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Why Does CBD Give me a Headache?

These days CBD oil has become widely known as a useful therapeutic medicine, swiftly becoming recognized as an actual and legitimate treatment option, rather than the cousin of marijuana that it used to be known as.

However, every good medication is going to result in a few unwanted side effects. This is merely an inevitability when you are introducing drugs into your body – no matter how helpful they may be, there are always going to be a few problems along the way.

CBD is well known for not having anywhere near as significant side effects as other drugs, but that doesn’t mean it has no downsides. Many users report a mild drop in blood pressure, as well as a tendency to fall asleep in the evenings more easily. But one side effect, that is somewhat contested, is headaches.

Does CBD actually cause headaches, or is it something that only a few people experience?

Why Does CBD Have Side Effects to Begin With?

When looking at why a drug causes a side effect, it is essential to consider the fact that a side effect is just an effect of the drug that wasn’t initially desired. This is important to remember because many people think of a side effect as something sinister or otherwise deadly, when in actual fact it is merely an additional effect that you didn’t initially take the drug for – this can range from minor to more severe cases. For example, aspirin is frequently taken as a painkiller or general anti-inflammatory, but it has a well-known side effect of causing a reduction in blood clotting and general blood pressure. This is an excellent example of a side effect that actually has a positive impact, but is often not the reason that the drug was initially taken.

CBD has a number of these types of side effects, the most significant ones being a drop in blood pressure and an increase of both sleepiness and wakefulness, depending on the time of day you consume it. CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to create a variety of different effects, each of which occurs in tandem and are dependent on the dosage. One of these effects is that your vascular system relaxes as a result of the CBD’s interaction with your CB2 receptors in the ECS. This causes your arteries to relax, making your blood flow easier and just generally lower your blood pressure.

Additionally, a study published by Rodriguez et al. discovered that CBD has the ability to influence your wakefulness depending on when you take it in the day; if taken during the daylight hours, your wakefulness increases, but if taken during the evening when your body was expecting to go to sleep, then you will be able to fall asleep much more comfortably. These are both additional effects that CBD causes, rather than inherently problematic, malevolent consequences.

However, headaches can only ever be considered a negative thing, but why on earth would CBD be causing headaches, if it does at all?

Why Could CBD Cause Headaches?

A big problem with trying to report side effects of a particular drug (besides ones whose effects are apparent, like with aspirin) is that we need to rely on individual report. If an individual reports having a headache after taking CBD oil, that’s just one example, but what about if 5% of all those who take CBD oil report headaches? Thanks to the somewhat questionable legality of CBD throughout the western world, there just are no reliable ways to report individual side effects of particular drugs, at least not in a way that makes it easy to collate the data.

Instead, we need to rely on scientific studies. One study, conducted by Consroe et al. for the International Journal of Neuroscience that was looking into the effects and eventual label evaluation of CBD, found that some of the listed side effects observed in their test subjects included hypotension, dry mouth, and lightheadedness. They make no further note of anything headache related, instead only stating that certain subjects reported ‘lightheadedness.’ Could that be the headaches that some people report?

In the official report on the safety of CBD and cannabis, published in the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research Journal by Kerstin Iffland and Franjo Grotenhermen, researchers cataloged all apparent side effects that could be definitively proven to have been caused by taking CBD oil. Their list included tiredness, weight gain, and appetite changes, as well as diarrhea and the previously mentioned vascular relaxant properties. Interestingly, they make no mention whatsoever of headaches being a side effect of CBD.

At least according to the scientists, CBD doesn’t seem to cause headaches whatsoever. However, why do some people still say that they developed headaches after using CBD oil?

Reason #1: Erroneous Association

Though people don’t like to admit it, we are incredibly fallible creatures. There is a reason why witness statements in crime scenes are of such little value in the courtroom; we often get things wrong or make an incorrect association. One of the most likely reasons for why some small section of the population report headaches, after using CBD oil, could be because they already had headaches.

A headache is an incredibly vague symptom with a number of different intensities and levels – there are simple, run of the mill headaches that ache a bit, all the way to complete migraines that leave you doubled over in pain. Their causes can be anything from a bad diet or too much light, all the way to being a symptom of a brain tumor.

It is entirely possible that whatever has caused a person to use CBD oil is the real culprit of the headache; someone might be suffering from significant pain and inflammation and take CBD oil to try and treat it, only to still have a headache after taking their CBD oil. Though a reasonable person might blame their pain and general bodily health on the headache, it is human nature to blame whatever the last thing you took for whatever is ailing you.

It is entirely possible that, when people report headaches after using CBD oil, they were about to get a headache anyway. This answer is rather pessimistic about our fellow humans, so maybe there is a more clinical reason to explain the relationship between CBD and headaches?

Reason #2: Poor Quality CBD Oil

Many people think that, when you buy CBD oil, you are buying one consistent product with no discernible difference between the one you buy and every other brand on offer. However, if that were the case, why would there need to be different brands to begin with?

Unfortunately, CBD oil is still an extremely unregulated, confusingly labeled industry with no real government oversight. No matter where you place yourself on the political spectrum, we can all agree that most industries have some kind of official oversight so as to ensure consistency across all products. 

That’s right; there is such a thing as lousy quality CBD oil. Good CBD oil contains only what is absolutely necessary to transmit the CBD oil, and any other relevant cannabinoids and terpenes, into your body. This usually means only cannabis-derived compounds and an inert oil to preserve it and make it easy to imbibe. With poorer quality products, however, they seek to dilute the CBD oil so as to make it cheaper for them; by stuffing their CBD oil with other bulking ingredients, they can avoid having to spend so much money.

Common ingredients that are used to pack poor quality CBD oil is ethanol, various chemical solvents, and isopropanol. A few of these ingredients are included so as to make it both easier and cheaper to be able to use CBD oil as vape oil. The reason why these packing ingredients can sometimes cause headaches is that some people have severe reactions to these substances, especially when they are placed in a product artificially. Some people simply have adverse reactions to all sorts of different things.

This means that sometimes, when people report headaches as a result of taking CBD oil, they are actually feeling a headache as a result of the filler ingredients within the CBD oil.

Final Thoughts on CBD & Headaches

No matter what the drug is, it can be a scary thing to think that something you are taking can cause adverse reactions, especially if they are potentially dangerous ones. In the case of CBD oil, the majority of its side effects are incredibly mild, and are only really a problem if you already suffer from low blood pressure or a frequently changing diet. However, reports of headaches as a result of CBD oil is something more sinister entirely; as everyone who has ever suffered from a severe headache knows, it is no joke.

Thankfully, it doesn’t appear that it is physically possible for real, high-quality CBD oil to cause headaches. Instead, the culprit is either incorrect causation when people already have a headache, or a headache as a result of taking lower quality CBD oil.

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