Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterised by recurrent seizures. Seizures are moments of sudden abnormal excitatory brain activity. [1]

Epilepsy can affect infants, young children, teenagers or adults. There are no drugs to treat the underlying cause of epilepsy; conventional drugs can only control seizures.

The disorder is caused by DNA mutations, which lead to malfunctioning of the normal nervous system responses.

Epilepsy affects the development of speech, learning and coordination skills.[2]

Research finds CBD favourable for reducing the frequency of seizures, particularly amongst children and in turn helping patients to live a less disrupted life.

Before diving straight into the benefits of CBD oil in treating epilepsy, let’s briefly explore the oil itself.

What is CBD Oil?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant, more commonly known as marijuana.

Whilst, the THC component of marijuana is intoxicating, CBD does not produce such effects on the body i.e. the feeling of a ‘high’.[3]

CBD has gained massive popularity in a short span of time for its robust antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

The oil can easily be consumed in the form of oral supplements. CBD oil can regulate brain activity in a way that can help reduce the severity of epilepsy.

Note: Hemp oil and CBD oil are not the same. Always check the ingredients of the product before buying.

Benefits of CBD Oil for Epilepsy

CBD oil oral supplements have been approved for the treatment of Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.

CBD works by reducing hyperexcitability in patients, which may allow seizures to slowly fade away. CBD oil has shown clinical success in reducing seizures amongst drug-resistant childhood epilepsies.

The anti-anxiety, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD oil could be used to improve quality of life in epilepsy patients.

1. Reduces Seizures in Dravet Syndrome

Since 2016, CBD oil has gained massive momentum in the pharmacological industry after clinical trials revealed CBD treatment could completely replace the need for conventional anti-epileptic drugs. [4]

Before 2016, most CBD-epilepsy clinical trials had as little as 15 participants so, concrete evidence could not be obtained. [5]

Dravet syndrome is a type of epileptic disorder affecting 1-2 years old babies in which, fever-related seizures occur. [6]

A 2017 clinical trial published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine had investigated the effects of CBD oil against drug-resistant Dravet syndrome. [7]

The frequency of seizures plummeted from 13/month to 6/month in CBD-treated patients.

It is important to note that many of the patients ingesting CBD suffered from side effects like: vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and fatigue.

Several other clinical trials have concluded CBD safe to consume alongside conventional Dravet syndrome treatment drugs. [8] However, the results are conflicted for whether CBD oil can enhance the effects of other drugs.

What does this Mean? CBD oil allowed for a significant reduction of seizures in Dravet Syndrome patients. There were some side effects seen.

2. Reduces Seizures in Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome

The reason behind all epileptic disorders is the same: DNA mutations leading to excessive excitatory neuronal activity. This particular type affects young children between the age of 3 to 5.

CBD oil was identified as one of the best phytochemicals to increase inhibitory neuronal activity. [9]

This allows the extreme excitatory activity to be canceled out and excitation levels may return to normal.

CBD oil exerts effects similar to conventional anti-epileptic drugs. [10]

A 171-participant clinical trial found CBD oral supplements to decrease the frequency of seizures by almost 50% every month. [11]

Once again, CBD produced clinically serious side effects in at least 30% of patients.

The side effects of CBD oil were not enough to overpower the extremely important benefits.

Thus, even after witnessing the side effects, the US FDA approved of the CBD oil oral supplement – Epidiolex in June 2018 for treating Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes.[12]

What does this Mean? CBD oil oral supplement, Epidiolex, has been approved for treating Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome patients. Seizure frequency can reduce by around 50%.

3. Could Reduce Seizures in All Forms of Epilepsy

Seizures are caused by extreme excitatory brain activity, which can cause individuals to lose consciousness in the moment. Vigorous shaking of the body is not always seen during seizures.

CBD oil can overcome excitation by activating inhibitory signal transmission.[13] Experimental studies find CBD oil acts on the major inhibitory neurons in the brain.

The signals produced quench the effects of excitatory neurons and prevent seizures from occurring. [14]

CBD oil exemplifies a potent neuroprotective agent.

It can control the release of calcium ions within neuronal cells such that the threshold for excitation cannot be achieved and thus, excitatory signals are not fired. [15]

What does this Mean? CBD oil counteracts abnormal brain activity in epileptic patients and thus, can help reduce the occurrence of seizures.

4. May Reduce Seizures in Drug-Resistant Epilepsies

Evidence for CBD oil’s anti-epileptic behavior has existed since before the 1980’s. [16] More recent studies have primarily focused on using CBD oil to reduce seizures in young children. [17]

Even more importantly, according to current statistics 1 in 3 epilepsy patients is resistant to conventional drugs. [18] Scientists and doctors are in dire need of novel treatments.

In such conditions, CBD oil shines bright as it was able to produce consistent clinical successes and the likelihood of developing resistance to CBD is apparently low. [19]

Drug-resistant infantile spasm is one of the most difficult epilepsies to treat. [20]

It affects babies and children between the ages of 0 to 8. A very recent 2018 clinical trial found CBD oil to eliminate spasms in 15% of the patients within just 2 weeks and no serious side effects were seen. [21]

A different 2018 childhood epilepsy clinical trial found CBD oil to halve seizure frequency in at least 40% of the patients.

Additionally, out of 108 participants, 10% were completely seizure-free.

Another clinical trial in the same year found CBD oil to reduce seizure frequency by 75-99% in 14 out of 46 patients. [22]

CBD treatment once again managed to completely eliminate seizures in 2 of the participants.

Several clinical trials have found that the younger patients are when they receive CBD oil supplements, the greater the chances of full recovery.

A mouse study found co-administration of CBD oil with common anti-epileptic drugs to improve seizure frequency. [23]

There were no toxic drug interactions or raised side effects.

On the other hand, a clinical trial revealed that there was not much difference in the results when CBD oil was used on its own or when it was used alongside Clobazam (an anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety drug).

CBD may be the ideal treatment option as it can produce powerful effects on its own and it may overcome drug-resistant epilepsies.

What does this Mean? Clinical trials prove that sole CBD oil treatment is effective to reduce seizure frequency in drug-resistant childhood epilepsies and in some cases, it could completely free the patient of seizures.

5. May Improve Quality of Life

Epilepsy has a drastic effect on the individuals’ quality of life by impairing cognitive and social skills. [24]

Deteriorating brain health and overall development can lead to premature death. [25]

In addition to reduced seizure frequency, CBD oil can also provide secondary health benefits.

A clinical study investigating childhood epilepsies found CBD treatment to improve mood, behaviour, language, and alertness in some participants. [26]

CBD oil can potentially enhance awareness and quality of sleep whilst, better regulating mood swings too.

Whether this is a direct benefit of CBD oil or a consequence of reduced seizures is not clear, yet. [27]

Greater success was achieved in 2016 when 85% and 67% of total participants showed improvement in cognition and behaviour, respectively. [28]

Recurrent seizures can damage neuronal connections in the brain, which can lead to memory impairment.

A 2017 study found CBD oil to reduce seizure frequency in mice and improve long term memory formation. [29]

CBD oil has long-lasting effects in the human body. This reduces the number of times a CBD oral supplement needs to be taken over the course of a day and thus, the normal routine is less disturbed. [30]

What does this Mean? CBD oil may improve social, learning, cognitive and language skills in epileptic patients. There is some clinical evidence for this but, more is certainly required for complete confirmation.

6. Can Reduce Anxiety

Epileptic patients more often than not suffer from high levels of anxiety as, they fearfully wait for the next seizure episode. [31]

A 2019 clinical trial published in The Permanente Journal found CBD oil supplements to reduce anxiety in 80% of the participants within just one month. [32]

CBD oil can counteract anxiety by activating certain neuronal circuits in epilepsy patients and thus, help reduce the burden of seizures. [33]

In doing so, it may direct the patients’ life closer to normal if not completely.

CBD oil has been accepted as an anti-anxiety phytochemical. However, further clinical trials have to be done to explore its anti-anxiety characteristics in the context of epilepsy.

What does this Mean? Epilepsy patients generally showcase symptoms of anxiety as, they stress about when the next seizure will occur. CBD oil’s anti-anxiety properties may be able to provide alleviate stress and provide relief. Further clinical trials are required to validate these benefits.

7. May Provide Relief from Pain

CBD oil is a stronger antioxidant agent than both vitamin C and vitamin E. [34] If harnessed correctly, the oil can provide immense all-rounded health benefits.

The brain cannot continuously rejuvenate and replace dead cells, like the skin and blood. CBD oil can provide protection from radicals and reactive oxygen species, which accelerate brain damage. [35]

CBD oil’s anti-inflammatory nature can allow individuals to feel less pain. [36],[37]

The oil can suppress pro-inflammatory responses giving rise to pain and release the brain from immune stress. [38],[39]

The reason for pain is not treated by CBD oil but, by acting on the central nervous system CBD can provide relief from high-intensity pain.[40]

The exact mechanisms by which CBD oil’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce seizure activity are not well understood. Further research is being done in this area.

What does this Mean? The antioxidative and anti-inflammatory responses of CBD oil have a role to play in reducing seizures and brain damage in epileptic patients. This is still an area of ongoing research.

Precautions

CBD oil is classified as a low allergen and is highly unlikely to cause any allergic reactions.[41]

The CBD oil oral supplement – Epidiolex can induce side effects like sleepiness, insomnia, decreased appetite, diarrhoea, fatigue, and mild liver injury.

You must consult a doctor for dosage before using Epidiolex with your regular medicine.

We advise you to consult a doctor for dietary CBD oil dosage before consuming it on a regular basis.

Dosage

Hemp plants grown at northern latitudes i.e. in Canada are likely to contain greater CBD content. [42]

Highly reputed clinical trials found CBD oil doses equating to 20 mg/kg of body weight/day sufficient to reduce seizures in Dravet syndrome patients and Lennox-Gastaut patients.5,7

The US FDA approved dosage of Epidiolex is 50 mg/kg. [43]

CBD is non-toxic to humans even at doses up to 50 mg/kg and is unlikely to counteract anti-epileptic drugs. [44]

Clinical trials investigating CBD oil for treatment of drug-resistant childhood epilepsies found 20 – 40 mg/kg/day adequate to reduce seizure frequency. [45],[46]

Summary

After ground-breaking clinical success in 2016, the first CBD oil oral supplement for treatment of Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome was approved in 2018.

CBD oil is a non-psychoactive phytochemical that, mimics the actions of conventional anti-epileptic drugs.

It can reduce seizure frequency by restricting sporadic moments of hyperexcitability and increasing inhibitory electrical transmissions instead.

CBD oil can prove effective in reducing seizure activity in young children with drug-resistant forms of epilepsy.

Dozens of clinical trials show that CBD oil can completely eliminate seizures in some patients with just 20 – 40 mg/kg/day doses.

By reducing seizures, CBD oil can raise the quality of life for patients as well as improve their social, cognitive and speech abilities.

If harnessed correctly, the anti-anxiety properties of CBD oil could alleviate the stress and fearfulness associated with not knowing when the next seizure will occur in epilepsy patients.

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions of CBD oil have some role to play in reducing seizures and healing brain damage.

The oil lacks psycho-stimulating effects, unlike the other famous chemical constituent of marijuana.

CBD oil’s time has just begun and with future clinical trials investigating its effects on different forms of epilepsy, CBD oil medicines can flourish in the market.

D Dutt (MSc. Biotech.)
All our posts are written by experienced writers with relevant degrees. These extremely well researched and comprehensive articles take 10s of hours to write. For each article, all the sources of information are provided as reference links for anyone to check.

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