- About 50 million people have been diagnosed with epilepsy globally.
- Epilepsy is linked to chronic seizures.
- CBD possess some anti-seizure properties that helps people with chronic epilepsy.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a medical condition that affects the brain and leads to repeated seizures—sudden bursts of electrical activity causing changes in behavior, awareness, or consciousness. People with epilepsy can experience seizures of varying intensity and duration. Although the exact cause isn't always clear, the condition can be managed with medications and other treatments, allowing individuals to lead normal lives with the right care and support.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, making it one of the most common neurological diseases globally. Surprisingly, nearly 80% of individuals with epilepsy reside in low- and middle-income countries. The WHO estimates that up to 70% of people living with epilepsy could live seizure-free if properly diagnosed and treated.
Who is at risk of developing epilepsy?
Epilepsy can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. However, certain factors may increase the risk of developing epilepsy. These factors are listed below:
- Family History: Having a family history of epilepsy or seizures may increase the risk.
- Head Injuries: Traumatic brain injuries resulting from accidents, falls, or other incidents can be a risk factor, particularly if the injury involves the brain.
- Brain Conditions: Structural brain conditions or abnormalities present at birth, such as malformations or tumors, can contribute to the development of epilepsy.
- Infections: Certain infections affecting the brain, such as meningitis or encephalitis, may increase the risk of epilepsy.
- Stroke and Vascular Diseases: Conditions that affect blood flow to the brain, including strokes or vascular diseases, can be associated with an increased risk.
- Neurological Disorders: Other neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease or multiple sclerosis, may be linked to an elevated risk of epilepsy.
- Developmental Disorders: Certain developmental disorders, like autism spectrum disorders, may be associated with a higher risk of epilepsy.
- Genetic Factors: In some cases, epilepsy may have a genetic component. Individuals with a family history of epilepsy or certain genetic syndromes may be at a higher risk.
- Perinatal Injury: Injuries or complications during childbirth that affect the baby's brain may increase the likelihood of epilepsy later in life.
- Febrile Seizures: Seizures associated with a high fever in childhood, known as febrile seizures, may slightly elevate the risk of epilepsy.
What are the symptoms of epilepsy?
The symptoms of epilepsy can vary widely among individuals, and they depend on the type of seizure and the part of the brain affected. Common symptoms include:
- Seizures: The hallmark symptom of epilepsy is recurrent seizures. Seizures can manifest in different ways, such as:
- Generalized Seizures: Involving the entire brain and often leading to loss of consciousness.
- Partial Seizures: Affecting a specific part of the brain and may cause altered sensations, emotions, or movements.
- Temporary Confusion: After a seizure, individuals may experience a period of temporary confusion or disorientation, known as the postictal state.
- Staring Spells: Absence seizures, common in certain types of epilepsy, may cause brief episodes of staring without awareness.
- Uncontrolled Movements: Seizures can lead to uncontrolled movements, such as jerking or twitching of the limbs.
- Loss of Awareness: Some seizures may cause a temporary loss of awareness or consciousness.
- Automatisms: In certain seizures, individuals may exhibit automatic, repetitive movements, such as lip-smacking or hand rubbing.
- Auras: Some people with epilepsy experience auras, which are warning signs or sensations that precede a seizure. Auras can vary widely and may include visual disturbances, strange smells, or unusual feelings.
- Tonic-Clonic Seizures: These seizures involve a combination of muscle stiffening (tonic phase) followed by rhythmic jerking (clonic phase). They are often associated with loss of consciousness.
Role of CBD in epileptic seizures
Several research papers and clinical data suggests that CBD may have potential benefits for certain types of epilepsy, particularly in reducing the frequency and severity of seizures. This therapeutic benefits works in the following ways;
- Effectiveness in Specific Epilepsy Syndromes: CBD has shown promise in the treatment of specific epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which are often resistant to traditional antiepileptic medications.
- Reduction in Seizure Frequency: Some clinical studies have demonstrated that CBD can lead to a significant reduction in seizure frequency in individuals with treatment-resistant epilepsy. In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a prescription medication containing purified CBD, for the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in patients two years of age and older.
How does CBD reduce seizures?
While CBD have been documented as an approved medication for chronic seizures associated with epilepsy, it is important to note that the mechanism of action still remains unknown. All we can say for now is that CBD reduces seizures by interacting with the ECS molecules.
Recently researchers also discovered that acidic cannabinoids like CBGa, and CBDa are more active at reducing seizures than CBD. CBDa is 1000 times more active than CBD and it is the original compound created in the cannabis plant. It is abundant in actively growing cannabis plant and is easily absorbed by the receptors. You can read our article on CBD vs. CBDa for more information.
Frequently asked questions
Can I overdose on CBD?
No, it is impossible to overdose on CBD. Unlike THC, CBD is not intoxicating and does not lead to adverse effects.
Will my seizures cease after using CBD?
CBD may help reduce seizures for some people. Its effectiveness varies, and not everyone responds the same way.
CBD will reduce your seizures and offer relief to seizure related complications.
While CBD has shown promise in reducing seizures for some individuals, its effectiveness can vary. It may provide relief for seizure-related complications, but results are not guaranteed for everyone.
When can I use CBD for seizures?
Consider using CBD for seizures under the guidance of an expert, especially if traditional medications have been ineffective or come with intolerable side effects. CBD may be used as a complementary treatment alongside other prescribed medications. Ongoing monitoring by an expert is very important to assess its impact on seizures and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan. Never self-prescribe CBD for seizures; always follow the recommendations.
Want to Learn More?
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Ryan M. Cannabidiol in epilepsy: The indications and beyond. Ment Health Clin. 2020 Nov 5;10(6):317-325. doi: 10.9740/mhc.2020.11.317. PMID: 33224689; PMCID: PMC7653733.
Silvestro S, Mammana S, Cavalli E, Bramanti P, Mazzon E. Use of Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Efficacy and Security in Clinical Trials. Molecules. 2019 Apr 12;24(8):1459. doi: 10.3390/molecules24081459. PMID: 31013866; PMCID: PMC6514832.