In this article, we will do our best to keep you informed of the advances concerning the legitimacy of the therapeutic potential of CBD. We have also prepared several files: CBD and neurodegenerative diseases, CBD, and multiple sclerosis among others.
It seemed important to us to deal with the subject because there is currently a treatment based on cannabidiol to control seizures. This drug remains illegal and inevitably, many patients and parents of children suffering from this disease opt for self-medication.
Can CBD help to fight epilepsy? The debate is raging and we intend to provide you with some answers!
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy, a disease of the child
Let’s start with some basics. In reality, epilepsy refers to a family of neurological diseases whose common denominator is spontaneous epileptic seizures. In fact, the word epilepsy comes from the ancient Greek for “to take by surprise”.
These seizures take many forms. They can be convulsions, muscle contractions (= myoclonic seizures) or epileptic absences. However, they are all the result of a temporary dysfunction of the brain. A kind of short-circuit between the neurons causes an electric discharge in one part or in the whole brain.
Anyone at any time can potentially experience an epileptic seizure. In fact, some researchers are working on a mathematical model to predict the onset of seizures.
However, for most people, it will only be one seizure and it will have no major consequences. For others, however, these episodes will recur more or less sporadically. This is particularly true for young children and teenagers, who are the main people affected by epilepsy. Most epileptic syndromes appear before the age of 30.
Are there treatments for epilepsy?
For 60% of children, epilepsy disappears in adolescence, when the brain is fully developed. For the rest of them, a life-long treatment will be necessary in half of the cases. However, in 20% of cases, epilepsy is said to be drug-resistant. This means that no treatment works.
There are currently about twenty molecules capable of reducing the occurrence of epileptic seizures. The most common anti-epileptic drugs are phenobarbital, benzodiazepines and valproate. In most cases, these antiepileptics are GABA inhibitors. Without going into too much detail, GABA is responsible for whether or not our muscles are activated.
Their intake is of course not harmless. They can lead to:
- Weight gain ;
- Change of mood ;
- Learning difficulties;
- Memory problems;
- And in the case of valproate, it increases the risks of malformation of the infant if it is prescribed to a pregnant woman.
Epilepsy and CBD: what is the link?
What is CBD?
We will now quickly recall what CBD is, for those who do not know yet. It is a molecule that belongs to a large family of cannabinoids. You will have understood it and you probably already know it, CBD is extracted from cannabis. Yes, just like THC which is also a cannabinoid.
However, unlike THC, CBD is perfectly legal and has no psychotropic effect. The cannabidiol (CBD) does not make you high, nor anything of this kind and besides, some studies lend him numerous therapeutic properties. If you want to know more, we warmly recommend our guide to CBD for beginners.
The endocannabinoid system: it all makes sense!
No, it’s no coincidence that scientists have turned their microscopes to CBD in their search for a treatment for epilepsy.
There is a logical explanation: the endocannabinoid system. Don’t be afraid, we’ll explain what it is.
The endocannabinoid system is a network of cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are distributed throughout our body, partly in our brain. Cannabinoids, like CBD, by binding to these famous receptors, would be able to restore our physiological balance.
Studies on our endocannabinoid system are still in their infancy. And in spite of encouraging results, we must admit that we are far from understanding how it works…
In any case, as you will have understood, the presence of cannabinoid receptors in the brain is a more than valid avenue of research. Cannabinoids could indeed compensate for the dysfunctions of the nervous system.
Moreover, it has been shown that cannabinoid receptors present in the brain (CB1) are able to decrease the production of a neurotransmitter that we have already mentioned in this article: GABA.
Can CBD really cure epilepsy?
CBD to treat epilepsy: all the lights seem to be green. And yet, we must remain cautious. Indeed, as we said earlier, there are dozens and dozens of epileptic syndromes. Each with its own specificities.
That said, some studies are rather encouraging:
A 10% CBD oil was administered to patients with epilepsy (Dravet syndrome): 43% of them saw the number of epileptic seizures divided by 2. During the same study, some patients received a placebo, and 27% of them also observed a significant decrease in the number of seizures.
The same oil was administered to patients suffering from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome: atonic seizures were reduced by 42%. In patients who received a placebo, this percentage was 17%.
Finally, a third experiment was done with the same CBD oil at 10%. This time, the study was conducted on patients whose epilepsy was of various causes and drug-resistant. Half of the patients were able to reduce the frequency of their monthly seizures by half.
Many other studies have been done. Some researchers have compiled all the results and claim that CBD treatment can reduce the frequency of seizures by at least 50%, in 40 to 50% of patients. This rate of effectiveness is comparable to that of most anti-epileptic drugs available on the market.
However, not all forms of epilepsy are concerned by this good news! These results only concern patients suffering from refractory epilepsy, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Epidiolex: CBD-based treatment for epilepsy
As we said in the introduction, there is indeed a CBD-based treatment for epilepsy. In fact, the studies we were talking about just now were all three carried out with Epidiolex, a CBD oil dosed at 10%.