Over the past few years, it has been discovered that CBD is a powerful tool that can be used in the treatment of a number of diseases. This is because scientific research regarding CBD has been sorely lacking due to legal restrictions during the 20th century.
But that isn’t true in all cases. One such case is the use of CBD for seizures.
Documentation of seizures goes back to over 4 millennia ago. The earliest accounts of these seizures were said to be the results of possession by evil spirits or punishment by the gods.
This continued to be the case until the time of Hippocrates in the 3rd century BC when he wrote On the Sacred Disease. The work stated that epilepsy (then known as the scared disease) was not inflicted by spirits or gods, but by natural causes in the human body.
One of the earliest documented cases of a person of influence suffering seizures in Julius Caesar. Caesar who lived from 100 BC to 44 BC was known to have at least 4 seizures in his lifetime. There’s additional evidence that he suffered absence seizures as a child. Over the centuries, there has been much debate over the causes of his seizures including parasitic brain infection, malaria, and hypoglycemia.
What’s a seizure?
A seizure is an episode when a person experiences involuntary shaking in part or over their entire body. During the event, the person can also lose awareness or consciousness. These episodes usually only last a few minutes but can take days or longer to recover.
While some seizures can come from out of nowhere with no apparent cause (known as an unprovoked seizure), others can happen due to physiological or psychological events that a person’s body is going through (a provoked seizure). Some examples are
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Brain infection
- Drug withdrawal
- Lack of sleep
- Low blood sugar
- Low sodium levels
One class of seizures, known as epilepsy, is a neurological or even series of neurological disorders that make a person susceptible to multiple seizures over the long term.
Each year 29 to 39 people out of 100,000 experience provoked seizures and 23 to 61 out of 100,000 experience unprovoked seizures. About 8% to 10% of the world’s population can expect to suffer at least one seizure in their lifetime.
Types of Seizures
Seizures can be broken down into 2 main types: focal and generalized.
A focal seizure, also known as a partial seizure or a localized seizure is one where the seizure only affects one of the 2 hemispheres of the brain.
A focal seizure can further be broken down into 2 categories:
- Focal onset aware seizures – In these types of seizures, the lobes of the brain can be affected, but the person remains conscious
- Focal onset impaired awareness seizures – In these types of seizures, a large part of the brain hemisphere is affected, and the person loses consciousness.
Focal onset aware seizures may go unnoticed by the person suffering the event. This is because they will generally last less than 2 minutes.
When a person suffers a focal onset aware seizure, they may experience one or more of the following:
- Sudden and unexplained feelings of fear, anger, sadness, happiness, or nausea
- Sensations that they are falling or moving around but are not
- Unusual sensations
- Distorted sense of hearing, smell, taste, or sight
- Illusions or hallucinations
- Feeling as though the environment is not real
- Spatial distortion
- Déjà vu
- Trouble speaking or inability to speak at all
Focal onset aware seizures can also happen while someone sleeps. In these cases, the person will seem to wake and act out the dream as if it were real life. They may be interacting with people from their dream and speak to them.
The symptoms of focal onset aware seizures when a person is asleep include:
- The person is actively in REM sleep
- The person is in a dream-like state
- The person shows the appearance of full consciousness
- The person experiences hallucinations or delusions
- The person has the ability to engage with the environment and other people as in full consciousness, though often behaving abnormally, erratically, or failing to be coherent
- The person has complete amnesia or assimilating the memory as though it was a normal dream on regaining full consciousness
Focal impaired awareness seizures generally happen after a person has experienced one or more precursory focal aware seizures. Generally, they have experienced a focal aware seizure previously with feelings of tunnel vision or a distorted perception of the size of or distance from objects. It can also present itself with déjà vu, feelings of total unfamiliarity, euphoria, fear, or detachment. This precursor seizure is known as an aura.
When a person experiences a focal impaired awareness seizure, they may show physical signs including:
- lip smacking
During these seizures, people around the person suffering the seizure may not realize that the seizure is occurring as the person seems like they are functioning normally. Some people actually walk or move around in common ways while having the seizure, although the sufferer is not in control of their actions. The person having the seizure usually not remember anything regarding events that happened while they’re seized.
The other class of seizures is known as generalized seizures. In a generalized seizure, the victim has no warning that the event is about to happen and they completely lose consciousness.
Generalized seizures are broken down into 6 categories:
- Absence seizures – In these instances, the victim usually shows signs of a slight turn of the head or eye blinking. The person doesn’t fall to the ground and may return to normal after it is over, although they may feel disoriented.
- Atonic seizures – These seizures involve the loss of muscle control on both sides of the body for a short period of time.
- Clonic seizures – Seizures that involve the uncontrollable shaking of the limbs in unison
- Tonic seizures – Presented by constant muscle contraction and may involve the suffer turning blue from the inability to breath.
- Tonic-clonic seizures – These seizures present with a contraction and extension of the limbs followed by arching of the back for up to 30 seconds. The person’s limbs then begin to shake in unison. Following the event, it may take an hour or more for the person to begin to feel normal.
What Is CBD?
CBD or cannabidiol is one of than 113 chemical compounds found the cannabis plant known cannabinoids. Cannabinoids have been found to react to receptors in the body in both animals and humans that affect appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory.
These receptors, known as the endocannabinoid system, regulate physiological and cognitive processes in the central nervous system.
While CBD is derived from the cannabis plant, it is not marijuana. It can be derived from marijuana, but the CBD from commercial use in the United States is derived from hemp. The difference between the 2 is the amount of the psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. Marijuana has high concentrations of CDB, while hemp, by law in the US, has to have less than 0.3%.
In recent years CBD has been found to alleviate or eliminate symptoms in a number of conditions including:
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS)
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Endocrine disorders
- Epilepsy and Seizures
- Heart Disease
- Huntington’s Disease (HD)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disorder (IBD)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Mood Disorders
- Motion Sickness
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Osteoporosis/Bone Health
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Skin Conditions
- Sleep Disorders
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Research on CBD and Seizures
Unlike other conditions, studies of the effects of CBD and cannabis on seizures has been ongoing for many years.
Among the first documented use of cannabis to treat seizures was in the 1800s.
An Irish physician living in India in the 1830s named Dr. William Brooke O’Shaughnessy had started studying native folk remedies from the inhabitants of Calcutta.
At that time he was introduced to a plant called cannabis sativa. He researched this plant extensively. He had discovered a number of condition that the plant was useful in treating. He was able to help patients with rheumatism, rabies, and tetanus by using the plant.
But the breakthrough regarding seizures came when an infant was brought to him who was suffering from what was termed as “convulsions”. The parents of the infant were unable to find anyone who could help. O’Shaughnessy started the infant on a course of cannabis to control these seizures and after the treatment, they had completely stopped.
This along with his other successes with the plant led him to write the first of several scientific papers on the use of cannabis as a medicine.
When he returned to England in the 1840s, he brought cannabis with him and within a decade, cannabis had become a standard treatment for a number of illnesses and conditions across Europe and North America.
In the US, the annual drug and pharmaceutical manual The United States Pharmacopeia started including it as a treatment for many diseases in 1850.
One of the most prolific CBD and cannabinoid researcher was Raphael Mechoulam. Mechoulam was an Israeli chemist and professor that’s known as the “grandfather of marijuana research”.
He was the first chemist to successfully isolate the cannabinoid THC. He also did extensive research with the cannabinoid CBD.
One such study was conducted in 1980. It involved 16 people suffering from epileptic seizures. In the study, 8 of the patients were given CBD and 8 were given placebos.
Each patient received, in a double-blind procedure, 200-300 mg daily of CBD or placebo. The medications were administered for 4½ months.
The results were impressive. The study stated:
“All patients and volunteers tolerated CBD very well and no signs of toxicity or serious side effects were detected on examination. 4 of the 8 CBD subjects remained almost free of convulsive crises throughout the experiment and 3 other patients demonstrated partial improvement in their clinical condition. CBD was ineffective in 1 patient.”
So in this study, 7 out of the 8 or 87.5% of the patients were helped by using the CBD and 50% were essentially cured of the affliction.
Another study in The New England Journal of Medicine studied the effects of CBD on 120 children suffering from epilepsy. The study showed that the CBD reduced seizures by 23% from those who took a placebo.
These studies led to the development of the first CBD based prescription drug Epidiolex. Epidiolex gained approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after several years of development.
The approval in 2018 led the FDA to classify it as a Schedule V drug. This means that the drug has a low potential for abuse and the drug has a currently accepted medical use in treatment.
While the Schedule V may not seem like a big deal, it was, because CBD was listed as a Schedule I drug which means that it had no medicinal value.
Since then, Congress has lifted the restriction on hemp that had been in place for over 60 years. This led to a legal limbo for CBD. Under the law, CBD that’s derived from hemp isn’t longer illegal under federal law. The hemp must have less than 0.3% THC content. CBD derived from cannabis plants with more than 0.3% THC is still considered a Schedule I drug.
CBD for Seizures
If you suffer from seizures, CBD can certainly benefit you. But it would be irresponsible for anyone to recommend that you take a course of action on your own regarding such a serious medical condition. If you’re a person prone to seizures or the parent of a child that has seizures, please consult your doctor before taking any medications or starting a course of CBD.
Part of the reason to do this is that the doctor may want to put you on a course of Epidiolex so he or she can be sure that the amount of CBD you take is consistent. As over-the-counter CBD occasionally doesn’t have an exact way to measure.
But if you’re a person that hasn’t suffered a seizure, then you may want to consider CBD as a preventative measure. CBD can enhance overall health and has neuroprotective properties.
It’s still wise to consult a physician if you’re taking CBD for this purpose, but in the case of preventative medicine, CBD acts as a nutritional supplement.
Seizures and epilepsy can affect up to 10% of the population. And that’s just the reported amounts. There could be times when a person “zones out” for a minute or 2 and has a seizure without anyone (including the sufferer) knowing it.
CBD has been proven to help protect against seizures and protect the brain in general. Using CBD can be a great way to protect yourself from seizures just like taking an aspirin every day can help prevent heart attacks.
And if you’ve had a seizure in the past, but haven’t in a long time, talk to your doctor about integrating CBD into your health plan. Many people who’ve suffered at least 1 seizure can expect to have another in their lifetime, so it’s in your best interest to consider adding CBD to your daily routine to protect your neural health.