CBD shows great medical promise for a wide variety of health issues, but perhaps no use has generated as much enthusiasm as its role in treating epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes abnormal brain activity and seizures; it affects about 3 million adults and 470,000 children, in many cases significantly harming quality of life. CBD therapy is particularly relevant to several types of hard-to-treat childhood forms of epilepsy, including Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gestaut syndrome. These syndromes cause frequent, severe seizures, intellectual delays and disabilities, and an increased risk for seizure-related death. But evidence is mounting that CBD-based medicine can be very effective—to the degree that an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration unanimously recommended approval for a CBD-based drug in April 2018 to treat Dravet and Lennox-Gestaut syndromes. Proponents point to growing evidence that CBD can be tapped for broader forms of epilepsy, too.
How Does CBD Help with Epilepsy?
CBD has been stirring up potent interest as an epilepsy treatment in recent years, but it’s hardly a new idea: We know that people have been using cannabis to treat seizure disorders dating back to the 11th century. And now, scientific data support that the body’s endcannabinoid system plays a role in seizure generation and can affect seizures and neurodegeneration in complex ways. CBD itself is not only both anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective (it helps keep neurons healthy), it’s also anti-convulsive, with the power to reduce the frequency of seizures. Studies have demonstrated CBD cuts down on the severity and fatality of seizures in animals and that the seizure reduction benefits come with few side effects.
CBD and Childhood Epilepsy
Some of the strongest evidence for CBD’s healing power relates to its efficacy in treating severe childhood forms of epilepsy like Gravet syndrome and Lennox-Gestaut syndrome. In 2017, a review of three high-quality trials reported that CBD reduced the frequency of specific types of seizures in patients with those disorders, and earlier research consistently pointed to CBD’s potential for such children. Surveys of parents whose kids tried CBD treatment were also positive, with many children seeing a reduction in seizures without major side effects. CBD can indeed be a game-changer for children suffering from these forms of epilepsy, as conventional anti-seizure medications often don’t work at all for them.