People have been using cannabis (also known as marijuana) to treat epilepsy for centuries. In the United States it only became legal to take marijuana products for medical reasons relatively recently. And, in 2018, a CBD oil for seizures called Epidiolex was approved by the FDA to treat certain epilepsy syndromes (CBD is a chemical found in cannabis plants).
While CBD oil may provide some relief from seizures, it should always be taken with caution and under guidance from a medical professional. This is because of:
What is CBD?
CBD can be extracted from marijuana plants and it is usually turned into an oil that you swallow.
It is possible to purchase CBD oil for seizures in adults from health food stores in most, but not all, US states (although the rules vary, and you should always check with your healthcare provider). Many companies promote the use of CBD oil for a range of conditions – from anxiety to insomnia to chronic pain – and it may be marketed as a solution to epilepsy too.
In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of a new drug called Epidiolex for the treatment of two severe forms of epilepsy:
A multitude of CBD-containing products are on the market, and some people have chosen to use them for seizure control. This trend is likely to grow, especially since the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp-derived products, including CBD, legal at the federal level.
There’s still much to be learned about how CBD interacts with other anti-seizure drugs.
The side effects of CBD that have been reported in the studies when it was added to other antiseizure medications included:
Over-the-Counter CBD Products
Seizures are caused by erratic electrical activity in the brain that can spread and cause uncontrolled physical movements and/or alterations of consciousness. Most anti-seizure drugs work by slowing down excitatory nerve activity in the brain.
It is generally started at a dose of 2.5 mg/kg twice per day and increased weekly. It can be increased up to a dose of 20 mg/kg per day if needed, but increased side effects have been found to occur at the higher dose.
A 2019 review of studies on Epidiolex showed a sustained seizure frequency reduction of between 30 and 63 percent. Additionally, seizures were about half as severe and the postictal (after seizure) state was less severe as well.
In fact, the FDA has issued warnings to many CBD businesses for illegal practices, including those related to the marketing of their products. In some cases, actual CBD content was negligible or less than 1 percent of what the label claimed.