CBD and Epilepsy
In 2013 Charlotte Figi changed the discourse on medical marijuana and CBD forever. Charlotte was born in 2006 and suffered from a severe case of Dravet syndrome, a form of epilepsy. At one point she was suffering from around 1,200 seizures a month, making her quality of life almost unbearable. Her parents were beginning to despair for the wellbeing of their daughter when they eventually decided to try medical marijuana - after trying all other available options. This was so effective that her treat seizures dropped to three times a month, allowing much more normal life and childhood. A special strain was created which was high in CBD (which was the effective component) and extremely low in THC (meaning it could not induce a high) - this is called Charlotte’s Web.
Since then, CBD and cannabis plant has been a vital part of the development of epilepsy treatment. International Epilepsy Day falls on the second Monday of February every year. This day is important to bring awareness to the experiences faced by people living with epilepsy and those close to them. To mark this day we’ve collected the news and research on CBD and epilepsy, and brought it into one useful place for you.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder. The main symptoms of severe forms of epilepsy are seizures, which can vary in frequency, scope, and severity. Epilepsy is a lifelong condition, but the seizures frequency may vary from daily to annually. Drug-resistant seizures are a result of dysfunctional electrical activity in the brain, and while this can start anywhere in the brain, it can also spread anywhere in the brain. The further the spread, the more severe the seizure frequency and chronic pain. The seizure and tuberous sclerosis complex can physically affect the whole body or just part, e.g. a limb.
There are three types of epilepsy:
- Focal onset - where the abnormal electrical activity is experienced in a specific region of the brain.
- Generalised onset - where the abnormal electrical activity is experienced in both sides of the brain, resulting in more severe and widespread effects for the body.
- Unknown onset - this is the most challenging type as the source is unidentifiable, the treatment course is much more challenging.
So why do seizures occur? The brain is built up of neurons that are purposed to transfer messages throughout the brain and body, through electrical impulses. For this to be effective, the neurons need to act together in some kind of order. If you think about a large meeting, nothing will be communicated if everybody speaks at once. But this is exactly what happens during a seizure; a large group of neurons will send messages simultaneously, which is known as hypersynchrony. This disrupts brain functionality and can spike changes in taste, vision, sound, smell, language, movement, emotion, and consciousness.
Although it hasn’t been fully established how extensive research and clinical trials have shown that CBD has a dramatic effect in reducing epileptic seizures. A meta-analysis took 670 people with varying cases of epilepsy and gave them full-spectrum CBD over the course of a year. At the end of the observation, 40% of participants saw their seizures halved, a quarter had a 70% drop, and 10% were seizure-free by the end .
There are multiple promising and proven theories as to why CBD is so effective to treat epilepsy:
- CBD is an anticonvulsant 
- CBD is neuroprotective 
- CBD modulates brain receptors
- CBD is an anti-inflammatory 
- CBD improves GABA activity 
Epidiolex is the name of the prescription medicine used to treat and control seizures in those who suffer from Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome. This contains CBD and is FDA approved. As the first-FDA approved drug made from cannabis, Epidiolex has changed the view on cannabis and CBD.
CBD for treatment-resistant epilepsy
When taking CBD to manage epilepsy symptoms and seizures, it is important to use full spectrum CBD. Studies that have shown CBD and antiepileptic drugs to be effective in their treatment have found that extract containing a variety of other cannabinoids (known as full spectrum) is more beneficial. This is due to the synergy of the cannabinoids, which work in the extract as they would work in nature, along with terpenes and other phytocannabinoids.
CBD comes in various forms, and choosing the right one for you is important and personal:
- CBD oil is amongst the most popular, offering high bioavailability and simple dosing
- CBD capsules carry the exact benefits of CBD oil, but they can make measuring dosage even simpler as they are premeasured
- CBD e liquids are particularly popular for sudden onset afflictions, such as epilepsy, as the cannabinoid enters the bloodstream almost immediately - offering quick relief
The evidence is all here that CBD is one of the most promising new treatments for refractory epilepsy, even to those forms which up to now have been resistant to treatment. If you are looking to use CBD to help manage drug-resistant epilepsy, ensure that the product is of the highest quality. This can be done by looking at customer reviews and also checking for third-party laboratory certificates on the manufacturer's website. It is not advised that you stop the course of any medication you may currently be taking, but rather to add CBD as a supplement. Please consult your doctor about any concerns or changes you wish to make to your current treatment.
Disclaimer: The statements made regarding cannabis plant (CBD) products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and clinical data. CBD products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, prevent any adverse health effects, chronic pain or treating alcohol addiction.
- Potential Clinical Benefits of CBD-Rich Cannabis Extracts Over Purified CBD in Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy
- Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Hard Evidence at Last?
- Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids
- Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs
- Effects of cannabidiol on brain excitation and inhibition systems; a randomised placebo-controlled single dose trial during magnetic resonance spectroscopy in adults with and without autism spectrum disorder