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What You Need to Know Before Using CBD Oil for Epilepsy

6 min read
CBD Oil for Epilepsy

What You Need to Know Before Using CBD Oil for Epilepsy

6 min read

Fans of CBD oil are quick to highlight the potential health benefits of using the product. 

At the moment, there are only two licensed medicines containing CBD available.

These medications are prescribed rarely and only used to treat some rare forms of epilepsy, muscle stiffness associated with MS and nausea associated with chemotherapy treatment.

cbd oil for epilepsy

These medications are sometimes referred to as medical cannabis or by their trade names Epidiolex, Nabilone and Nabiximols. These medications contain highly purified CBD, and sometimes also contain THC.

Since there are medicines containing CBD oil for epilepsy, this might lead some individuals to wonder if the CBD available online and in shops could help them. 

Before adding CBD to your daily routine, it’s important to consider the potential side effects.

Read more: How to take CBD oil

In this guide, we will explore how CBD is used to treat epilepsy and what you should consider before adding CBD to your daily routine. We’ll also explore the safety implications of using CBD.

What's in this Guide?

What is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol and is a cannabinoid extracted from the cannabis plant. Another slightly more famous cannabinoid is THC, which is the psychoactive compound in cannabis that gets you high.

CBD is not psychoactive and it is also completely legal to use, provided the THC content remains very low

The majority of CBD sellers in the UK will provide a certificate of analysis to confirm that their products are legal and won’t alter your mental state.

While CBD might not get you high, it can help you enhance your sense of wellness

It is capable of interacting with the endocannabinoid system, which is essential for maintaining a state of homeostasis (balance) throughout the body.

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system was discovered fairly recently. Considering the wide range of systems it helps to regulate, it’s quite surprising that we’ve only known about it since 1988.

It is a network of receptors, neurotransmitters and enzymes that helps to send messages between cells. 

These signals help to maintain balance in the body by triggering essential processes.

For example, if you suffer a cut on your hand, your endocannabinoid system would kick into gear to trigger an inflammatory response. 

This inflammatory response would help to protect against viruses and bacteria and also signal to the immune system that you have suffered tissue damage. This begins the process of clotting to help stop the bleeding and close the wound.

The endocannabinoid system is a remarkable network, and we’re still learning about how this might be involved with essential functions like motor control and nerve function

We also have reason to believe that the endocannabinoid system might play a role in epileptic conditions.

What is the endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system is responsible for homeostasis - which is the way our body maintains functioning day to day and keeps us healthy

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain and causes seizures, which are bursts of electrical activity that interrupt how the brain works. 

Individuals can develop epilepsy at any stage in their life, but it typically surfaces in childhood or in adults over the age of 60.

Epilepsy causes a range of symptoms, including:

  • Fits, which are episodes of uncontrollable jerking and shaking
  • Losing focus and awareness
  • Stiffness
  • Strange sensations, including tingling in your arms and legs
  • Collapsing
 

Many people who experience fits pass out and do not remember what happened to them.

There are many different forms of epilepsy and most are lifelong conditions. However, there is treatment available that can help to bring the symptoms under control.

The most common treatment for epilepsy is anti-epileptic drugs. These help to limit the frequency and severity of seizures, but some forms of epilepsy do not respond to drugs.

Surgery is also an option to help control seizures. Brain surgery can help to remove the part of the brain that is causing the seizures. 

It’s also possible to have a small electrical device placed in the body to help control seizure activity.

It is possible to live a normal life with epilepsy, provided you can control your seizures. 

Alongside lifestyle changes, such as following a ketogenic diet, CBD is also in the spotlight as a potential treatment.

What is epilepsy
You may see warning messages before watching a film that indicate there may be flashing lights - these are put there for those with disorders such as epilepsy

Does CBD Oil for Epilepsy Work?

Studies are underway to learn if CBD could be a potential treatment for epilepsy. While there is some evidence it could be beneficial for the condition, animal studies have also found that CBD may increase the occurrence of seizures.

There is also the risk that CBD could interact with epilepsy medication. Before adding CBD to your daily routine, it would be wise to explore this option with your GP or pharmacist.

It’s also worth noting that CBD has never been explored as a standalone treatment for epilepsy. 

This means that every patient involved in trials was taking another form of epilepsy medication.

For this reason, it’s difficult to say if CBD is beneficial, or if it is simply modifying the way epilepsy medication works

And in some cases, it could modify the medication in a negative way.

Does CBD oil work for epilepsy
But the prescription CBD medication, Epidiolex, is available for some people with a specific form of epilepsy

What Role Does the ECS Play in Epilepsy?

According to the Open Neurology Journal, the endocannabinoid system is involved in regulating seizure activity, but we don’t yet fully understand how this works. 

The endocannabinoid system is also responsible for modulating neuroexcitation.

While using cannabis-derived products to treat seizure activity might have shown some success, researchers believe that targeting the endocannabinoid system directly might be more beneficial.

What is the endocannabinoid system

Is CBD Oil Safe for Epilepsy?

CBD is generally considered safe for most people, however, if you are taking other medications there is the risk of an interaction. Studies have found that CBD can alter the way your body processes other medications.

Studies have found that taking CBD alongside clobazam can increase the sedation effect while taking CBD with sodium valproate can alter liver function. 

Since CBD is relatively new to the market, there may be more interactions that we simply don’t know about yet.

And finally, there is also the risk of taking low-quality products that are contaminated with pesticides, chemicals, or high levels of THC

While some sellers are dedicated to producing high-quality CBD products that are safe for use, other sellers are simply looking to make a quick profit.

When choosing CBD products, it’s important to find sellers that prioritise quality

This means they should be aware of the cannabinoid content of their products and be able to trace it back to the source.

Choosing to add CBD to your daily routine to help with epilepsy is a personal choice. 

You should always consult with your doctor, as there is the potential for it to interact with other medications. 

Is CBD oil safe for epilepsy
This is the same with any drug - look for the 'grapefruit warning', which tells you to avoid eating grapefruit if you're taking some medications

What is Epidiolex?

Epidiolex is a highly purified form of CBD that is only available with a prescription. It is used to treat very rare forms of epilepsy, including Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

Lennox-Gastaut syndrome is a form of severe childhood epilepsy. It affects around 2-5% of all children with epilepsy. In around 1 in 4 cases, no cause can be found.

Dravet syndrome is a rare form of drug-resistant epilepsy that primarily affects infants. 

Epidiolex is one of two medicines used to treat the condition.

Epidiolex does not contain any THC and it is only available with a prescription. It is not the same as CBD available from shops and online.

What is Epidiolex
Epidiolex is the prescription CBD available for people struggling with a specific form of epilepsy

Conclusion

If you are living with epilepsy and want to know if CBD could help you to manage your symptoms, it’s essential to get advice from a medical professional

While there are CBD-based medicines available on prescription, this is not the same as CBD available online and in shops.

CBD may interact with epilepsy medication and make it less effective, so you should always check for potential interactions before adding it to your daily routine.

As with many conditions, more research is needed before we can understand the full extent of the role the endocannabinoid system plays in conditions such as epilepsy.

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