Epilepsy is defined as a “chronic disorder that causes unprovoked, recurrent seizures. A seizure is a sudden rush of electrical activity in the brain.” Generalized seizures affect the whole brain and focal (or partial) seizures affect one part. Seizures can vary in length and severity. A mild one is usually brief and the person will lack awareness, making it harder to identify. Stronger episodes can cause muscle spasms with uncontrollable movements. Some people lose consciousness or become confused. These seizures can last up to several minutes. Epilepsy is the 4th most common neurological disorder. Family history and brain injuries are potential causes; but for most, the cause for this disorder is unknown. An estimated 3.4 million people in the United States have epilepsy and approximately 470,000 of those are children.
CBD (cannabidiol) is a cannabinoid found in the highest concentration in the hemp plant. CBD works with a physiological system in the body called the endocannabinoid system. The ECS uses cannabinoids as fuel to regulate functions like sleep, mood, inflammation pain and immune function. The primary goal of the ECS is to create internal balance, or homeostasis. Through the ECS, CBD is capable of being an anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-depressant, anti-anxiolytic and anti-convulsant.
CBD works to block the receptors for a neurotransmitter called glutamate. Glutamate is a primary excitatory neuron and can lead to epileptic seizures. Epileptic seizures occur when excessive electrical activity within the neuron networks of the brain occurs. By blocking the reception of glutamate, the risk of seizures is reduced(3).
The Journal of Epilepsy Research released a publication that referred to CBD as “superior” in reducing the frequency of seizures. The article notes that CBD was more effective than THC due to a “better defined anticonvulsant profile” and concerns that THC could trigger seizures. Cannabidiol is noted as being especially effective in Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome . Value was also placed on CBD working to minimize drug resistant seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex and Sturge-Weber syndrome.
CBD products are being used in children with great success and CBD does not cause psychoactive effects (or “highs”). CBD is an anti-epileptic, reducing the severity and occurrences of seizures. Many people have heard of Charlotte Figi, who suffers from Dravet Syndrome. This syndrome causes seizures and paralysis. She was experiencing over 300 weekly episodes, until her mother started a regimen of CBD oil. Her case was so severe, Charlotte wasn’t expected to live past the age of 6. Her episodes now average less than one per week. This is only one example and many parents are posting testimonials of their children online.
Interest, research and applications of CBD are gaining traction in the medical and scientific communities. Most government agencies discredited CBD in the past, they are starting to recognize the benefits of the cannabinoid. The FDA recently approved a pharmaceutical used for severe seizure syndromes, Epidiolex, which is significantly comprised of cannabidiol.