Epileptic seizures are caused by a disruption of the signal transduction in the brains. An attack is often accompanied by the convulsing of the body, falling, strange movement and losing consciousness. Epilepsy is not a single disease but a family of disorders characterized by an increased risk of getting a seizure as described. Cannabinoids such as CBD may have a beneficial effect on certain types of epilepsy.
What does science tell us?
Stories about the use of cannabis as a remedy for epilepsy have been around for thousands of years. In 1840 it is first described in scientific literature . This publication describes how a child with epilepsy was successfully treated with cannabis. Strangely, there are only a few studies done later in time that examined the effect of cannabis on epilepsy in humans. Evidence for the effectiveness of cannabis on epilepsy comes primarily from animal studies or personal testimonies.
In one of the few clinical studies that have been performed fifteen subjects suffering from epilepsy were divided into two groups . One group received 200 to 300mg CBD per day for a period of 4.5 months, the other group received a placebo. Of the eight people who received CBD, four were completely symptom free throughout the whole period, three of them had fewer complaints and on one patient CBD had no effect. In the placebo group, there was one patient who clearly revamped, no effect was observed in the other six.
In animal studies that induced epileptic seizures in mice, it was found that mice have fewer attacks when they had been given CBD .
CBD compared to THC
THC and CBD have also been compared in terms of their efficacy against epilepsy. CBD turned out to be more reliable in blocking epileptic seizures in comparison to THC. In children who are refractory to standard anti-epileptic medication CBD can possibly be a solution. Moreover, CBD is better tolerated by children than regular medication and gives no adverse motoric side effects. And last but not least, there are no indications that CBD is neurotoxic [4,5].
Is a new medicine needed to treat epilepsy?
There is already a lot of different medication available for treating epilepsy, but 30% of patients continue to have uncontrolled seizures, no matter what medication they try. Furthermore, it turns out that in 50% of the cases a drug which helped against epilepsy at first instance, no longer works later in time. So there definitely is a need for new and better tools in the fight against epilepsy.
Advice for using cannabinoids against epilepsy
Always consult your doctor or specialist first when you are considering the use of cannabinoids. Click here to read more about safe use of cannabinoids.
- O’Shaughnessy, W.B. (1840). On the preperations of the Indian hemp, or gunjah (Cannabis inidica). Transactions of the Midical an Physical Society of Bengal, 71-102.
- Cuncha, J.M., Carlini, E.A., Pereira, A.E. et al. (1980). Chronic administration of cannabidiol to healthy volunteers and epileptic patients. Pharmacology, 21(3):175-85.
- Shirazi-zand, Z., Ahmad Maloaei, L. Motamedi, F., Naderi, N. (2013). The role of potassium BK channels in anticonsulvant effect of cannabidiol in pentylenetetrazole and maximal electroshock models of seizure in mice. Epilepsy Behav, 28(1): 1-7.
- Consroe, P., Benedito, M.A., Leite, J.R., Carlini, E.A., Mechoulam R. (1982) Effects of cannabidiol on behavioral seizures caused by convulsant drugs or current in mice. European Journal of Pharmacol. 83(3-4):293-8
- Jones, N.A., Hill, A.J., Weston, S.E., et al. (2012). Cannabidiol exerts anti-consulvant effects in animal models of temporal lobe and partial seizures. Seizure, 21(5), 344-352.
- Not available online.