The first documented use of cannabis as a treatment for seizures dates to 4000 B.C. in China. Since then, evidence of its medicinal use has been found in almost every human civilization the world over. Cannabis was even available over the counter in U.S. pharmacies until 1941. More recently, our understanding of the role of cannabis in medicine has evolved, and the law is slowly following suit. People who could only provide anecdotal evidence of cannabis’ efficiency in treating a variety of illnesses are now seeing clinical trials back up their long-felt experience. Some of the most promising research into cannabis – and some of the earliest successful clinical trials – have focused on the link between cannabis and epilepsy. Here are 5 facts about CBD and epilepsy that we know for sure:
When it works, it works.
A good one-third of epilepsy sufferers don’t respond to traditional anti-epileptic drugs, but desperate patients and heartbroken parents of children with childhood epilepsy refused to believe that their cases were terminal. Over time, so much anecdotal evidence of ameliorative effects of cannabis on seizures emerged from this population that it was clear that more clinical research was needed. In 2018, Epidiolex became the first pharmaceutical made exclusively with CBD to be approved by the FDA. Epidiolex specifically treats two of the rarest and mostgenerall severe forms of epilepsy that usually begin in childhood: Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Focused studies now show that CBD lowers the frequency and severity of seizures by a factor of 4 to 1.
CBD is not the same as medical marijuana.
Although both are derived from the cannabis plant, and both are often used to treat seizures, medical marijuana has many more molecular compounds, including THC, which causes the highs and hallucinations marijuana is famous for. CBD, especially pharmaceutical grade CBD, has no or extremely trace amounts of THC. CBD will not get you high. Medical marijuana will. Also, the strength and purity of medical marijuana is much harder to pin down. Even when it’s available by prescription, it will have varying levels of THC, CBD, and other compounds. By contrast, CBD oils, even full-spectrum oils, can be tested to determine the actual levels of CBD and other cannabinoids.
Whole-plant extracts are generally more effective at treating epilepsy than CBD isolates, but we don’t know exactly why.
In one study, the effects of CBD-rich extracts were compared to purified CBD in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy. 71% of patients who used CBD-rich extracts reported significant improvement, compared to only 46% of the group who used pure CBD. In addition, side effects were much less likely in the CBD-rich group. Scientists propose that this is likely due to the “Entourage Effect,” whereby many different cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds work together in a way that they cannot do when apart. This synergistic action has an effect on the endocannabinoid system that is just not fully understood yet, but research shows that it interacts with many biological processes, even easing inflammation and stopping tumor formation.
Not all CBD is the same.
Pharmaceutical grade CBD, such as Epidiolex, is a solution of pure plant-derived CBD. Its formulation meets strict standards for purity, safety, and efficacy. Other formulas you find on the web are generally non-standardized and can contain varying amounts of CBD, carrier oils, and other compounds. This is why Rooted Hemp Co always publishes lab results, from third-party laboratories, clearly on the website. This way, you can know exactly what you are purchasing with total transparency.
CBD generally has very few side effects and very low toxicity, especially compared to other epilepsy medications.
In one of the largest clinical trials, with other 400 participants, only 3% dropped out from the study due to the side effects. The most common reason that participants dropped out of the above study was the discovery of slightly elevated liver enzymes. This effect was found to be dose-dependent, and lowering the dose allowed the liver to return to normal enzyme levels. CBD is easily digested, absorbed, and eliminated by the body. Unlike its cousin, THC, CBD does not alter heart rate, blood pressure, or body temperature. CBD does seem to affect liver function, albeit mildly. Important to note is that CBD does interact with other epilepsy drugs, all of which are metabolized in the liver, so always speak to your doctor before treating yourself or loved ones with CBD.
It’s hard to believe that only a few short years ago, CBD was considered by the government to be a Schedule I drug, with a high potential for abuse and possessing no medical use. The 2018 Farm Bill ensures that hemp (the strain of cannabis that contains only trace amounts of THC) is treated differently than marijuana that contains THC. However, the FDA has yet to set and enforce standards for the production of CBD products outside the pharmacy industry. This state of limbo has allowed CBD products to become more widely available, but the purity and safety of the products you can buy over the counter are not guaranteed. That is why you should always ensure that you buy CSB from a reputable source with readily available lab results for each product.