How CBD Can Treat Epilepsy
Complex disorders like epilepsy are generally very difficult to treat. For the most part, people who suffer from epileptic seizures are prescribed anti-seizure medication. Not only do these meds have a plethora of side-effects like drowsiness, increased or decreased appetite and thirst, anxiety, nausea, fatigue, behavior changes and so on, but sometimes they are ineffective
Complex disorders like epilepsy are generally very difficult to treat. For the most part, people who suffer from epileptic seizures are prescribed anti-seizure medication. Not only do these meds have a plethora of side-effects like drowsiness, increased or decreased appetite and thirst, anxiety, nausea, fatigue, behavior changes and so on, but sometimes they are ineffective in reducing the number of seizures these people experience.
Fortunately, a safe alternative exists and it goes by the name of Cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD. This marvelous ingredient is a type of cannabinoid; a naturally occurring substance found in varieties of cannabis plants like hemp and marijuana that has anticonvulsant properties, meaning that a cannabis oil containing CBD may help in treating epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder where different groups of neurons act abnormally, causing sudden uncontrollable movements of the body, temporary loss of consciousness, and confusion. There are several different types of seizures a person might experience, the main two being focal and generalized.
Focal seizures happen as a result of the neurons’ abnormal activity in only one part of the brain, causing muscle contractions only on one side of the body, facial tics, saliva overproduction and so on. Generalized seizures, on the other hand, happen as a result of the neurons’ abnormal activity in both parts of the brain, causing unexpected jerking movements of the whole body usually followed by loss of consciousness.
If the seizures have a knowing cause, like a tumor or some damaging in the right area of the brain, we call it symptomatic epilepsy. Otherwise, if we can’t identify the cause of the seizures, we call it idiopathic epilepsy.
CBD and Epileptic Seizures
CBD is completely safe for both children and adults because of the following reasons:
- It’s not psychoactive, so it doesn’t alter one’s sensations and perceptions.
- It doesn’t have sedative effects, so it doesn’t cause sleepiness and drowsiness*.
- It’s a non-addictive substance; in fact, it can help in overcoming other addictions.
- It’s legal worldwide, but only when derived from the industrial hemp plant.
Research from the past couple of decades demonstrates CBD’s anticonvulsant properties and its ability to dramatically reduce the number of epileptic seizures. This is because of our endocannabinoid system and our naturally occurring cannabinoid receptor cells throughout the body. By boosting the activity of the cannabinoid receptors and activating others as well, CBD is responsible for fighting diseases associated with the brain, the central nervous system, and the immune system.
CBD and Charlotte Figi
In the last couple of years, CBD oil has been known a potentially effective treatment for epileptic seizures in adults and children, especially since the release of the CNN’s story on Charlotte Figi in 2013, a child with a very rare form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome. Dr. Sanjay Gupta shocked people around the world after witnessing the almost miraculous effects hemp oil had on Charlotte. Due to this rare and extreme form of epilepsy, from the time she was 2 years old, Charlotte had constant seizures which are very difficult to control. She even came to a point where she had around 300 uncontrollable seizures a day. Her parents had tried everything, from diets and acupuncture to all kinds of drugs like valium – some of which nearly killed her. After using a CBD Hemp oil, Charlotte’s seizures nearly stopped completely. She is the youngest patient at the time to have used this product, and its benefits regarding epilepsy are undeniable. The hemp oil had such an amazing effect on her seizures, that it was actually named “Charlotte’s Web”.
According to a survey conducted in 2013, where 19 parents of children who were struggling with treatment-resistant epilepsy took part, CBD’s effects were undeniable. Up to 84% of the parents reported their children’s severe seizures to have significantly reduced, while two of them reported complete seizure freedom.
An animal study published in 2010 only confirms CBD’s anticonvulsant effects. The animals treated with CBD experienced a great reduction in severe epileptic seizures as opposed to those who were treated with a vehicle.
Let’s concentrate on the most recent study regarding CBD’s effect on epileptic seizures, published in 2017 by Raquel Arujo Do Val-Da Silva et al. The study involved rats who were split into three groups. The first group was being treated with CBD while experiencing the seizures, the second one was treated with CBD before the seizures started, while the third one received a placebo. Researchers concluded that not only did CBD reduce the number of seizures the rats were experiencing, but their reduced the seizure’s severity as well, which happened to the second group that was being given CBD before the seizures occurred. The second group of rats also had less neuronal loss in the hippocampal, or in other words, the neurons in their brain were less affected after the seizures. This occurs due to the fact that CBD actually promotes hippocampal neurogenesis, or growth of new cells in the hippocampus, by activating the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors.
What Does the American Epilepsy Society Say?
The number of people who suffer from treatment-resistant epilepsy is as high as one-third of all epilepsy sufferers. In February of this year (2017), something amazing happened for CBD and its status as an anti-seizure medicine. The American Epileptic Society, after conducting a study which involved treatment-resistant epilepsy sufferers that began in 2014, confirmed CBD to be an effective anti-seizure medicine that can even stop seizures altogether.
The study was conducted by Dr. Orrin Devinsky et al. and involved 261 patients who had treatment-resistant epilepsy. Most common types of epilepsy the patients had were Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, like little Charlotte had. Before CBD was in the picture, the doctor asked the patient’s parents or caregivers to take notes of all the seizures they experience every day, something like keeping a diary of their epileptic attacks for one month so that a comparison could be made after the treatment was over. After those 4 weeks, the patients were given a certain dose of plant-derived CBD, starting from 2 to 5mg a day up to 25mg in the course of only 3 months. Each month the patients were being tested and results were being compared.
After the 12-week treatment was over, the results were astounding. The frequency of the seizures in ALL patients was reduced by almost half, their frequency in the Dravete syndrome patients more than half, or precisely 62.7% whereas for the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome patients an incredible 71%. All in all, 47% of the patients had a seizure reduction greater than 50%, while for 9% of all there was a complete seizure freedom.
This study only confirms all the previous finding in animal studies, that CBD has undeniable anticonvulsant properties which significantly reduces, and in some cases completely stops seizures and their frequency, even in treatment-resistant epilepsy patients.
CBD oil and other CBD products have become quite popular in the treatment of epileptic seizures in both children and adults. As the time goes by, more and more people become aware of CBD’s benefits and positive effects when treating various conditions and diseases. However, long-term scientific research and studies are needed so that one day CBD use becomes acceptable by everyone.
* CBD has sedative effects when taken in higher doses. This happens due to CBD’s biphasic properties, meaning that its effect depends on the dosage. When taken in small amounts it promotes alertness and wakefulness. However, when taken in larger amounts (more than several hundred milligrams) it acts as a sedative substance by inducing sleepiness.