Cannibidiol (CBD) oil treatment for epilepsy
Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital neurologist and co-director of the Neuroscience Institute, James Wheless, MD, recently hosted a Facebook Live Q&A discussing cannabidiol (CBD) oil and its use with epilepsy patients. He was joined by the Eagle family whose son, Jackson, has seen relief from seizures as part of a CBD trial at Le Bonheur. Here are the top five questions about CBD oil raised during the interactive discussion:
What is the difference between CBD and medical marijuana?
(Dr. Wheless) Historically, the cannabis plant was bred for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the marijuana component, for illicit use. The second most common compound in the cannabis plant is cannabidiol (CBD), which is what has recently been approved to treat epilepsy. CBD contains less than 1 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects and does not contain enough to cause psychoactivity.
How do I get CBD? Can I just buy it from a dispensary?
(Dr. Wheless) CBD oil has now been approved by the FDA as a prescription drug under the name Epidiolex. This drug was developed through trials and studies over the last five years in order to get approval to bring to market this year. It is available as a prescription from your neurologist from a specialty pharmacy.
Epidiolex meets stringent federal standards – it’s manufactured with the same kind of rigor and attention to detail of any other medicine. CBD oil purchased from a dispensary does not guarantee the same consistency as prescription Epidiolex. Epidiolex meets federal standards so that you can be certain every dose is exactly the same and that there are no other chemicals or impurities in the CBD oil. With third-party dispensaries, quality may vary from month to month depending on the batch. We have patients who have told us that CBD oil they purchased from a dispensary might work one month but not the next. No third-party dispensaries could match the degree of purity and consistency as Epidiolex.
What are the side effects of CBD?
(Mrs. Eagle) Jackson has not experienced many side effects while taking CBD oil. He became irritable and cried easily when we raised his dose of CBD but that went away when we dialed it back.
(Dr. Wheless) The side effects of CBD are less severe and easier to tolerate compared to most epilepsy medications. Some patients have gastrointestinal side effects where they may feel a little queasy because the CBD is taken in liquid form with sesame oil. Some patients can also get sleepy or tired while taking Epidiolex.
Can CBD treat any type of epilepsy?
(Dr. Wheless) Currently, Epidiolex is primarily used to treat specific epilepsies – Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome. These are both associated with convulsive seizures. This was the approval for the initial medicine, but other areas of epilepsy are being studied since we believe that CBD oil can work for others, too. However, there are children that do not have those conditions who are currently able to get Epidiolex, so if your child is having ongoing seizures it may be something to think about.
How long does it take to see results from CBD oil?
(Mrs. Eagle) CBD oil did not take long at all to start helping Jackson – maybe days or a week. We immediately had no seizures. We’ve seen many other improvements in cognition with Jackson. In occupational therapy, he would get zeroes on his progress report, but in the last quarter he had five or six things that he had mastered.
(Dr. Wheless) We usually get people up to dose over two to four weeks. As we do that, usually the patients who are going to respond to CBD already see the number of seizures going down. We may still need to tweak dosage, but they already see that it’s helping. Conversely, for patients who it does not work for will know that up front because if they haven’t seen changes in six week we know this probably won’t be the medicine for them.
Can CBD help people with epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects nearly 50 million people worldwide, including at least 500,000 in France. It is a chronic disease that manifests itself through recurrent seizures and other more severe forms that are difficult to treat. At present, there are drug treatments to relieve this disease, but no cure is permanent. In addition, the drugs are sometimes very restrictive because they cause many side effects that further deteriorate the quality of life of patients. For some years now, scientists have been looking into the use of cannabidiol (CBD) to relieve patients suffering from epilepsy.
Indeed, recent scientific studies have revealed the effectiveness of CBD in reducing the frequency and intensity of epileptic seizures in many patients. The consumption of CBD allows significant improvements to be observed, particularly in patients who have failed to respond to treatment.
Already known for its multiple health benefits, CBD could now play a fundamental role in the healing and prevention of neurological diseases. In the United States, scientists have even succeeded in marketing a CBD-based drug called Epidiolex. But in Europe, the use of CBD in the medical setting is still a contentious issue. So, what about CBD to relieve the symptoms of epilepsy? Is it an effective and safe solution for health? Find out in this article what the benefits of CBD are and how to properly consume it to relieve epilepsy symptoms.
What is epilepsy?
The symptoms of epilepsy
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that results in spontaneous seizures, caused by a short-term malfunction of the brain. The electrical activity in the brain increases, which disturbs the neurons and causes a seizure.
The seizure is manifested by convulsions and tonic spasms. Depending on the intensity of the seizure, the person with epilepsy may scream or lose consciousness. Involuntarily, muscles contract and breathing is disturbed or even blocked. All of these symptoms gradually diminish until the seizure is over.
Very often, the end of the seizure is a state of confusion and intense fatigue that can last a few hours. It is important to know that children as young as a few months old, as well as people over 65 years old, can suffer from different forms of epilepsy. To recognize an epileptic seizure, you need to know how to identify the first signs, namely:
- excessive sweating ;
- increased heart rate;
- spasms ;
- and headaches.
Causes of epilepsy
Scientists do not know exactly why epilepsy occurs, but they do know that the trigger can be a brain injury, an infectious disease, a stroke or a brain tumour. All of these neurological disorders can actually cause a successive electrical discharge in the neurons responsible for the epileptic seizure.
Although the cause of epilepsy is not yet clear, it is important to know that 10 to 15% of cases are hereditary. This explains why there are several types of epilepsy, some of which are more severe: focal seizures, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, West’s syndrome, and Rolando’s epilepsy.
Treatment of epilepsy
As a rule, epileptic disorders are treated with benzodiazepines or barbiturates. The problem with these drugs is that it takes about 3 to 4 weeks to get used to the unwanted side effects. In addition to causing drowsiness on a daily basis, these drugs are not effective on all patients.
In recent years, the potential of CBD has become widely democratized in the medical field, especially in the United States. In 2018, a cannabidiol-based medication was made available in pharmacies with a prescription. A revolution for patients in therapeutic failure, but also for those who seek a natural alternative without side effects to soothe their ailments.
What are the benefits of CBD on epilepsy?
A scientific study conducted on epileptic lab rats showed a significant decrease in spasms, convulsions and muscle contractions after receiving a dose of CBD. At this time, these effects have not yet been verified in humans, but we do know that CBD can reduce the intensity and frequency of seizures in many patients.
CBD is also known to protect the brain and neurons of humans and animals. Scientifically, CBD slows down the deterioration of damaged cells and promotes the renewal of neurons. As such, it protects against cognitive decline and limits the onset of neurological disorders. It can be used to relieve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. But it can also be taken as a preventive measure to help protect and maintain the health of your neurons. Consumed on a daily basis, CBD naturally improves your motor and cognitive abilities.
Scientific researchers in Milan have shown that epilepsy is associated with local inflammation in the brain. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD could play a key role in the development of the disease and the appearance of seizures. Taking CBD may therefore activate certain neurological receptors that cause inflammation.
How does CBD act on the brain?
CBD acts on the brain through the endocannabinoid system, a system common to all vertebrates. Taking CBD activates 2 main receptors connected to the central nervous system: CB1 and CB2. As a result, CBD regulates many of the body’s essential functions such as mood, appetite, pain management, and sleep. More generally, it regulates the immune system and fills gaps in the body.
Moreover, CBD acts on the TRPV1 vanilloid receptors. These are the receptors that cause epileptic seizures when they are overactivated. Thus, consuming CBD helps regulate the activity of this receptor and reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures.
What do scientists say about CBD and epilepsy?
Initial scientific studies have shown that CBD can reduce epileptic seizures by at least 50% in about 50% of patients. For now, this rate of effectiveness is the same as that of conventional drug treatments. The difference is that CBD is just as effective on rare and severe forms of epilepsy, and even on people who were not receptive to medication. In addition, this option has virtually no side effects, unlike traditional anti-epileptic drugs.
In 2017, a study was conducted on 108 children with Dravet syndrome. To conduct this study, the children were given Epidiolex, a drug with a 10% CBD content. This treatment lasted 14 weeks, and the result was clear: the attacks were reduced by 50% in 43% of the children.
Many studies have shown the effectiveness of CBD in treating epilepsy. For the time being, most of them have only been carried out on animals, which explains the lack of information on this subject. That said, more and more people are turning to this new alternative to soothe their seizures in a gentle and natural way.
How to consume CBD to soothe epilepsy?
Before we talk about over-the-counter products, it’s important to note that there is an official CBD-based medication. Epidiolex is an oral solution controlled and approved by the EMA (European Medicines Agency). In France, it is possible to obtain this drug with a medical prescription. Of course, its access is limited and highly regulated. Generally, the only cases authorized to receive this cannabinoid-based medication are patients who have failed in their treatment.
CBD flowers and resins
CBD flowers and resins are the most popular forms. You can consume them through inhalation if you have a quality vaporizer. You can also crush them and incorporate them into your dishes and drinks. Whether you choose inhalation or oral ingestion, CBD flowers and resins can help you reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. Gently, they contribute to your well-being and good health.
CBD oil and crystals
If you prefer an easier and faster consumption, you can pour CBD oil or put CBD crystals directly under your tongue. You don’t have to prepare anything, as these products are already ready to use. When you consume CBD sublingually, the cannabinoids are absorbed through the mucous membranes into the bloodstream. The relaxing effects occur in a few minutes, which allows you to get a quick action in case of imminent crisis or discomfort.
CBD: a great ally for living better with epilepsy
Although we still lack hindsight on the issue, scientific studies have already proven the therapeutic potential of CBD on several occasions. It provides support and great relief to people suffering from epilepsy, while regulating the body and protecting the brain. Certainly, the effectiveness of CBD is comparable to traditional anti-epileptic drugs, but it should be remembered that it is a natural product that seems to fit many patients.
That being said, it should not be said that CBD is a miracle cure, nor should it be said that CBD could replace a drug treatment. Before you turn to CBD, it is essential to seek advice from a doctor to find out if there are any known drug interactions. It is important to keep in mind that some treatments, especially those for neurological disorders, are quite serious. Therefore, they cannot be mixed with another substance without the advice of a professional.
The important thing to remember is that CBD is a very serious option for people who have failed in their treatment, but also for those who wish to soothe their ailments with a natural product, without harmful side effects. Although CBD does not cure epilepsy, it allows many people to live more serenely with their disease. CBD is not a miracle solution, but it is a natural and promising solution for the future.
What dosage of CBD to take to relieve epileptic seizures?
With CBD, there is no such thing as the perfect dosage. Your CBD consumption must be adapted to your feelings, your experience, the intensity of your disease, and simply, your body. Each individual is free to establish his own dosage. If you have never consumed CBD before, start with the lowest possible dose, seek advice from a health professional, and adjust the doses as you go along.
Can CBD cause side effects in people with epilepsy?
Yes, CBD can cause side effects in some people with epilepsy, but this is quite rare. Moreover, these side effects are often mild, unlike those caused by drug treatments. These side effects may include diarrhea, drowsiness, loss of appetite or liver dysfunction. Sometimes it is the combination of CBD with other drugs that causes an abnormal reaction. This is why it is important to ask your doctor’s advice before taking CBD with any other medication.
Can children with epilepsy consume CBD without risk?
At first glance, giving cannabis to a child may seem strange. But rest assured, CBD is a cannabinoid that does not provide any psychoactive effects or harm to the health of children. So yes, children with epilepsy can safely consume CBD. In some countries, CBD is even used to treat severe forms of epilepsy in children under the age of 2. However, only a doctor can decide if CBD is suitable for your child. As with all childhood diseases, the choice of treatment should not be taken lightly.