CBD, an already wonderful chemical compound that helps balance our endocannabinoid system, has been proven effective at dealing with certain cases of epilepsy and other seizure-inducing illnesses.
In a nutshell, seizures are caused by surges in electricity within your brain. While it’s possible for people to suffer from seizures during rare occurrences, someone who has regular, clear-cut triggers is considered as someone with ‘epilepsy’.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder, where the nerve cells in your brain misfire or come out of sync with each other. Epilepsy disorders are sorted and named via the types of seizures that occur and the certain triggers that activate them. There are two main types of seizures: focal seizures, where you can be affected either physically or emotionally and generalized seizures, where you suffer from muscle spasms or even black out. Seizures are not cut and dry, either; many people suffer from multiple types of seizures.
People who have epilepsy can live perfectly happy and productive lives as long as they get the proper medicine. However, there are many cases of epilepsy that traditional medicine just can’t fully treat, and this is where CBD comes in.
Cannabis has been treasured for ages — especially when it comes to reducing seizures.
In the mid-1800s, the experience of a pioneering physician named W. B. O’Shaughnessy brought hemp to the West. Having observed just how much it helped patients in India (he’d been working overseas), O’Shaughnessy declared hemp “an anticonvulsant remedy of the greatest value.”
Once back in native England, W.B. began formulating potent extracts with this “Indian hemp.” His patients experienced great results, too, and the rest (until circa-1930 prohibition, at least) is history.
According to Dr. Ethan Russo, “ingestible cannabis remained on many official Western medicinal formularies into the early 1900s not only for epilepsy but for many other ills.”
While not understood at the time, it was CBD’s anti-epileptic qualities in particular that were at the heart of these early experiences. But how does it work? It’s thought that CBD helps regulate GABA, a relaxing neurotransmitter that’s the very antithesis of epilepsy and its ‘short-circuiting’ activities. In fact, even some of hemp’s primary terpenes (like linalool) are revealing themselves to be natural GABA-regulators.
Cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) may also help provide the overactive mind with better ‘feedback loops’ because they operate through retrograde signaling. Think of how a home’s breaker boxes prevents electricity from surging too much. In the human brain, healthy endocannabinoid receptors are able to provide enough biofeedback to achieve a similar function.
Approved in June 2018, Epidiolex is the first CBD-based drug approved by the FDA. Derived straight from the cannabis plant, Epidiolex is comprised of a “highly-purified” form of CBD.
What makes Epidiolex such an important breakthrough for modern medicine is that it officially legitimizes the use of cannabis as a medicine in the eyes of the federal government. For many years, people have used cannabis in a medicinal sense, but it has never become an FDA-approved prescription drug. Now, that all changed with Epidiolex.
Epidiolex tackles two very rare and severe cases of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LSG) and Dravet syndrome. Both forms of epilepsy are life-long and life-altering conditions. Many of the people who suffer from these two illnesses are not capable of living typical lives, as they are always in need of medical assistance due to the frequency and severity of their seizures.
According to the FDA, Epidiolex was tested as such: “Epidiolex’s effectiveness was studied in three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials involving 516 patients with either Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome. Epidiolex, taken along with other medications, was shown to be effective in reducing the frequency of seizures when compared with placebo.”
Because of the severity of epilepsy and other seizure-inducing illnesses, many families have abandoned traditional medicine to look for more effective treatment methods. This is why many families have resorted to CBD oil and other cannabis-related products. One such example is the Reuther family.
Paeyton Reuther was only one year old when she suffered her first seizure. For the next four years, her parents struggled to find an effective way to treat their daughter, as the previously prescribed medicine was losing its effectiveness as her tolerance rose.
Another point of concern was the dosage Paeyton was taking, as she was nearly taking the same dosage of the anti-seizure medication her 23-year old sister was taking. Desperate to keep their baby daughter safe, the Reuther family started looking to CBD oil to help treat the seizures. Since little Peyton Reuther started taking CBD, she has yet to have another seizure.
The Reuther family’s case is just one of many cases where families are pushed so far, that they are willing to blur the lines of the law in order to find a solution to their children’s seizures. In many of those cases, CBD and cannabis has been found to be the solution.
It’s easy to look at Epidiolex and the story of the Reuther family as a strong green light for CBD across the board. After all, if it can calm the nerves of epileptics, why wouldn’t it also help you relax?
That’s an understandable leap, but as with most things, it’s not that simple. The differences in physiology and bodily chemistry between two random people can be hugely different from each other, let alone an epileptic.
For adults interested in CBD, the safest course of action is to understand the potential risks, and take the time to learn how their own bodies respond to cannabinoids. In the meantime, we look forward to more studies being opened up to test the true medical efficacy of CBD and cannabis.