If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with epilepsy, you may have been doing research and learned of a recent shift towards CBD oil as a means to reduce the symptoms associated with the disease. But does it actually work? And if so, how?
In fact, CBD oil can offer some people a way to control and reduce the frequency of seizures, pain, and anxiety with little to no side effects.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects over 50 million people worldwide. It can be caused by a variety of factors including head injury, stroke, and genetics. The frequency, severity, and type of seizure experienced depends on where in the brain the abnormal activity is occurring. Some seizures are characterized by full body convulsions, while others appear as a loss of consciousness lasting for mere seconds.
No matter the type of epilepsy or the type of seizure experienced, it is a complicated disorder that impacts everything from physical condition to feelings of social acceptance. It’s no wonder that people are seeking real, long-lasting alternatives.
Keep in mind, the information presented on this page is intended to serve only as an informational guide and should not be considered medical advice—always speak to your doctor before starting a new treatment.
A condition as wide ranging and complicated as epilepsy can, understandably, be incredibly difficult to treat. Many people are prescribed multiple anticonvulsants to control their seizures, amongst other symptoms. Unfortunately, these drugs are not always effective and also come with a list of potential side effects including headaches, nausea, hair loss, weight gain, slurred speech, double vision, liver failure, sleep disturbances, and depression.
And to make this situation even more difficult, 30% of people with epilepsy are resistant to traditional treatments, meaning anticonvulsant medications provide zero relief for a large portion of epilepsy patients.
CBD oil, on the other hand, produces little to no negative side effects and has shown encouraging results in treating symptoms associated with epilepsy.
The cannabis sativa plant contains a large number of cannabinoids with the most commonly known and studied being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Both interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system and produce a range of beneficial effects.
THC has intoxicating properties and is most commonly associated with the ‘high' individuals experience from marijuana. CBD, on the other hand, does not have the same high-producing effect and it’s most useful in medicinal cases by allowing people to find relief without any intoxication. In other words, CBD oil will not get you high.
CBD oil targets CB1 and CB2 receptors located in the brain and central nervous system. CBD does not directly bind with these receptors, but has an indirect effect on them and other receptors related to managing the symptoms associated with epilepsy.
More scientific study is required to understand the exact mechanisms of CBD in the treatment of epilepsy but the data collected so far is promising.
In three different studies involving people with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (two of the most severe forms of epilepsy), CBD oil significantly reduced the frequency of seizures. In the case of Dravet syndrome, convulsive tonic-clonic, tonic, clonic, and atonic seizures were reduced while those with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome saw a reduction in drop seizures.
Whether or not these results were the result of the CBD itself, or a byproduct of CBD interacting with epilepsy medications to increase their effectiveness, is uncertain. More testing is required.
Not only can CBD help reduce the frequency of seizures, it can also help many of the conditions and experiences that surround epilepsy. Lack of sleep, for example, is one of the factors that may exacerbate epilepsy symptoms and seizures; CBD oil can help bring a more restful, deeper sleep to those who use it. Similarly, pain and inflammation can be an issue for people with epilepsy, and CBD helps manage these symptoms as well.
Epilepsy sufferers may also experience a great deal of social anxiety. There is still a stigma that surrounds this illness and it can be difficult for individuals to explain or predict their condition. CBD oil can be used to reduce this anxiety, giving sufferers less daily stress.
The antispasmodic and anti-convulsive uses of CBD oil are widely known. In fact, many of the current medical uses of CBD are in the treatment of epilepsy.
After seeing the results of the studies mentioned above, the advisory committee for the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that the pharmaceutical-grade CBD oil-based medication known as Epidiolex be approved for use in the treatment of epilepsy. Epidiolex was officially approved for epilepsy patients over two years of age in June 2018.
If you choose to pursue an epilepsy treatment regimen that includes Epidiolex, keep in mind it carries a warning for producing elevated levels of liver enzymes that could lead to liver damage. Speak with your doctor to ensure you're choosing the safest path forward.
Although the biological mechanics behind how CBD oil helps reduce the occurrence of seizures is not entirely understood, its success in doing so is still encouraging.
One of the most popular uses of CBD oil is in the treatment of pain and inflammation.
Glycine receptors are found throughout the central nervous system and play a significant role on our perception of pain. These receptors are known as inhibitory receptors and studies have found that CBD increases their effect, reducing the sensation of pain.
Inflammation is a natural immune response to injury or foreign invaders but when this response becomes overactive, it’s known as chronic inflammation and can cause the body to attack healthy cells and tissues. CBD is able to disrupt the production of small proteins released by immune cells, known as cytokines, which are involved in the initial stages of inflammation. By disrupting the generation of cytokines, CBD oil can prevent inflammation from occurring in the first place.
CBD oil also works by limiting the re-uptake of the neurotransmitter adenosine by inhibiting equilibrative nucleoside transporter 1 (ENT1). As a result, adenosine levels in the brain are increased, increasing activity within the adenosine receptors. In turn, the activation of these receptors plays a significant role in reducing inflammation throughout the body.
Many people with epilepsy experience anxiety. It can be hard to predict seizures and the loss of bodily control can lead to embarrassing occurrences like the loss of bowel and bladder control. It can be difficult to live with a condition that can manifest at any given moment.
Low serotonin is linked to both depression and anxiety. These conditions are generally treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac or Zoloft, but SSRIs can produce undesirable side effects like insomnia, dry mouth, a reduced sex drive, and diarrhea.
CBD oil can have a positive impact on serotonin levels without any of these listed side effects.
The CBD molecule activates a serotonin receptor called 5-HT1A, which boosts serotonin levels in the brain. Too, CBD inhibits adenosine re-uptake (as mentioned above), boosting the amount of this neurotransmitter present in the brain. The A1A and A2A adenosine receptors play a role in the expression of anxiety and depression, and because CBD acts as an A2A inhibitor, CBD oil users may experience increased clarity and an elevated mood.
Finally, anandamide is a neurotransmitter commonly called the “bliss molecule.” Anandamide is responsible for feelings of joy, happiness, and motivation. CBD acts as an anandamide reuptake inhibitor which increases the amount available in the brain and decreases the limiting effects of anxiety.
Getting the right amount of sleep is essential for everyone but this is especially true for people with epilepsy. Lack of sleep is a potential trigger for seizures, but people with epilepsy may find themselves caught in a vicious cycle, as the stress and anxiety around having seizures could prevent someone from being able to fall asleep. By reducing pain and anxiety levels, CBD goes a long way in making sleep possible.
In a study performed with rats, CBD was found to significantly reduce contextual fear memory. The researchers concluded that CBD may be an effective treatment for anxiety caused by stress and fearful memories. In the few human studies that have been performed to date, results have been similarly promising.
Before you consider taking CBD oil for epilepsy, it’s best to talk to your doctor. CBD oil is generally safe and produces no discernible side effects, though it can interact with common medications you may be taking, including some antidepressants or antibiotics. You might also consider speaking with a cannabis doctor who specializes in using CBD and other cannabis products in the treatment of certain medical conditions.
While epilepsy treatments can be complicated, most people are able to find a medication or combination of medications that treat their symptoms after a small amount of trial and error. But, if you are having difficulty treating epileptic conditions like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, CBD oil may be your best option.
There are lots of different ways to take CBD oil for epilepsy. The delivery method you choose will depend on your needs and your lifestyle.
Many epileptics self-medicate by smoking cannabis. The downside to this method is not being completely certain about how much CBD—and THC—you are consuming, and smoking can lead to other health concerns.
One of the most popular ways to take CBD oil is to put CBD oil drops under the tongue. This method is fast acting and can provide lasting relief. But this method isn’t for everyone. A transdermal patch, for example, is discreet and can provide a steady dose all day long. Edibles, vapes, topical creams, and concentrates are also possible alternatives—do some testing on your own to determine which method is right for you.
Once again, before you begin using CBD oil for epilepsy, consult your doctor. By discussing the specifics of your condition and your overall health, you can decide the safest and most effective path forward.
There is no universal dose of CBD oil for epilepsy. Because each person and body is different, no two people will respond to CBD oil the same way. It is best to follow the suggested serving size indicated on your product.
To give you a general estimation of where to start, we at CBD Oil Review (COR) we have analyzed hundreds of products and come up with a standard serving suggestion:
The COR Serving Standard is 25mg of CBD, taken twice daily.
If you are not getting results from this amount, we recommend increasing the serving size by 25mg every 3-4 weeks until you find relief.
For more information about dosage, check out our general dosage advice here.
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