The only FDA-approved use of CBD oil is in the form of Epidiolex, a CBD oil that’s prescribed for two specific types of severe childhood epilepsy. It is, at this moment, the only use for CBD that has been evaluated and approved for prescription and use.
How does that work, though? How does CBD help with epilepsy?
CBD And Other Cannabinoids Have Long Been Used To Treat Seizures
Documented medical use of cannabinoids, including marijuana, go back thousands of years. There’s some evidence that marijuana in particular was used in ancient Mesopotamian civilizations for various purposes, and the ancient Greeks used it as well including for the treatment of seizures.
One of the other popular treatment methods for childhood epilepsy – the ketogenic diet – was likewise developed from ancient treatment methods. Physicians in antiquity noticed that people who suffered from what we now know to be epilepsy suffered far fewer seizures when they fasted for a day or two in between meals. The ketogenic diet was developed to mimic a fasted state.
In fact, cannabinoids were used to treat seizure disorders through the 19th century, but medicinal use of marijuana – which naturally included use of both THC and CBD – tapered off in the early 20th century as various governments for various reasons (many of which were awful) decided to prohibit its use.
Fast forward to today. The Food and Drug Administration, after lengthy clinical trials, found CBD oil to be an effective treatment of two specific seizure disorders, specifically Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, but no other uses.
How is it that CBD is an effective treatment for seizures?
The Science On CBD For Seizures Isn’t Entirely Clear
Seizures are a very complex topic, and comprehensive knowledge of them, the different types of seizures and all the possible causes, requires pretty much getting a medical degree.
What effect does CBD have?
It isn’t entirely known WHY CBD is effective for seizures, in the same way that’s its generally known what the mechanism appears to be why CBD is effective for pain relief and anxiety. Clinical studies, according to a literature review from the Journal of Epilieptic Research, have shown little interaction with the endocannabinoid system but some effects elsewhere.
Animal studies indicated that CBD seemed to have a protective effect on the brain when inducing certain types of seizures in mice and rats, acting like a barrier between the brain and the signals that induced seizures.
There’s also some evidence to suggest that adding CBD to an anti-epileptic drug regimen can block reuptake of anti-seizure medications, resulting in higher therapeutic levels of the drug in the bloodstream. It’s common for CBD (Epidiolex) to be prescribed along with an anticonvulsant medication at the same time, rather than just the Epidiolex.
Unfortunately, it isn’t known why CBD is effective when used to treat a seizure disorder. It’s just known at this point that it has a lot of promise.