those who don’t have jaw or neck pain.

But there is good news. Research on migraine treatments such as Botox injections, nerve blocks, migraine surgeries, migraine ointments, and migraine massages has shown that soothing these nerves can prevent or relieve migraines. To understand why a hemp cream will work in the same way, if not better, we need to learn about CGRP. Yes, the same CGRP that the next-generation migraine drugs block, which are classified as CGRP antibodies.

6. CGRP, CBD, and Migraines

The trigeminal nerve releases a peptide called CGRP during a migraine.[4] The next-generation migraine drugs were developed shortly after scientists found that the CGRP peptide triggered migraines when it was injected into migraine sufferers.[5] The new migraine drugs work by artificially blocking CGRP, which I don’t recommend for reasons discussed here. But what if there was a way to naturally stop the release of CGRP without the use of dangerous prescription drugs?

Chronic migraine sufferers have high levels of CGRP and low levels of endocannabinoids.[6] Here’s where CBD comes in to save the day. A study published by the European Journal of Pain found that topical CBD reduced CGRP, inflammation, swelling, and pain in animals with arthritis. [7] CBD does the same thing as the strongest migraine treatments, but in a natural way that is safe and healthy. To understand how CBD prevents migraines, we need to look at the big picture.

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5. The Big Picture of Topical CBD and Migraines

We know that the release of CGRP may trigger migraines. But why are the nerves associated with migraines releasing CGRP in the first place? CGRP is released as a result of exposure to inflammation and from something called oxidative stress.[8] If you’ve visited before or read my new book, you know all about oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the universal migraine trigger—it increases the risk of migraines and is associated with nearly all migraine triggers.[9]

CBD and other cannabinoids such as THC are antioxidants because they reduce oxidative stress.[10] [11] [12] [13] CBD goes to the root of the problem, which is oxidative stress, and controls it before CGRP is released and triggers a migraine. Cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body and are part of your natural endocannabinoid system. [14] CBD activates the endocannabinoid system and its cannabinoid receptors to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.[15]

In short, oxidative stress triggers the nerves that trigger migraines, and CBD cream directly soothes those same nerves by reducing oxidative stress. I wrote an entire book to sum up this complex research, but that’s the gist of it. Oxidative stress is the enemy of migraine sufferers. CBD is the antioxidant that helps migraine sufferers.

4. Is Topical CBD for Migraine Prevention or Relief?

Why not both? You can use a topical cannabinoid creams daily to prevent oxidative stress and migraines for all the reasons discussed above. Cannabinoid creams are also known for their ability to reduce pain and inflammation, which is helpful while trying to survive a migraine.[16]

Have you heard of My-Grastick? It has ingredients that are natural pain relievers and most migraine sufferers say, “This roll on definitely doesn’t cure migraines, but makes them a whole lot more manageable,” as this one reviewer wrote on Amazon. There are a ton of roll-on products and essential oils that migraine sufferers use to target the neck and face for some migraine relief, while others claim that topical oils and creams are a life-saver during migraine pain.

At worst, I believe the powerful pain relief of a cannabinoid cream may make migraines more manageable. At best, a cannabinoid cream may soothe the nerves that trigger migraines and acutely stop a migraine or prevent migraines from occurring in the first place. You can also use a topical cream in combination with the sublingual or vapor method of CBD absorption while attempting to stop a migraine or an approaching migraine.

3. How Much Topical CBD Do I Use for Migraine?

At the time of this writing, a recommended dosage of CBD has not been established for topical use and migraine. In general, the more you can relax the nerves in the face and neck, as well as the surrounding muscles, the better. You may want to use a cannabinoid cream several times per day, but you should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and, above all, consult with your doctor before using any treatment.

You’ll also want to learn more about why finding the correct CBD dosage for migraine relief is a complex subject, which I detail here. The article also discusses how to avoid fake CBD products, which may be the largest problem with attempting to treat migraines with a CBD topical cream.

2. Will I Get High or Fail a Drug Test?

No, and no. You may want to try a CBD-rich hemp cream that has small amounts of THC or a CBD-rich marijuana cream that has large amounts of THC for reasons discussed later. CBD is not psychoactive and won’t make you high. Even hemp extracts that contain low levels of THC won’t make you high when taken orally, but some people who are extremely sensitive to THC will experience side effects such as mental sluggishness or drowsiness. Cannabis extracts with high levels of THC can make you high when taken orally, but according to Dr. Alan Shackelford, a cannabis physician in Colorado, “Topically applied marijuana extracts have been found to be extremely effective for the treatment of pain, and do not exert any psychoactivity whatsoever.”[17]

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You don’t need to worry about side effects with topical hemp or marijuana creams because THC does not enter the blood stream. This is a humongous—gargantuan if you will—advantage of topical cannabis creams. Topical creams are a great alternative if you are extremely sensitive to THC, have moral concerns, or you just don’t like the idea of THC. You can confidently tell people, “I use cannabis cream (hemp or marijuana) with CBD and THC for migraine relief and it does not enter the blood stream or impair me in any way.”

1. What’s The Best CBD Cream for Migraine Relief?

The best topical CBD cream is one that contains a combination of other cannabinoids, terpenes, and nutrients found within the hemp or cannabis plant. This combination is referred to as the entourage effect, or “full-spectrum hemp,” and it increases endocannabinoid levels as well as the medicinal benefits of CBD.[18]

Just make sure the hemp or marijuana cream you select contains large amounts of CBD. Cannabis researchers note that the advantage of a CBD cream is that “topical absorption is much higher than oral CBD absorption.”[19] To give you an idea of just how well CBD absorbs through the skin, topical absorption of CBD is 10 times higher than the topical absorption of THC. [20] If you apply CBD cream on your face and neck, it will quickly and efficiently absorb into your skin to soothe the nerves that trigger migraines and their surrounding muscular tissue.

So, why choose a hemp cream with other cannabinoids if CBD is so effective? CBD may do the job on its own, but the other cannabinoids may add to CBD’s potency. THC may not absorb through the skin as efficiently as CBD, but THC is an insanely strong anti-inflammatory. For context, anti-inflammatories are among the most common migraine medications. For example, 1000 mg of aspirin was found to be just as effective as sumatriptan in 13 different studies.[21] Well, according to a peer-reviewed study published in 2008, “THC has twenty times the anti-inflammatory potency of aspirin and twice that of hydrocortisone.”[22] Anti-inflammatories help migraine sufferers and THC is a potent anti-inflammatory. THC can have a low absorption rate and still help because it is extremely potent.

I’ll give you one more example of how other nutrients found within the cannabis plant (hemp or marijuana) can fight off migraines. β-caryophyllene is one of the most abundant terpenes found in cannabis, and it has anti-inflammatory effects that are as strong as indomethacin, a potent drug used to treat migraines.[23] Indomethacin is not a first-choice migraine treatment because it can damage the gut. β-caryophyllene, on the other hand, helps protect the gut lining. β-caryophyllene has the potential to be a migraine treatment on its own with anti-inflammatory and gut-healing properties.

THC and β-Caryophyllene are two examples of other compounds found within the hemp plant that can add to the migraine relief of CBD, but there are many others. Consider a “full-spectrum” hemp cream that provides additional migraine relief over an isolated CBD cream. The research doesn’t suggest that isolated CBD won’t do the job; it merely implies you may get additional benefits and migraine relief from a hemp cream that comes with multiple migraine-fighting nutrients.

Bonus Tip

Consider a CBD cream that includes lavender and peppermint. Research has found that lavender helps partially or completely relieve migraine attacks in a large number of patients and it can even prevent migraines from occurring in the first place.[24] [25] [26] Peppermint is absurdly powerful for migraine relief, which you can read about here.

Sum It Up

Topical absorption is a great way to directly target and relieve the nerves that trigger migraines. It’s fast, it provides the entourage effect, has a high absorption rate, and completely bypasses a migraine sufferer’s gut, which is often inflamed. One of the best advantages of a cannabinoid cream is that the THC will not enter the blood and therefore it does not come with side effects. You can also use a topical hemp cream in conjunction with a sublingual hemp extract to directly target the nerves that trigger migraines as well as reduce the total levels of oxidative stress in your body. The topical use of CBD is a powerful addition to your migraine toolkit for migraine prevention and relief.