In a press release dated June 25, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug derived from the Cannabis sativa plant: epidiolex.1
Epidiolex is an oral solution of cannabidiol (CBD) that are approved for the treatment of certain types of epilepsy. It’s the first FDA-approved drug for the treatment of seizures in Dravet Syndrome and it’s also approved for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.
This begs the question: can cannabis-derived CBD help provide symptomatic relief for those suffering from other seizure disorders? While further human clinical trials are required to answer this question with certainty, this approval provides hope for those suffering from treatment-resistant epilepsy.
The possibility of plant-derived relief from a difficult-to-treat condition that has a significant impact on the quality of life for those affected is exciting for many.
What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder involving abnormal brain activity that results in seizures. Seizure symptoms can vary widely: some people may appear to zone out and stare into space for a few seconds, while others will fall to the floor and experience convulsions. People who suffer from seizure disorders are at a higher risk for anxiety and depression, as well as dangers that result from the seizures themselves, such as car accidents or injuries from falls.2
For some, epilepsy will go away on its own, but for others, epilepsy lasts a lifetime.
While there are treatments available, antiepileptic drugs are not effective for everyone. Seventy to eighty percent of patients with epilepsy symptoms will achieve complete control over their seizures with treatments, but up to 30 percent suffer from seizures that do not respond to current antiepileptic drugs.3
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Therefore, this group is the target for CBD oil research in an effort to explore whether the use of CBD oil can help reduce seizure frequency and severity when used in conjunction with the patient’s present antiepileptic medications.
What Is CBD?
CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant, the most famous of which is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These compounds are known as phytocannabinoids, the prefix “phyto” meaning that they come from plants.
THC is the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis, meaning that it creates changes in how the brain functions. Using THC leads to an inhibition in motor function and cognition that makes it less than ideal for many people looking for symptomatic relief from chronic health conditions.
Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive. As researchers have found that CBD presents therapeutic potential without a “high” feeling, consumers, doctors, and other researchers are interested in the potential future benefits and uses of this compound. It’s a promising phytonutrient for improving symptoms associated with chronic conditions.
Phytocannabinoids act on a system in the body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is involved in immune system function, memory, and much more. One of the ways in which CBD exerts its effects is through boosting the levels of natural endocannabinoids produced in the human body.4
CBD and Epilepsy
As a result of three high-quality human clinical trials studying epidiolex, it is now known that CBD can help those with certain epileptic conditions. These studies offer guidelines for what dosage is effective and safe for individuals with these conditions.
In these clinical trials, a total of 689 people with Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut Syndromes (LSG) were treated with epidiolex, the plant-based CBD extract. During their treatment, patients continued to take their other seizure medications.
In one of these epidiolex studies, patients with LSG who had previously experienced two or more drop seizures per week over a 28-day period were split into one of three groups: 20 mg/kg body weight CBD, 10 mg/kg body weight CBD, or placebo. This dosage was split between two doses per day for a period of 14 weeks.
Researchers found a significant reduction in drop-seizure frequency in both treatment groups when compared with the placebo, with the most significant reduction found in the 20 mg/kg body weight group.5
More human clinical trials are needed to determine what, if any, effect CBD has on those suffering from other seizure conditions. There have been preliminary studies that have found similar promising results as the epidiolex clinical trials, suggesting that CBD may help control seizures in multiple additional types of epileptic conditions.6
Is CBD Safe?
CBD is considered to be overall safe and well-tolerated, although it can cause some side effects and may interfere with certain prescriptions. In the epidiolex studies, the most common side effects included diarrhea, decreased appetite, and drowsiness.
The higher the dosage, the more common side effects were. In order to limit side effects, it’s recommended to start with a low dosage and work your way up. Be sure to work with your physician to determine if CBD interferes with any medications that you’re on.
What Kind of CBD Product is Best for Epilepsy?
If you search online or go to a store where they sell CBD, you’ll be bombarded with a wide variety of options. You’ll find candy, capsules, tinctures, teas, and more.
When using CBD hemp oil to help relieve your symptoms, it’s important to be able to accurately measure how much you take. Additionally, the optimal amount may vary from person to person, so you’ll want a product that offers flexible dosing.
Overall, tinctures are the best option. Tinctures are vials of CBD suspended in a carrier oil. They come with a dropper that allows for precisely measured dosages that can easily be changed as you find what dosage works best for you.
Tincture doses offer the added benefit of being able to be snuck into food for picky eaters who may not want to take the tincture straight.
Should I Use CBD Oil for My Epilepsy?
If you suffer from treatment-resistant epilepsy, you’re probably asking yourself, “Is CBD oil right for me?” Though there is no universal answer to this question, if you’re experiencing treatment-resistant seizures, the Epilepsy Foundation considers CBD oil a reasonable option.
Because CBD is easy to obtain and has a favorable safety profile, may decide that it’s worth a shot. Be sure to work with your physician to determine if CBD oil is a good option and if it is, how best to add it in with your current treatment protocol.
As it currently stands, you can find CBD hemp oil sold online with delivery available to any state in the U.S., as well as in numerous stores and even some doctors offices.
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