Can CBD Treat Epilepsy?

UPDATED ON JANUARY 30TH, 2019

Epilepsy, commonly known as “seizure disorder,” is a neurological disorder that affects people of all ages. It is generally characterized by unpredictable seizures and can cause other health problems.

There are several different types of seizures that can not only vary from person to person, but it’s also common for one person to experience more than one type of seizure. The seizures themselves may be related to a brain injury, or it can be inherited.

Current Treatments

The Epilepsy Foundation explains that “no seizures, no side effects” is the number one goal of epilepsy treatments. Currently, there are a few different forms of treatment. Each type of treatment depends on the individual and the type of seizures they experience. The main forms of treatment are:

  • medications
  • dietary therapies
  • neuromodulation
  • surgery
  • alternative therapies

Medications

The most common forms of medications epileptic patients are prescribed are called anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) or anti-seizure drugs. They will control seizures for about 7 out of 10 patients. Unfortunately, at least 3 out of 10 patients experience negative side effects from these medications.

The CDC recently reported that around 56% of adults who take seizure medications still have seizures. Between 30-40% of people taking seizure medications have drug-resistant epilepsy. Around 5-10% of these patients are able to achieve complete seizure control with different seizure medications or higher doses of their original medications.

Dietary Therapies

Common dietary therapies include looking at the person’s diet and removing any processed or foods that are not considered “clean.” A common diet to follow would be the ketogenic diet, which is a high-fat and low carbohydrate diet. Another is a modified Atkins Diet, which is similar to the keto diet.

Neuromodulation

Another option is called neuromodulation, which involves using a device that sends small electric currents to the nervous system. By stimulating the nerve cells, this can release the substance in the body that change how cells act or even help one another go back to their normal state. It’s less invasive and does not require removing any portion of the brain.

Surgery

Surgery is another option for some epileptic patients, which removes the area of the brain that causes the seizure. This requires extensive monitoring for an extended period of time to determine the exact location of the brain that causes the seizure.

Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies include chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation, relaxation techniques, massage therapy, movement therapies, yoga, hypnotherapy, as well as using herbs, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics.

CBD Treatment for Epilepsy

CBD has been used to help patients with epilepsy for many years. The first report of its use was from 1881 where the anti-epileptic effects of CBD was documented by Dr. J. Russel Reynolds. For over 140 years CBD has been used to treat seizure disorders and positive results.

In a small clinical study published in the Karger Pharmacology Journal, 4 out of the 8 patients who were being prescribed CBD to treat their seizure disorder were almost free on convulsions after 4.5 months of use. 3 demonstrated partial improvement and 1 saw no distinctive change. These patients were given .3 mg/kg daily of CBD throughout the trial period.

Another study published in 2018 by Epilepsy & Behavior  focused on the frequency in response to epileptic patients and highly purified CBD. CBD was administered to 72 children and 60 adults. Patients received from 5mg/kg/day up to a max dose of 50 mg/kg/day. Doctors monitored treatment for adverse events using the Chalfont Seizure Severity Scale (CSSS) and seizure frequency (SF) using seizure calendars. Of the 139 patients, their adverse events profile decreased.

In June 2018 the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex as the first CBD-based treatment that controls epileptic seizures in Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. It’s unknown if CBD will be approved for use in other types of seizures; more research is needed.

THC has also been studied to treat seizure disorders, and have shown very promising results. Since THC is not legal in the United States, CBD has become a more popular choice since it can provide relief and does not cause a “high.” Further research is being done to determine what exactly CBD does in order to help give relief to those suffering from seizures disorders. Researchers still don’t understand how CBD reduces seizures, but it’s believed to have something to do with how CBD interacts with the hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for exchanging information to different parts of the brain, and when an exchange is disrupted, this is when epilepsy occurs.