CBD has proven its ability to help people who suffer from seizures and epilepsy.
CBD has grown into the leading health and wellness trend. Millions of people across the world, including Australia, are using CBD oil and other CBD products to relieve everyday issues such as pain and anxiety.
However, CBD can also help with specific, difficult-to-treat conditions such as epilepsy, a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures. Over 250,000 people currently live with epilepsy in Australia, and an estimated 3% to 3.5% of Australians will experience the condition sometime during their lives.
Medical research suggests that CBD can be effective for epilepsy. In particular, CBD has shown remarkable relief for two types of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
In fact, treatment of epilepsy is the only clinically-approved use of CBD, especially in cases resistant to standard medications.
How can CBD help with seizures and epilepsy? Is there evidence that it works? Here’s what the research shows.
How Can CBD Help with Seizures and Epilepsy
Seizures are caused by abnormal brain activity. When enough neurons (brain cells) send abnormal signals, a seizure can occur. Research suggests that CBD has anticonvulsant properties that can disrupt this dysfunctional neuronal activity by interacting with several receptors in the brain, most notably the TRPV1 receptor and serotonin receptor. In doing so, CBD effectively acts as a “circuit breaker” that stops epileptic seizures.
Additionally, CBD’s ability to increase levels of endocannabinoids — cannabinoids made by our bodies — is likely another way that CBD helps relieve seizures because the endocannabinoid system is heavily involved in regulating the central nervous system.
CBD and Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy
It’s also worth noting that about a third of epilepsy patients do not respond to standard antiepileptic medication. This is especially true for childhood forms of epilepsy such as Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
For such treatment-resistant cases, CBD is one of the only effective alternatives. This explains why many U.S. states recently enacted special laws allowing for the medical use of CBD in children with intractable, treatment-resistant epilepsy.
CBD and Epilepsy: The Research
The treatment of epilepsy is the most research-backed use of CBD. Whereas most other uses are only supported by studies of isolated cell cultures and animals, treating epilepsy with CBD has been examined in multiple human trials.
Three recent randomized clinical trials — the gold standard of medical research — highlight the exceptional efficacy of CBD in treating two types of epilepsy that primarily affect children: Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. These studies used a drug containing pure CBD called Epidiolex, the only pharmaceutical CBD medication approved for treating these types of epilepsy in the U.S. and UK.
The first of these was a 2017 study looking at the effects of CBD in children with Dravet syndrome. A total of 120 children took a placebo or CBD (20 mg per kg of body weight) in addition to standard antiepileptic drugs. The percentage of children that had at least a 50% reduction in seizures was 43% for the Epidiolex group and only 27%. Also, 5% of children in the CBD group had the seizures stop completely, compared to 0% for placebo.
Meanwhile, a 2018 study looked at the effects of CBD in 171 patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, another rare, severe type of epilepsy that begins in childhood. The study participants took a placebo or CBD (20 mg/kg body weight) alongside antiepileptic medication. The Epidiolex group experienced a 43.9% reduction in seizures, compared to only 21.8% for placebo.
Another 2018 study in 225 patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome reported similar findings. They were given placebo, or CBD in one of two doses, 10 mg/kg or 20 mg/kg of body weight, in addition to standard antiepileptic drugs. Seizures reduced by 41.9% in the 20 mg/kg CBD group, 37.2% in the 10 m/kg CBD group, and only 17.2% for placebo.
More importantly, a 2018 systematic review of 36 studies on the use of CBD and other cannabinoids for epilepsy found that CBD significantly reduced seizures and even completely stopped them in some cases.
Some of the key findings of this paper:
- CBD was more effective than placebo at completely stopping seizures and improving the quality of life of epilepsy sufferers
- Combined data from 17 observational studies shows that nearly half of patients experienced a 50% or greater seizure reduction
- In 14 observational studies, a combined 8.5% of patients became completely seizure-free
Taken together, the current research findings suggest that CBD may offer epilepsy relief. In particular, there’s high-quality evidence that CBD is effective for Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, two rare types of epilepsy that begin in childhood.
Full-Spectrum CBD Oil for Seizures and Epilepsy
Although most studies of CBD for epilepsy included purified CBD (isolate), there’s evidence that whole-plant CBD preparations are more effective.
For example, a 2018 paper reviewing the use of CBD for treatment-resistant epilepsy found that patients taking whole-plant, CBD-rich extracts required smaller doses and had fewer side effects than those using pure CBD.
The researchers attributed this to the “entourage effect” — the holistic synergy between all of the beneficial compounds in cannabis.
These types of CBD preparations are called full spectrum because they contain all of the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other naturally-occurring compounds in cannabis. As such, we recommend using a full-spectrum CBD oil for seizures and epilepsy.