Why Are People Using CBD Oil For Epilepsy?
A note from the publisher: Since the publication of this article, the FDA has approved a CBD-based prescription drug for two special types of epilepsy.
The primary reason why cannabidiol (CBD) has risen so quickly in popularity is largely, but not exclusively, thanks to its ability to reduce epileptic seizures when conventional medications fail to help. Across the U.S., CBD oil for epilepsy is hailed as a novel therapeutic alternative, especially for children with intractable forms of seizure disorders.
If CBD, epilepsy, and ways to source legal CBD oil aren’t familiar to you, where do you start looking for information? First, let's cover the basics.
What is CBD?
Considering the vast body of information on CBD oil for epilepsy, it would be best to start with a basic understanding of the compound itself. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of two main cannabinoids found in marijuana and hemp plants, the other being tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive, meaning it does not produce any psychotropic effects or a ‘high.’ Because of this property, as well as other neurologic applications, CBD oil for epilepsy in children is a treatment that has recently been recommended for approval by the FDA. It is becoming an increasingly popular alternative therapy for a number of other health conditions too.
Cannabidiol is available in many forms, including tinctures, vaporizer oils, topical balms, and more. Some products are applied topically, while others are best taken sublingually (underneath the tongue). Still, others prefer to vape.
How Does CBD work?
Within the body is an intricate regulatory system called the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. The ECS is comprised of many receptors and receptor subgroups, located throughout the body. These receptors can be activated or inhibited by the body’s naturally occurring cannabinoids, and by phytocannabinoids such as THC and CBD, found in cannabis plants.
CBD primarily interacts with two receptors: CB1 and CB2. Cannabidiol interacts differently than THC with these receptors, which possibly accounts for its non-psychoactivity.
The ECS system is now thought to play some part in seizure disorders, which is why there is so much attention on CBD oil for epilepsy today. During seizure activity, there is a measured increase in endocannabinoid release, specifically the CB1 receptors. Cannabidiol is a known CB1 inhibitor, which may be why there is such promise for CBD and epilepsy.
There is still much more to be learned about CBD, epilepsy, and the ECS, though.
RELATED: Endocannabinoid System Explained
Health Benefits of CBD: Epilepsy and Beyond
Initial studies have shown CBD has numerous health benefits and medicinal properties, including:
- Antiemetic (reducing nausea and vomiting)
- Anticonvulsant (suppresses seizure activity)
- Anxiolytic (combats anxiety)
- Analgesic (relieves pain)
CBD, Epilepsy, and the Research
Ongoing studies, media reports, and real-life stories all suggest CBD oil for epilepsy is a viable alternative therapy. One double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 2017, explored CBD for frequency reduction of seizures experienced by children with the Dravet syndrome. Dravet syndrome is a form of drug and treatment-resistant epilepsy.
The conclusion: “Among patients with the Dravet syndrome, cannabidiol resulted in a greater reduction in convulsive-seizure frequency than placebo…” Five percent of participants became completely seizure free.
Another online survey, involving 117 parents of children with infantile spasms (IS) and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), found that CBD was extremely effective in reducing seizure frequency. Eighty-five percent of parents reported a significant reduction in seizure frequency, while fourteen percent said their children were seizure-free. The authors noted, however, that “appropriately controlled clinical trials are essential to establish efficacy and safety.” 
The U.S. Epilepsy Foundation has come out in support of CBD and epilepsy. They have acknowledged CBD’s potential as an effective treatment for epilepsy. Their official position is as follows: “We support lifting federal barriers to research on cannabis and CBD and support access to these potential therapies, through state-regulated programs, for individuals when other treatment options have failed.”
CBD for Epilepsy: Success Stories
Perhaps one of the most famous stories of CBD oil and epilepsy is the case of Charlotte Figi. Charlotte began suffering from epileptic seizures at three months of age. By the age of six, she was suffering more than 300 seizures each week. 
After several years of doctors trying to determine the underlying cause of Charlotte’s condition, she finally was diagnosed with the Dravet syndrome. Desperate to find an effective therapy or treatment for their daughter, Charlotte’s parents began researching intensely.
They happened upon a video of a young boy from California, who also suffered from Dravet syndrome. In the video, it appeared he was successfully treated with CBD. Epilepsy cured with cannabis seemed to be a wild idea, but despite their skepticism, it gave Charlotte’s parents hope.
Charlotte’s cognitive and bodily functions were declining rapidly. In fact, doctors had suggested putting her into a medically-induced coma. It was at this point that Charlotte’s parents decided to attempt a new therapeutic agent - CBD oil for epilepsy.
Charlotte’s results were incredible. At first, she was seizure-free for an entire hour, something previously unseen. This increased to two hours seizure-free and so on, till, eventually, Charlotte went a whole week without a single seizure.
Given these incredible results, Charlotte’s parents contacted a cannabis farmer in Colorado, who just happened to have recently grown a cannabis strain low in THC, yet high in CBD. Using CBD from this plant, Charlotte’s condition improved exponentially. This strain was later named Charlotte’s Web, in honor of the little girl and her remarkable success. Her success with CBD has been broadly publicised, including a CNN documentary of the same name.
CBD oil for epilepsy has shown promising evidence as therapy, so much so, that the Food and Drug Administration recently recommended it for approval as a new anti-seizure drug. The future of CBD oil for epilepsy is bright.