CBD and Epilepsy
Studies show that CBD can alleviate epileptic seizures.
As researchers continue investigating why CBD is an effective treatment for epilepsy symptoms, more hope is revealed.
Research into cannabidiol (CBD) is growing each year, with new studies confirming medicinal properties that humans have been utilizing for thousands of years. People are rushing to CBD as an alternative treatment for several physiological issues, from weight loss to anxiety.
One such illness that CBD is being used for is treating epilepsy, which affects one in every 26 people globally. This translates to about 3.5 million people in the U.S. and 65 million people across the world.
Doctors are gradually warming up to CBD as a legitimate treatment for epileptic seizures. At the same time, more studies are needed to shed light on how CBD helps reduce epilepsy.
Before learning how CBD treats epilepsy, it helps to know what epilepsy is.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a brain disorder characterized by sudden, often unprovoked seizures. In most cases, seizure triggers are random, but some triggers include flashing lights, strokes, or drug abuse. Genetics and brain injury can cause the disorder itself.
In epileptic brains, a large group of neurons will fire excessively and in synchrony. Whereas in healthy brains, neurons tend to fire non-synchronously, and an individual neuron’s ability to keep firing is less likely.
Medical experts think that chronic inflammation may be one factor in epilepsy. Additionally, damaged neuronal circuitry following brain injury, or the blood-brain barrier’s failure to prevent certain substances from entering the brain, could be other causes.
Traditionally, doctors prescribe antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) to treat epilepsy patients. However, AEDs are sometimes not effective enough. For this reason, CBD is becoming increasingly appealing as an additional or alternative treatment.
CBD to treat epilepsy
CBD is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis plants and does not induce the “high” that THC is associated with. Instead, CBD acts on the endocannabinoid system — receptors in animal bodies that bind with molecules from cannabis plants — in more subtle ways. For example, CBD acts as an effective anti-inflammatory.
Medicinal CBD extracts are usually derived from hemp plants, which contain less than 0.3% THC content.
Typically, CBD is used to treat two specific forms of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome.
A plant-based CBD formula known as Epidiolex was FDA approved in 2018 and is one of the leading CBD-based medications for epilepsy. Several early studies of the medicine have shown its effectiveness in alleviating seizures caused by LGS and Dravet syndrome when paired with other AEDs.
Arguably the most well-known commercial CBD strain is called Charlotte’s Web. Its namesake is a child patient named Charlotte Figi, who suffered from frequent seizures. Her form of epilepsy was Dravet syndrome, resulting in hundreds of epileptic attacks per week.
After doctors exhausted traditional methods, Charlotte’s family turned to cannabis in search of a remedy. They discovered a cannabis strain low in THC and high in CBD and began administering it to Charlotte after consulting with professionals.
Immediately, CBD significantly reduced Charlotte’s seizures. Instead of about 300 attacks per week, she was experiencing just a few per month.
Charlotte’s success with CBD became a considerable boost to positive public sentiment surrounding cannabis and is considered one reason why cannabis legalization has gained momentum.
Additional research on CBD for epilepsy
Despite these promising studies and early successes, it’s still not fully understood exactly how CBD treats seizures, but the anti-inflammatory and sedative properties may play a part.
Furthermore, current research is looking into a protein called GPR55; a neuron receptor thought to be a part of the endocannabinoid system. GPR55 is associated with other illnesses such as cancer and inflammatory pain. CBD interacts with GPR55 in an inhibitory way.
Now that governments are easing CBD restrictions, scientists can research its properties more rigorously.
In 2018, the U.S. government passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which effectively legalized CBD at a federal level. Since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD has been subject to more research than ever before. New studies are reinforcing CBD’s health benefits each year, and epilepsy patients are receiving special attention.
Those who are suffering financially or have exhausted traditional options may find CBD to be a suitable alternative. Consult with your doctor before using CBD to treat any illness, including epilepsy, and especially when prescribing a CBD regimen for your child.