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Does CBD oil effectively treat Seizures?

A seizure is usually defined as a sudden burst or surge of electrical activity in the brain. During a seizure, a person suffers from abnormal symptoms and sensations, sometimes losing consciousness. This means they have little quality of life and it can even be life-threatening.  Some research and numerous patient testimonials seem to indicate that CBD oil is a viable alternative to other medications when it comes to reducing seizures.

Evidence of success

When reports started coming out in 2013 that cannabidiol (CBD) had helped 6-year-old girl who was suffering from 300 seizures a week, it started media frenzy.  Charlotte Figi had dravet syndrome, one of the worst forms of epilepsy and could no longer eat, talk or walk before being treated with CBD. Existing medication did not work for her but treatment with CBD reduced her seizures to a few a months. Her CBD oil was supplied by some Christian brothers in Colarado Springs called the Stanleys. Edward Maa, a neurologist is doing a study of the strain, called Charlotte’s Web and now has 14 Dravet patients.

Billy Caldwell, an 11-year-old boy, was the first person to receive a prescription for medical marijuana in the UK. He suffered from as many as a hundred seizures a day and began treatment with CBD oil in 2016.  Following extensive treatment with CBD oil, his mother reported that he had been free of seizures for more than 300 days.

With stories like these circulating, parents with severely epileptic children have been given hope and are seeing the use of CBD oil as an answer.

Dashed hopes?

A National Academy of Sciences Report found that there was not enough evidence that cannabis oil could treat epilepsy.  This report was an in-depth analysis into research conducted to date. However, the reviewers excluded any evidence from promising studies done on animals. This left them with just three human studies. The largest study was done on a total of 162 patients. These patients were treated with a 99% CBD oil extract over a period of 12 weeks. Five of the patients found that their seizures disappeared completely during the period of the study, and two became seizure-free. The CBD worked as well as the normal anti-epilepsy medication, reducing seizures by a monthly average of 36%.

Three reasons were given as to why these results provided insufficient proof.  They were not large based clinical studies, patients were not given placebo controls and as patients were taking other anti-epilepsy medications, drug interactions could have taken place. CBD blocks liver enzymes that break down these other drugs and so the results could have been influenced by the result of other drugs staying in the system for longer.

Renewed confirmation

A study presented at the American Epilepsy Society’s annual meeting in February 2017 was positive in its findings. The results from this uncontrolled study reinforced what had been found in animal studies and prior reports. It found that CBD was effective in reduction of severity and frequency of seizures in adults and children. This study began in 2014, using children from treatment centers for epilepsy throughout the U.S.

Elizabeth A. Thiele, M.D., Ph.D. – a lead author of the study, said that treatment with CBD appeared to be safe and effective treatment for children suffering from treatment resistant epilepsy. She was careful to qualify this by saying that the treatment was not a ‘silver bullet’ but that some children benefit from it more than any other treatments.

The good news is that other randomized clinical trials are currently being conducted to examine how effective CBD oil is in treating epilepsy. Some of these have already been completed and the results should be available before long.

The pros and cons of taking treatment into your own hands

Products made from cannabis are not approved by the FDA. There is no guarantee that products are not contaminated. There’s also a question of dosage – can a supplier replicate the same product over and over? This is very important when a small change in the ratios of ingredients can have a big influence of effectiveness.

Remember that not all children will react in the same way and there may also be a problem with side effects. In the best study to date, nearly 80% of the participants had adverse effects from the CBD such as fatigue and diarrhea. This is higher than the rate of side effects from some of the current epilepsy drugs. However, only 3% of the people dropped out of the study and this low drop-out rate does suggest that it is safe – at least for short term use.

Recently the parents of a 20-month-old baby girl, Jaelah, decided to use CBD to treat her debilitating seizures, often about 50 a day. She had been diagnosed by a neurologist who wanted to put her on a common seizure medication that often has undesirable side-effects.  Lelah Jerger and her husband decided to do their own research into the best possible treatment for their daughter, found a qualified Chiropractic neurologist and began giving her the CBD oil. The seizures were reduced to four or less a day. The parents were reported by the Riley Hospital for Children in Indiana to Child Protective Services. The case was dropped after intervention by a state legislature who emphasized that the treatment was legal.

Some parents have tried every possible way to treat their epileptic children, including using all kinds of different medications.  With a small but ever growing body of research suggesting that CBD might be an excellent anticonvulsant, there is definitely hope for epilepsy sufferers.

However, the catch for many epilepsy sufferers is just how to get hold of the right product and to administer it in the correct dosage.  Going the route of giving weed to a child or making your own tinctures is highly inadvisable. Fortunately, the attitude towards such products is beginning to change and laws are changing too – Twenty-three states in the U.S. have already legalized medical cannabis and laws will inevitably also change on a federal level. This will make it easier for researchers to do more studies. It’s highly likely that these studies will help to back up all the anecdotal evidence that already suggests how effective CBD oil is in treating epilepsy.



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