The hemp benefits for epilepsy are wide and far reaching, which is why we’ll be covering what epilepsy is exactly, what the current treatment options are and what the exciting latest research is telling us about hemp, cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system’s role in both epilepsy severity and frequency.
Epilepsy is defined as a “chronic disorder that causes unprovoked, recurrent seizures. A seizure is a sudden rush of electrical activity in the brain.” It is a central nervous system (neurological) disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness.
Generalized seizures affect the whole brain, and focal (or partial) seizures affect one part. Seizures can vary in length and severity. A mild one is usually brief and the person will lack awareness, making it harder to identify. Stronger episodes can cause muscle spasms with uncontrollable movements. Some people lose consciousness or become confused. These seizures can last up to several minutes.
Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder. Family history and brain injuries are potential causes, but for most, the cause for this disorder is unknown. An estimated 3.4 million people in the US have epilepsy, and approximately 470,000 of those are children.
Hemp benefits for epilepsy cannot go underestimated, but for now, we’ll cover the traditional medical options below before going into the research around the hemp benefits.
Treatment with medications or sometimes surgery can control seizures for the majority of people with epilepsy. Some people require lifelong treatment to control seizures, but for others, the seizures eventually go away. Some children with epilepsy may outgrow the condition with age.
Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are the main form of treatment for people with epilepsy. AEDs work by stabilising the electrical activity of your brain. Up to 70% (7 in 10) people with epilepsy could have their seizures completely controlled with AEDs.
The most common side effects associated with epilepsy medicines are: drowsiness, irritability, nausea, rash, and clumsiness. Some drugs produce changes in emotions, memory or behavior, or affect learning. Occasionally, a drug will increase the number of seizures a person is having.
Epilepsy surgery is a procedure that removes or alters an area of your brain where seizures originate. Epilepsy surgery is not the first line of treatment but is considered when at least two anti-seizure medications have failed to control seizures.
As always, prior to making any changes to your epilepsy treatment consult with a licenced medical professional. Next we’ll be covering hemp benefits for epilepsy and what the research tells us.
Cannabinoids work to block the receptors for a neuro-transmitter called glutamate. Glutamate is a primary excitatory neuron that can lead to epileptic seizures. Epileptic seizures occur when excessive electrical activity within neural networks of the brain occurs. By blocking the reception of glutamate, the risk of seizures is reduced.
The referenced study above found the hemp terpene linalool to be especially effective blocking peripheral nerves that can lead to excessive electrical activity in the brain, aka seizures. Hemp benefits are far reaching, not just for epilepsy but many other conditions.
The Journal of Epilepsy Research released a publication in 2017 that referred to the cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD) as “superior” in reducing the frequency of seizures. The article notes that CBD was found to have a “better defined anticonvulsant profile” in comparison to other cannabinoids.
Cannabidiol is noted as being especially effective in Dravet syndrome and Lennox-gastaut syndrome. Value was also placed on CBD working to minimize drug resistant seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex and Sturge-Weber syndrome.
In this paper from 2017, three large studies were completed with researchers having this to say about hemp benefits rich in CBD for epilepsy,
“CBD was found to be superior to placebo”
CBD reduced both seizure severity and frequency. This is important news for those suffering from epilepsy.
“For the first time, there is now class 1 evidence that adjunctive use of CBD improves seizure control in patients with specific epilepsy syndromes.”
This is hard evidence of the hemp benefits for epilepsy sufferers. Class 1 is the gold standard in proof of a product’s efficacy. Hemp and cannabinoids such as CBD are showing great promise in the next frontier of support for those suffering with epilepsy.
In a 2018 review of over 36 peer reviewed studies, it was found,
“Outcomes were: 50%+ seizure reduction, complete seizure freedom; improved quality of life.”
Hemp products are being used in children with great success, as full spectrum hemp oil does not cause psychoactive effects (or “highs”). Hemp, rich in cannabinoids such as CBD, are anti-epileptic, reducing the severity and occurrences of seizures.
You may have heard of Charlotte Figi, a girl who suffered from Dravet syndrome. This syndrome causes seizures and paralysis. She was experiencing over three hundred weekly episodes until her mother started a regiment of CBD oil.
Her case was so severe, Charlotte wasn’t expected to live past the age of six. Her episodes dropped to an average of less than one per week. (editors note: unfortunately, Charlotte passed away in April 2020 at the age of 13). You can read more about this in the New York Times.
The main thing is, during Charlotte's time here, she experienced a significant positive impact and inspired many parents to try cannabinoids with their kids, posting testimonials of their children’s positive experiences with hemp and CBD online.
Interest, research, and applications of full spectrum hemp rich in CBD are gaining traction in the medical and scientific communities. Most government agencies discredited hemp products like CBD oil in the past, but they are now starting to recognize the benefits of the cannabinoid.
The FDA recently approved a pharmaceutical used for severe seizure syndromes, Epidiolex, which is significantly comprised of cannabidiol.
This is not surprising due to the nature of hemp and how it’s phytocannabinoids act on the body both directly and through the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is an integral part of our physiologies and responsible for maintaining order and balance across all major systems of the body.
The human body has specific locks (or receptors) that are designed specifically for cannabinoids; both endocannabinoids (made by the body) and phytocannabinoids (made by plants). These cannabinoids act as keys, unlocking the body’s own internal medicine cabinet (the ECS), so it can go to work on resolving imbalances and disorders.
We regularly write on our blog about hemp, cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system as it relates to human health, specific bodily conditions and what the latest research is telling us.
We hope this article has covered the hemp benefits for epilepsy in detail for you so you can feel confident in sharing this information widely with those you care about who may be affected by epilepsy.
Keeping in mind, there are many who can enjoy hemp benefits so keep an open mind as you peruse our blog for areas where hemp may be able to support you and your families health.
Prior to making changes to your treatment plan, always consult a licenced medical professional.