Not only has marijuana been proven to reduce seizures in studies, but CBD is even used in the FDA-approved seizure medication, Epidiolex. With the further legalization of medical cannabis, its compounds and their effects can be examined even more closely. This article will discuss the current findings of what we know so far.
The research with CBD
Epidiolex was officially approved by the FDA in June 2018 for the treatment of two types of childhood epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. The medication is made of about 98% CBD oil extract, and this medication’s clinical trials truly reflect the nature of high-quality CBD. This study found that the addition of 20mg of cannabidiol per day along with other medications resulted in a 41.9% drop in seizure frequency for adults and children with Lennox-Gastaut. A 10mg addition, in comparison, lead to a 37.2% decrease while the placebo only decreased seizures by 17%. Though the most common adverse effects reported in this study were drowsiness, decrease appetite, elevated liver enzymes and diarrhea, it was concluded that Epidiolex had positive effects, overall. In this case, the pros outweigh the cons since it can help maintain normal electrical activity in the brain and help prevent long-term damage caused by epilepsy. Researchers theorize these changes are able to occur due to CBD’s anti-inflammatory qualities or an ability to change calcium levels in the brain.
In 120 patients with Dravet syndrome, the frequency of seizures fell from their collective median of 12.9 seizures per month to just 5.9 per month with CBD treatment. Compared to the placebo treatment group, which only fell from a median of 14.9 to 14.1, this study served as very strong evidence in support of the compound.
Although Epidiolex is regulated by the FDA and is pharmaceutical-grade, most forms of CBD are unregulated and sold in dispensaries. This means that some brands may not provide accurate information about their product on the label. Since manufacturers have much more freedom than government-regulated substances, one way a consumer can rely on the integrity of the product is to check that it underwent third-party lab testing. This will ensure that their oils adhere to industry standards for use of pesticides and have no leftover chemical solvents or harmful microbes in the final product. And of course, the manufacturer would be required to accurately label the concentrations of each compound. For some, even high-quality CBD oil does not help, produces adverse reactions, or interacts negatively with other epilepsy medications.
While Cannabidiol seems to have more rights when it comes to research- due to its legality in 46 states- other compounds present in cannabis plants have been found helpful, too. Specific terpenes, like linalool, and “raw” cannabinoids like THCA have been found to have anti-seizure effects. These are known as “raw” cannabinoids since they are the naturally occurring acidic compounds that haven’t been exposed to heat (through smoking or exposure to high temperatures in an extraction process). Researchers are unsure how various cannabinoids and terpenes interact with each other to treat epilepsy, but it could be a huge factor when it comes to the future of cannabis research. As of September 2021, 36 states have legalized it for medical use, but its lack of federal legalization has kept research down to a minimum.