CBD may alleviate seizures, benefit behaviors in people with neurodevelopmental conditions
A marijuana plant extract, also known as cannabidiol (CBD), is being commonly used to improve anxiety, sleep problems, pain, and many other neurological conditions. Now UNC School of Medicine researchers show it may alleviate seizures and normalize brain rhythms in Angelman syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental condition.
Published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the research conducted using Angelman syndrome animal models shows that CBD could benefit kids and adults with this serious condition, which is characterized by intellectual disability, lack of speech, brain rhythm dysfunction, and deleterious and often drug-resistant epilepsy.
“There is an unmet need for better treatments for kids with Angelman syndrome to help them live fuller lives and to aid their families and caregivers,” said Ben Philpot, PhD, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology and associate director of the UNC Neuroscience Center. “Our results show CBD could help the medical community safely meet this need.”
CBD, which is a major phytocannabinoid constituent of cannabis, has already shown to have anti-epileptic, anti-anxiety, and anti-psychotic effects. And in 2018, the FDA approved CBD for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare forms of epilepsy, but little is known about the potential anti-seizure and behavioral effects of CBD on Angelman symptom.
The Philpot lab is a leader in the creation of genetically modified mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders, and they use these models to identify new treatments for various diseases, such as Rett, Pitt-Hopkins, and Angelman syndromes.
In experiments led by first author Bin Gu, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Philpot lab, the UNC-Chapel Hill researchers systematically tested the beneficial effects of CBD on seizures, motor deficits, and brain activity abnormalities — as measured by EEG — in mice that genetically model Angelman syndrome, with the expectation that this information could guide eventual clinical use.
The researchers found that a single injection of CBD substantially lessened seizure severity in mice when the seizures were experimentally triggered by elevated body temperature or loud sounds. A typical anti-convulsant dose of CBD (100 mg/kg) caused mild sedation in mice but had little effect on motor coordination or balance. CBD also restored the normal brain rhythms which are commonly impaired in Angelman syndrome.
“We’re confident our study provides the preclinical framework necessary to better guide the rational development of CBD as a therapy to help lessen seizures associated with Angelman syndrome and other neurodevelopmental disorders,” Gu said.
Philpot and Gu added that patients and families should always seek advice from their physician before taking any CBD products, and that a human clinical trial is needed to fully understand its efficacy and safety.
A marijuana plant extract, also known as cannabidiol (CBD), is being commonly used to improve anxiety, sleep problems, pain, and many other neurological conditions. Now researchers show it may alleviate seizures and normalize brain rhythms in Angelman syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental condition.
What to know about CBD oil for seizures
CBD oil is a carrier oil mixed with the compound cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD is one of many different types of cannabinoids found mainly in the cannabis plant.
CBD oil may help with some symptoms of seizures and epilepsy, though most people prefer to use the isolated CBD compound as a treatment.
There has been a recent spike in research into compounds such as CBD, fueled partly by more open legislation surrounding cannabis in general.
It is essential to be aware of any side effects or risks when taking CBD oil, and it is essential to work closely with a doctor to decide if CBD oil is a suitable treatment option.
Keep reading to learn more about cannabis and CBD oil for seizures.
Is CBD legal? Hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC are legal federally but still illegal under some state laws. Cannabis-derived CBD products, on the other hand, are illegal federally but legal under some state laws. Check local legislation, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved nonprescription CBD products, which may be inaccurately labeled.
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CBD oil is a mixture of cannabidiol (CBD) and a carrier oil, such as olive, coconut, or other ingestible oils.
Cannabidiol is one of the main compounds in the cannabis plant. The other most familiar compound is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes the “high” when smoking or ingesting cannabis.
CBD is not psychoactive and will not cause the changes in perception associated with cannabis use.
However, some CBD oils that manufacturers label as full-spectrum or broad-spectrum may contain other compounds. Ingredients may include other cannabinoids or terpenes, depending on the manufacturer and the quality of the oil.
Some CBD oil manufacturers will include CBD and a small amount of these compounds in their oils. They suggest that these compounds work together to enhance some of the effects in the body, a process known as the entourage effect.
Seizures are surges of electrical activity in the brain that occur at inappropriate times. Underlying conditions, such as epilepsy, can cause seizures.
About 30% of people with epilepsy have difficulty controlling their symptoms using traditional methods. These people may want to talk to their doctor about using CBD for seizures.
CBD may play a role in helping to reduce seizures in some cases. That said, cannabis research takes time. The Epilepsy Foundation note that although there is some evidence to suggest that CBD may help control seizures, scientists have struggled to expand on this research due to the strict government regulations surrounding cannabis.
Cannabis products containing more than 0.3% of THC remain illegal in most states and countries worldwide. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved Epidolex, a schedule V drug that contains CBD.
Although Epidolex is the only FDA-approved drug to utilize CBD, other products that contain CBD, such as oils and edibles, are legal across the United States, provided they contain less than 0.3% THC.
Research has grown in recent years thanks to the rescheduling of CBD, and newer studies support the claim that CBD products might help treat certain groups of people with epilepsy.
However, researchers did not control the dosage or preparation of CBD in the majority of studies using CBD products, so researchers must continue to explore this area.
For more information and resources on CBD and CBD products, please visit our dedicated hub.
Some experts think CBD may be particularly beneficial for two rare forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and Dravet syndrome. The syndromes typically appear in childhood, resist treatment, and cause severe symptoms, including seizures.
Some doctors prescribe the FDA -approved CBD isolate Epidiolex to treat the seizures that these rare forms of epilepsy cause.
Their report notes the importance of the drug’s uniform strength and consistent delivery. This can give a person taking Epidiolex the confidence that they are getting the exact dose they need.
Epidiolex contains about 98% purified CBD, so it is likely to have a greater, more consistent effect than other forms of CBD isolates and oil.
Anecdotally, people, especially those with difficult to treat symptoms, have used other forms of CBD and CBD oils to treat symptoms of epilepsy and other concerns.
Anyone considering using CBD and broad-spectrum oils should talk to a doctor before using them to discuss their options.
Children with epilepsy whose symptoms do not respond well to conventional treatments may also benefit from using CBD. For instance, the FDA have approved Epidiolex for people over the age of 2 with Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes.
A review in the Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology notes that CBD, either isolated or part of a CBD-enriched herbal extract, helps decrease seizure frequency in children with treatment-resistant epilepsy.
A second review in Epilepsia notes that even though evidence suggests CBD likely reduces seizures among children with drug-resistant epilepsy, these results do not extend to other cannabis compounds in the plant. Researchers think that CBD is the only accepted compound with these properties.
As for long term effectiveness, CBD may not be suitable for all children. A study in CNS Drugs notes that over 4 years, CBD was effective in about 27% of children with treatment-resistant epilepsy. However, about 81% of participants experienced side effects, and about 23% experienced severe side effects.
There are several potential risks and side effects that people need to be aware of when using CBD oil for epilepsy and seizures.
CBD oil usually causes few side effects, which are typically mild. Common side effects from CBD may include:
- sleepiness or fatigue
- an upset stomach
- changes in weight
- changes in appetite
For some people, CBD may make it unsafe for them to operate heavy machinery or drive.
There may be a link between CBD use and suicidal ideation in some cases. One 2020 article notes a correlation between the two but emphasizes that CBD may not be responsible for this outcome.
More research will help to determine the link between CBD and suicidal ideation. Anyone using CBD should watch for any unusual signs and changes in behavior.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can call 800-799-4889.
Possible liver damage
CBD may increase the risk of liver damage in some people, especially when taken in combination with other medications. Anyone with a history of liver damage should work with a doctor to monitor their liver function if they choose to use CBD.
Although CBD is a natural compound, it might still interact with some drugs. Always talk to a doctor before using CBD to check for any contraindications.
Some medications, for example, those that take the CYP450 enzymatic pathway, carry a caution on the label warning people not to drink grapefruit juice while taking them, as it can interfere with the drugs.
Using CBD can carry similar potential risks.
People must also be aware of drug and herb interactions. This is especially important for those with liver or renal disease, as unmonitored changes in their blood levels can be dangerous.
Research into plant products and how they may interact with certain drugs is in its early stages. However, some research shows that certain herbs may interact with CBD and other electrolytes taking the CYP450 pathway, such as:
- milk thistle
- Ginkgo biloba
- St. John’s wort
Ensuring purity is an crucial factor for anyone looking for CBD oil. This is especially true for people who want to use CBD oil as a supplementary treatment for conditions such as epilepsy.
Reputable manufacturers will offer third-party lab testing that details the amounts of compounds, such as CBD, in each bottle. This ensures that a person gets as measured a dose as possible.
An independent lab test also helps ensure that the product is free from other contaminants, such as chemicals, pesticides, or heavy metals.
All CBD products featured on Medical News Today have undergone rigorous third-party testing and meet standards of quality.
Though CBD oil contains mostly CBD, it can contain trace amounts of THC. While this is not enough to produce a psychoactive effect in the brain, it may still show up on a drug test.
Anyone using CBD for treatments who has to undergo drug testing should be aware of this possibility and take the appropriate steps to avoid any consequences.
CBD oil may help with some symptoms of seizures and epilepsy, though the isolated CBD compound may be the preferred treatment in most cases. Learn more.