The use of CBD oil for epilepsy seizures has been around the medical cannabis community since 2005. Charlotte Figi, a Colorado toddler with severe Dravet Syndrome, had been experiencing 100 seizures a day. Since she started using CBD oil in 2013, she has only experienced 1 seizure.
By age 2, Charlotte had already tried conventional treatments to control her symptoms. She had little success. Thankfully, at age 12, she has found relief in a cannabis strain called Charlotte’s Web. This strain is low in THC and high in CBD which gives the young girl the life she deserves.
In spite of the lack of treatment for their daughter, Charlotte’s parents have been fighting long and hard to find a cure. At the time, no clinical trials or studies existed for CBD and they were having trouble locating medical doctors willing to grant a medical marijuana card to a child as young as Charlotte. Charlotte’s parents were conflicted about what medications she should take because the onset of her Dravet syndrome was so early. Physicians were also reluctant to prescribe her medical cannabis even though CBD has no psychoactive properties. The association between cannabis and CBD dissuaded many doctors from working with Charlotte’s parents to create a treatment plan.
Although this gamble paid off, the procedure is not without risks. Charlotte’s parents found a dispensary in Denver with a strain called R2, which they found had low THC and high CBD content (the latter of which is believed to offer relief for epilepsy, epilepsy, and other medical conditions).
The parents were so happy to find a way to help their daughter. She was having seizures that were impacting her life and resulted in the loss of her ability to drive. The parents knew they needed to do something fast, and they found a treatment that had worked for other people with a similar disorder. They bought as much CBD oil as they could afford, then a friend helped extract it. After they rubbed the oil on their daughter’s skin, she stopped having seizures.
A former CNN article describes the experience of Charlotte Figi’s father, who has since been featured in Forbes as an “emotional rock” for his daughter. The article states that “Matt Figi’s daughter, Charlotte, suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy that starts during infancy. Her condition causes her to have seizures constantly, which can lead doctors to recommend brain surgery.”
For years, states have been legalizing marijuana in different forms. In the past 10 years, CBD has been gradually accepted in mainstream culture. Recently, the FDA approved Epidiolex to be the first government-sanctioned cannabis-derived substance for those with severe forms of epilepsy. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical found in cannabis. Now Charlotte and other patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) who don’t respond to current medications may use Epidiolex. Regular CBD use has increased as the acceptance of cannabis has grown nationwide.
This question is best answered by going inside the body’s endocannabinoid system or ECS. Inside, we will explore how CBD, which is an anxiety-related disorder, may alter the way it works.
The endocannabinoid system is a system of receptors and chemicals. It can be found all across the human body, and provides useful models for investigating how cannabis chemicals like CBD interact with the human ECS. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is made of two receptors, CB1 and CB2. These receptors work together to regulate many important physiological processes. Hunger, pain sensation, memory, wakefulness, and seizure reduction are just a few examples of the ECS’s crucial functions.
The endocannabinoids block the function of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). They bind to its receptors, the CB1 and CB2, and regulate bodily processes. For example, when anandamide is released, it can produce a similar effect to that of an endorphin.
Cannabis-related chemicals like CBD and THC work to block FAAH, or fatty acid amide hydrolase, an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter anandamide. This is why we feel so good when consuming cannabis. The more anandamide floating around, the better. But FAAH also has a job to do; it is released after a certain amount of time, and it works to regulate things like sleep, appetite, and digestion.
CBD may be a good seizure medicine because of its effect on a protein. In one study, Roberto Colangeli et al put two groups of mice with induced seizures into a cage. The first group had all their CB1 receptors inhibited, and the second group had only FAAH inhibited.
Due to the loss of long-term potentiation in the brain, people who have seizures, like Charlotte, would often lose memories after the event. This discovery of sensitive anti-seizure effects in rats led researchers to believe that memory restoration is possible. After introducing CBD oil, Charlotte’s ECS regained the ability to produce more synaptic memories. This redues the frequency of her seizures and improved long-term memory. Similarly, the second group of mice have had their seizure rates reduced, along with improved long-term memory.
The results of Colangeli et al suggest that a new type of drug might exist in the future and can be useful for treatment for both seizures and comorbid memory impairments associated with epilepsy. There’s a lot to know about epilepsy and CBD. But, what is the endocannabinoid system? The study of this natural system in the body helps broaden our knowledge of how CBD and hemp products can help people with epilepsy. Animal models (like rats) and people with seizure disorders are studied to see how and why CBD derived treatments benefit those with epilepsy.
Epilepsy.com says that 20-50% of people with epilepsy also have some form of anxiety disorder. Anxiety can show up after their first seizure, as they wait and fear the next one. CBD may not only help with the seizure, but the anxiety disorder as well.
For example, CBD inhibits feelings of anxiety in the brain. The limbic system is an area in the brain that controls emotions like pleasure and anger. The limbic system also plays a large role in regulating anxiety.
To determine whether CBD reduced anxiety in males, investigators conducted a within-subjects experiment. They studied two groups of five males each. In one week, they took a 400mg dose of CBD and in the other, the placebo. They measured blood flow to their brains before and after each week. The results showed that the CBD group had less anxiety than the placebo group, which has been a well-established finding.
Following CBD administration, Alexandre de Souza Crippa et al’s participants reported reduced levels of anxiety. This is consistent with Colangeli et al’s findings that CBD reduces fatty acid amide hydrolase, the enzyme that breaks down endocannabinoid molecules.
CBD’s potential as an anti-seizure treatment continues to be explored, and in addition to reducing seizures, it also helps reduce the mental symptoms of epilepsy, like memory impairment. This is important because the current focus on only reducing seizures can overlook these other symptoms. CBD treatments may improve memory impairment.
If you have epilepsy, CBD could be the root cause of your issue. By addressing the root cause of epilepsy, instead of just treating its symptoms, your condition may get better. Just as every case of epilepsy is different, not everyone responds to CBD treatments in the same way.
CBD interacts with your body differently based on your genetics. The cannabis chemical is excited by CB1 receptors in the ECS, which are limited in quantity due to genetics. Additionally, your past experience and current use of CBD will affect how it interacts with you.
CBD oil might not be appropriate for everyone with epilepsy. One should talk to a medical cannabis physician before starting a regimen with CBD oil to reduce seizures or other symptoms of epilepsy.
With cannabidiol oil treatment finally approved federally, there’s no telling what we may learn next about CBD’s potential for those with epilepsy.