As you’ve educated yourself on CBD, the potential benefits of cannabidiol for epilepsy was probably one of the first subjects you learned about. CBD for epilepsy is one of the most-researched cannabidiol-related topics, and scientists firmly believe that this natural, plant-based compound with a negligible side effect profile may be capable of treating otherwise untreatable types of epileptic conditions.
It’s natural, however, to be skeptical about the benefits of CBD for epilepsy. Does mere CBD really stop children from having seizures dozens of times a day, and is stopping seizures the only notable benefit of CBD for people with epilepsy? While there’s still a lot to learn about CBD and epilepsy, we’ve compiled all the available knowledge in this comprehensive guide to give you a leg up as you select the best CBD products on the market to use for your epileptic condition or the condition of someone you love.
Why Should You Use CBD for Epilepsy?
The evidence is compelling that CBD may be able to reduce the symptoms or even entirely eliminate certain forms of childhood epilepsy. The remarkable potential benefits of this cannabinoid for children who would otherwise go through incredible suffering first garnered mainstream attention when CNN aired a documentary called Weed in 2013.
In this groundbreaking documentary, CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta was invited into the lives of the Figi family, whose young daughter Charlotte suffered from a rare epileptic condition called Dravet syndrome. Despite being only three years old at the time, Charlotte was experiencing over 300 seizures a week.
More than 40 times per day, Charlotte’s parents had to go through the heart-wrenching experience of watching their small daughter convulse on the couch or the floor until her seizure was over. Charlotte had trouble eating and sleeping, and she was on multiple types of medication that didn’t help but caused serious side effects instead.
The Figis’ Decision
Out of desperation, Charlotte’s parents looked to medical marijuana for help. At this time, CBD wasn’t incredibly popular in the United States or anywhere else, but being Colorado residents, the Figis had access to one of the most progressive medical marijuana programs in the nation.
While the Figis didn’t want to get Charlotte high, they were willing to try to do anything to help. Thankfully, they were able to get their hands on one of the first CBD-rich hemp oils on the market, and to their immense amazement and relief, CBD reduced Charlotte’s seizure rate from 300 per week to around three per month.
Charlotte’s Lasting Legacy
After hearing news of Charlotte’s success with CBD, parents of children with Dravet’s across the country became determined to achieve the same results. Until recently, however, these parents had trouble accessing CBD, and they feared they might be breaking the law by acquiring the seemingly harmless substance that was doing their children so much good.
Everywhere throughout the USA, however, states are passing humane, responsible CBD laws that delimit the access average people have to the incredible variety of CBD products on the general market, and the federal government has finally descheduled cannabidiol1, which means it is no longer considered to be an illegal drug.
While no one would ever want a child to suffer how Charlotte suffered, the years she endured of her parents hardly knowing her as she was trapped in an endless fog of seizures fueled the increased prevalence of CBD in the national conversation that we enjoy today. To this day, Charlotte remains practically seizure-free due to cannabidiol, and hundreds of children in similar situations have found hope that would otherwise have been entirely out of reach.
The Role of Epilepsy in the Mainstreaming of CBD
The stories of Charlotte Figi and other children with Dravet syndrome brought widespread attention to the potential benefits of CBD. Previously, CBD had been lumped in with weed in the public consciousness, but as the incredible healing effects of CBD for epileptics started becoming more well-known, the general populace started seeing cannabidiol as a substance separate from cannabis.
With this mainstream attention came a renewed focus on getting to the bottom of the effects of CBD with scientific research. In the last decade, the popularity of CBD has exploded, and along with this surge of interest and explosive market growth, a variety of powerful interests have sought to understand CBD’s mind-blowing effects for epileptics in more concrete terms.
A lot of good has come from this increased interest in CBD, but this cannabinoid’s popularity also threatens to derail its ascendency as a potential panacea. CBD has caught the interest of the pharmaceutical industry, and if the big pharma lobby has its way, the easy access to an incredibly diverse array of general market CBD products may soon be drastically curtailed or entirely eliminated.
The Birth of Epidiolex
Many respected authorities still doubt the alleged benefits of CBD, and it’s reasonable to debate these types of subjects in a rational, healthy society. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, found that the benefits of CBD for epilepsy were well-established enough to merit the approval of a synthetic, pharmaceutical CBD analogue.
Around 2014, rumors started flying around that UK-based G.W. Pharmaceuticals, the creator of the successful THC/CBD analogue drug Sativex, was working on a pharmaceutical version of CBD specifically for seizures. Several powerful big pharma players backed this project, and it turns out that G.W. had already assembled a crack team of cannabinoid scientists to develop a drug that would achieve the same effects as CBD.
In the end, a drug called Epidiolex was formulated, and while proponents contend that it’s just as beneficial as real CBD, many cannabidiol experts are highly skeptical. Even though Epidiolex easily gained FDA approval, that’s no sign that a drug is healthy or beneficial; for instance, the FDA seems fine with the fact that a methamphetamine analogue is the most commonly prescribed treatment for attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), and the science shows that nearly one-third of FDA-approved drugs end up having problems2 that may or may not result with them being pulled from the market.
Is Epidiolex Better than CBD?
The science behind Epidiolex seems to suffer from a critical flaw that’s systemic in contemporary drug research and medical science in general. In medicine, reductionism is a philosophy that attempts to boil every medical condition or phenomenon down to a single isolated factor while it’s ideological opposite, the holistic approach, views medical phenomena as comprehensive systems that need to be understood in their entirety.
The development of Epidiolex followed a reductionist trajectory in which its formulators tried to isolate the single factor that allowed CBD-rich hemp oil to stop seizures in children and adults. In the end, these researchers determined that the CBD molecule itself was responsible for stopping seizures, which may or may not be entirely true. In the end, the developers of Epidiolex ended up making a drug that most closely mirrors isolate CBD, which does not have all the benefits of full-spectrum hemp oil.
Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil vs. CBD Isolate vs. Epidiolex
In its natural, raw form, hemp oil contains high levels of CBD, but it also contains trace amounts of THC, CBN, CBG, CBDV, and dozens of other beneficial cannabinoids. Furthermore, full-spectrum, CBD-rich hemp oil contains terpenes like beta-myrcene and limonene, which both have unique benefits.
Together, this medley of natural cannabinoids and terpenes come together to manifest a synergistic phenomenon called the entourage effect, which makes the effects of hemp oil greater than the sum of its parts. Essentially, full-spectrum hemp oil is more effective than CBD isolate, which means that it’s also more effective than Epidiolex.
Some users might prefer CBD isolate to full-spectrum hemp oil due to its total lack of THC, which is why we offer both types of CBD here at CBGenius. However, research indicates that CBD isolate loses potency at high doses while CBD-rich hemp oil becomes increasingly effective the more of this cannabinoid you ingest.
Why Epidiolex is a Threat to the CBD Industry
Throughout its history, the FDA has often served as a regulatory mechanism the pharmaceutical industry uses to crush its competition out of existence. While an uninitiated consumer might feel positively about the entry of Epidiolex into the market, commentators savvy to the FDA’s cozy relationship with big pharma are rightfully leery of the increased emphasis on pharmaceutical CBD alternatives.
While the CBD industry could certainly benefit from the thorough overhaul that increased regulatory scrutiny would demand, it’s reasonable to expect an increased role of the federal government in the CBD market wouldn’t only bring about positive results. Like anything successful and money-making, the government simply wants to extract tax revenue from the CBD market, and big pharma wants to redirect general market CBD customers to its watered-down and inferior products.
At this point, it seems that both the FDA and big pharma caught on too late to significantly alter the trajectory of the evolution of the CBD industry. General market CBD has grown too popular to shut down without a brutal and politically damaging fight, and every recent move by the FDA regarding CBD projects weakness and confusion and doesn’t imply impending decisive action.
While Epidiolex probably isn’t a good thing for the CBD industry and its customers, this vehicle for the attempted pharmaceutical takeover of CBD will ultimately amount to nothing more than a drop of water in the swelling ocean of the inexorably growing national CBD market. Thankfully, this intended government-sanctioned pharmaceutical monopoly of CBD doesn’t stand a chance of robbing consumers of the free market competition that has always incentivized CBD manufacturers to make better products.
CBD and Epilepsy: What Does the Science Say?
Now that we’ve covered the history of CBD for epilepsy, it’s time to dig into the scientific research supporting this cannabinoid’s potential to treat epileptic conditions:
1. CBD Isn’t Addictive and Has a Promising Anti-Convulsant Profile
A comprehensive 2017 review of the evidence4 makes several evidence-based claims regarding the benefits of CBD for epilepsy. Based on research conducted throughout the past decade, the authors of this review found that “CBD shows a better defined anticonvulsant profile” and that it “is largely devoid of adverse psychoactive effects, and is considered to lack the abuse liability associated with THC-containing products.”
While the researchers behind this review are careful to state that more research into CBD must be done before definitive conclusions can be made, they had this to say in closing:
“These are exciting times for research in cannabinoids. After almost four millennia of their documented medical use in the treatment of seizure disorders, we are very close to obtaining conclusive evidence of their efficacy in some severe epilepsy syndromes. The era of evidence-based prescription of a cannabis product is within our sight.”
2. 84% of Parents of Children with Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy Report Improvements
In 2013, researchers conducted a survey5 of parents who had chosen to use cannabidiol to help their children with intractable forms of epilepsy. According to this scientific survey, 84% of parents reported that using CBD reduced the frequency of seizures in their children, and 11% reported “complete seizure freedom.”
The parents surveyed had tried an average of 12 antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) prior to CBD treatment, and they reported other beneficial effects such as “increased alertness, better mood, and improved sleep.” These parents only reported mild side effects like drowsiness and fatigue.
3. CBD Reduces Seizures Much Better than Placebo
As one of the first pieces of research into CBD and epilepsy, a groundbreaking 1980 study6 found that 88% of epileptics experienced significant improvements with CBD treatment and that 50% of participants experienced total relief of epileptic symptoms. Placebo treatment, on the other hand, only reduced symptoms in 13% of participants.
4. CBD Appears to Block Vital Epilepsy Pathways
In an attempt to better understand how CBD exerts is perceived anti-epileptic effect, scientists sought to determine how CBD affects the body’s TRPV1 receptors7, which have been identified as one of the main chemical triggers of epilepsy. These researchers found that “CBD and CBDV dose-dependently activate and rapidly desensitize TRPV1, as well as TRP channels of subfamily V type 2 (TRPV2) and subfamily A type 1 (TRPA1),” which means that CBD might make it harder for your body to trigger seizures.
NOTE: For more information on studies on CBD for epilepsy, please check out the directory compiled by the non-profit CBD advocacy organization Project CBD.
Additional Benefits of CBD for Epileptics
Reducing the impact of epilepsy isn’t the only benefit that CBD might impart on epileptics. Here are some of the other science-backed potential benefits of CBD that may also improve the lives of people with epilepsy:
1. Neuroprotective Effects
Some scientists believe that common forms of epilepsy may actually be neurodegenerative diseases8 you might be able to recover from under certain conditions. A 2013 review of the available evidence9 looked into the studies that have been conducted to learn more about CBD’s neuroprotective effects, and it concluded that these effects are “extremely valuable as no drugs exist that have similar properties.” This review also listed several different mechanisms that science has discovered by which CBD may theoretically exert neuroprotective effects, which could, in turn, either prevent, treat, or even cure epilepsy.
2. Reduced Inflammation
According to a 2011 study, CBD appears to reduce oxidative stress10, which is one of the primary triggers of chronic inflammation. Combined with the fact that inflammation appears to play a key role in the pathogenesis and perpetuation of epileptic symptoms11, these results may indicate another reason that CBD might be an excellent treatment for epilepsy.
3. Reduced Stress
Stress appears to be a trigger for epilepsy12. Since science suggests CBD may be an effective tool for reducing stress13 through its modulation and boosting of the endocannabinoid system, using CBD may remove one of the major triggers for seizures.
Does CBD for Epilepsy Have Any Side Effects?
Every study into CBD’s side effects has found that this substance is impressively well-tolerated in human subjects14. Compared to other epilepsy drugs, CBD has a remarkably mild side effect profile, but that doesn’t mean this natural cannabinoid won’t rarely cause detrimental effects.
The most commonly noted side effects of CBD include nausea, fatigue, and diarrhea. Cannabidiol can also lower your blood pressure, which means it might be contraindicated by prescription blood pressure medications.
Most important for epileptics, however, is the fact that one-third of people with epilepsy who initially experience good results with CBD eventually develop a tolerance to this cannabinoid. Developing a tolerance to CBD doesn’t mean that it will stop reducing your seizures, but such a tolerance might make it necessary to use progressively higher amounts of CBD to achieve the same results. For children and adults suffering from otherwise intractable forms of epilepsy, however, that seems to be a small price to pay.
CBD for Epilepsy: The Bottom Line
The benefits of CBD for epilepsy helped make this remarkable cannabinoid famous, and helping kids with epilepsy is a big part of what we do here at CBGenius. By offering the most scientifically-backed CBD products on the market, our efforts dovetail with the increasing body of scientific research on CBD and epilepsy.
Whether you prefer to use our Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil Extract, our Isolated CBD Oil, or even our Prefilled CBD Vape Cartridges for epilepsy, we’re standing by to help you enjoy the benefits of CBD for epilepsy to their fullest extent. We proudly ship to all 50 states, and we’d love to hear about your success in treating epilepsy with CBD or field any questions you may have. As more research on CBD for epilepsy comes out, CBGenius will remain your top source for breaking news and intriguing developments.
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- Trends in utilization of FDA expedited drug development and approval programs, 1987-2014: cohort study
- Overcoming the Bell‐Shaped Dose‐Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol
- Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Hard Evidence at Last?
- Report of a parent survey of cannabidiol-enriched cannabis use in pediatric treatment-resistant epilepsy.
- Chronic administration of cannabidiol to healthy volunteers and epileptic patients.
- Nonpsychotropic Plant Cannabinoids, Cannabidivarin (CBDV) and Cannabidiol (CBD), Activate and Desensitize Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) Channels in Vitro: Potential for the Treatment of Neuronal Hyperexcitability
- Is epilepsy a curable neurodegenerative disease?
- Cannabidiol for neurodegenerative disorders: important new clinical applications for this phytocannabinoid?
- Cannabidiol as an Emergent Therapeutic Strategy for Lessening the Impact of Inflammation on Oxidative Stress
- The role of inflammation in epilepsy
- Stress as a seizure precipitant: Identification, associated factors, and treatment options
- Endogenous cannabinoid signaling is essential for stress adaptation
- An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies