Among the many potential health benefits offered by CBD, its anti-convulsive effect is one of the most comprehensively studied. Let’s take a look at how CBD may work to help prevent or reduce seizures, and what this means for CBD’s greater potential in medicine.
Some Facts About Seizures
Seizures are caused by bursts of uncontrolled electrical activity, or electrical misfires, in the brain. A seizure may present as uncontrollable tremors, twitching, jerking, stiffness, or limpness which usually affects one or both sides of the face, arms, or legs, or the whole body. A seizure could be limited to one area of the body or it could spread to other areas.
There are different types of seizures as determined by what causes them:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Brain infection
- Drug overdose
- Sleep deprivation
- Electrolyte imbalances
CBD for Seizures
Cannabis studies have shown great promise in the treatment of neurological conditions, and these studies finally bore fruit when the FDA approved the plant-based and CBD-formulated drug, EPIDIOLEX®, for the treatment of seizures associated with two types of epilepsy — Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
This new CBD drug was a milestone not just for CBD, but also for these two epilepsy syndromes, as most individuals who suffer from them usually do not respond to other anti-convulsive medications. The drug was used in controlled clinical trials and was shown to reduce the frequency of seizures.
Epidiolex contains pharmaceutical-grade, purified CBD oil derived from cannabis. The cannabis plant, or Cannabis sativa, actually refers to both marijuana and hemp — the two main sources of two of the most widely studied cannabinoids, CBD and THC. CBD and THC are the most active compounds in cannabis, and they work together alongside more than 120 other cannabinoids to deliver various health effects which may prove to have great therapeutic value.
Marijuana is known for its THC content, which is responsible for the plant’s euphoric effects — or the “high” that marijuana users experience; it also contains CBD, but in much lower amounts. Hemp, on the other hand, has high amounts of CBD and only trace amounts of THC — making it the ideal source for CBD.
Earlier studies involving animal models found that CBD has a better anticonvulsant profile compared to THC; and the lack of psychoactive effects further makes CBD the more ideal cannabinoid for treating seizures.
It’s not yet fully understood how CBD works inside the body to deliver its potential benefits. But the discovery of the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) through earlier THC studies gave birth to the widely accepted theory that the ability of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids to directly interact with the ECS may reveal the pathway through which these cannabinoids influence some of the body’s responses.
The ECS is found in the central and peripheral nervous systems, and is made up of a vast network of transmitters and receptors. The theory is that CBD has a similar structure to the body’s ECS transmitters and, therefore, can influence their interactions with receptors. As a neurological condition, epileptic seizures directly involve the ECS.
The Future of CBD in Medicine
Until recently, CBD studies have been extremely limited by federal regulations, as cannabis — the CBD plant source — is classified as a controlled substance. The exemption of hemp — a variety of cannabis with only 0.3% THC or lower — and all hemp-derived products from this classification has made it possible for scientists to further their research on the potential health benefits of CBD.
The development of a drug using CBD from hemp for the treatment of two severe forms of epilepsy is a big step for CBD’s future in medicine. With more studies now underway, it’s only a matter of time until CBD’s pharmaceutical value is proven and more CBD drugs are developed and approved.
Keep in mind that only Epidiolex has been FDA-approved to treat seizures associated with epilepsy. While consumers now have easy access to CBD oil and other CBD products, these products are not subject to strict FDA regulations; therefore, their quality and efficacy can’t be guaranteed. Before using any CBD product for a medical condition, and especially if you’re already taking other medications, always consult a doctor first.
Just as important is knowing how to choose good-quality CBD products. CBD is generally safe to use and is well-tolerated by most individuals, but poor-quality products can easily compromise this safety.