Epilepsy was one of the first conditions to bring medical cannabis to the forefront of the news, a couple of years ago. A disorder of the central nervous system causing seizures, epilepsy is a dangerous condition that can affect people of any age.
Unfortunately, some types of epilepsy are very hard to treat and can be disabling. So when people started finding that consuming cannabis could prevent and even stop seizures completely, this quickly made the news. These cases sparked a real debate on the legalization of medical cannabis. Today, after a few years of research, cannabis is widely accepted as an effective treatment for several types of epilepsy.
So what is the action of cannabis on the body, and why does it treat epilepsy? And can CBD (a non-psychoactive compound of cannabis) be as effective as medical marijuana in preventing seizures? What kind of CBD oil to buy for epilepsy? Here’s what you need to understand about epilepsy and CBD, and its effects on our nervous system.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders, affecting 65 million people worldwide. Those who suffer from it are prone to recurring seizures of varying intensity.
A seizure is a sudden electric disturbance in the brain. It can cause a loss of awareness lasting from a few seconds to several minutes. In its more extreme forms, a seizure can cause muscle spasms throughout the whole body.
Anyone can get a seizure, though they are more common in old age, after a stroke or following a head injury. People who experience regular seizures, often starting in childhood, have epilepsy.
Although there is currently no cure for epilepsy, there are a couple of treatment options that can prevent seizures. The first step to preventing further seizures is usually identifying triggers and trying to avoid them. Triggers can be different for everyone, but the most common ones are:
- Bright or flashing lights
- Lack of sleep
- Taking stimulants like caffeine or other drugs
- Alcohol and some types of medicine
- Food sensitivities
Avoiding triggers is often combined with some form of medication. Anti Seizure medicines are taken as a form of prevention—when they work well, the patient can expect to go months without experiencing a seizure. They work by reducing electrical activity and calming down neurotransmitters, which can stop the surge of signals that cause seizures.
Although there are quite a few epilepsy medications out there, some people with so-called “hard-to-treat” cases of epilepsy don’t get any relief from them. For those, there are a couple more treatment options available, including:
- Brain surgery
- Lifestyle changes
- Wearing a vagus nerve stimulator
And when all else fails, some people have found relief using medical cannabis. Today, many countries have approved the use of a CBD-based drug called Epidiolex to treat some rarer forms of epilepsy. In recent years, research on the use of medical marijuana to treat epilepsy has been very fruitful, showing that it could be highly effective in preventing further seizures, with very few side effects.
So how do cannabis and CBD work on seizures? And how can they be used to help people with epilepsy? and Which cbd oil should i buy for epilepsy? Here’s what we know on the topic of epilepsy and CBD so far.
What is CBD?
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is extracted from the cannabis plant.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a psychoactive compound, responsible for causing the “high” that people feel when smoking marijuana. It also has some well-researched medicinal properties, like reducing pain, treating insomnia and helping with loss of appetite.
CBD is a non-psychoactive (non-intoxicating) compound of cannabis that has been the subject of much research over recent years. It boasts impressive anti-inflammatory properties, the ability to relieve depression, anxiety and nausea, and even to prevent seizures.
CBD is legal on a federal level in the United States, as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC. However, it is still prohibited by certain state laws and doesn’t have FDA approval. We encourage you to consult a physician before you start taking the best CBD for epilepsy.
CBD research in epilepsy
The use of medical cannabis for epilepsy dates back hundreds of years. In fact, recent research found that cannabis was used as a treatment for seizures and epilepsy throughout the Islamic world in ancient times.
In the twentieth century, cannabis was made illegal throughout most of the world, which prevented its use in medicine. But the past decade has seen a rapid increase in research concerning cannabis and epilepsy.
More recently, a lot of CBD research in epilepsy on medical cannabis has focused on isolating CBD. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, we believe that CBD is a cannabinoid that has a direct impact on the central nervous system. This makes it potentially effective in preventing seizures. Secondly, CBD is also not psychoactive. Many people with epilepsy who look into cannabis as a potential treatment option don’t want the “high” associated with it. Many are children, for whom consuming THC can be dangerous.
A 2017 review of recent research on the topic found that we now have conclusive evidence to consider CBD an effective way to prevent a number of epileptic disorders. For example, studies conducted on patients with Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes showed that taking daily doses of a CBD-based medicine resulted in significantly fewer seizures in comparison with the control group.
How does CBD work on epilepsy?
CBD belongs to a class of compounds called cannabinoids. These compounds have the ability to bind to receptors in our bodies, impacting the endocannabinoid system. This system is present in the bodies of all mammals and regulates things like mood, appetite, pain and inflammation.
Scientists are not fully sure yet what it is about CBD that makes it effective in treating epilepsy. We suspect that the CB1 receptors are closely connected with the central nervous system, and can impact the strength of electric signals in the brain.
What are the side effects of cbd?
We know that CBD has the potential to be very effective in preventing seizures. But is it safe, or at least safer than other anti-epileptic drugs?
In 2019, a group of Italian scientists reviewed several studies on the effects of CBD oil for epilepsy to answer this question. What they found was that CBD only caused “non-serious” side effects. However, when taken in conjunction with other antiepileptic drugs like valproate, CBD had the potential to impact the liver. These effects were only subtle, but they let us know that we have to be careful when combining CBD-based medicine with other drugs.
How to use CBD oil for epilepsy
People with epilepsy who want to look into using CBD oil or CBD-based medicine to prevent seizures should first consult a health professional.
In a number of countries, including the US, Canada and the UK, a drug known as Epidiolex can now be prescribed to children and adults with epilepsy. There have been a number of trials on that particular drug, which gives us indications about its dosage and potential interaction with other drugs.
For that reason, it may be better to resort to prescription Epidiolex rather than over-the-counter CBD products to treat epilepsy. And, if you are looking where to buy CBD for epilepsy you come to the right place.
Seizures that can severely impact the lives of people with epilepsy. Although there are many antiepileptic treatment options, many of those who suffer from epileptic disorders are yet to find one that works for them. In recent years, scientists have been investigating the use of medical cannabis and CBD to prevent seizures. They found that cannabinoid compounds were very effective in lowering rates of seizures. These findings even led to the formulation of a new, CBD-based drug called Epidiolex. Today, it is one of the most promising new ways to treat epilepsy.
Epilepsy facts and figures
Cannabis and CBD for epilepsy studies
2017 review of research on cannabinoids and epilepsy
2017 study on the use of CBD for seizures caused by Dravet syndrome
2018 study on the effects of CBD for seizures caused by Lennox-Gastaut syndrome
Safety of CBD for epilepsy
2019 review of the side effects of CBD for epilepsy