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Cannabis Oil and Seizures: Why it Works

Branna Z.
cannabis oil and seizures for this child undergoing eeg

Cannabis oil and seizures are a common prescription because it works.

Interest in cannabis-based products for the treatment of refractory epilepsy has skyrocketed in recent years.  CBD shows very good anticonvulsant properties in animal models and has no dangerous side effects and no abuse potential. Over the years, this knowledge has led to an increase in use of the CBD-rich extracts for seizure disorders, particularly in children.

Many biological actions of cannabinoids are the result of interactions with cannabinoid receptors: CB1 (cannabinoid receptor type 1) and CB2 (cannabinoid receptor type 2).  There are a variety of other receptors and targets involved in the medicinal effects of these compounds, but CB receptors appear to be the most relevant to seizures.

Both CB1 and CB2 receptors belong to a class of G-coupled receptors and are widely distributed throughout the central nervous system (CNS).  CB1 receptors are primarily localized in neurons and CB2 receptors are expressed in microglia and elsewhere in the immune system.

The discovery of cannabinoid receptors in the CNS led to a search for the endogenous (naturally occurring in the body) cannabinoids. These were found to be anandamide and 2-AG.

EEG brain waves

How the Endocannabinoid System is Involved With Seizures

Involvement of endocannabinoid signalling in epilepsy has been suggested by a number of clinical studies. Experimentally, many studies have demonstrated that the endogenous cannabinoid system is altered in a variety of models for seizures and epilepsy.  Treatment with cannabinoids can then prevent or modulate seizure activity.

For example, patients with new-onset temporal lobe epilepsy have been observed to have reduced anandamide concentrations in their cerebrospinal fluid and downregulation of CB1 receptor.  This suggests that a problem within the endocannabinoid system is contributing to seizures and thus cannabinoid therapy is likely to correct it.

Cannabinoid Therapy is Helping Stop Seizures

Cannabinoids have numerous and complex pharmacological properties. In experimental models, THC displays complex psychoactive effects, variable anticonvulsant effects, analgesic, cognitive, anti-inflammatory and more. Anti-seizure activity of the THC seems to be a result of its activation of CB1 receptor, which also results its psychoactive effects.

CBD, on the other hand, has a very weak affinity for the CB1 and CB2 receptors, and its anti-seizure activity at the clinically relevant concentrations is considered to be mediated by other mechanisms.  One theory is that CBD is interacting with multiple transmembrane receptors, ion channels and neurotransmitter transporters. In particular, CBD has been observed to activate the G-protein coupled receptor 55 (GPR55) and this appears to play an important role in CBD anti-seizure activity.

CBD has had tremendous success in the treatment Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gestaut syndrome. In both cases, there was a significant drop in the frequency of the convulsive seizures, determined by the well-controlled clinical trials. It is important to mention that the results were achieved in the combination with the already FDA approved treatment drug, clobazam.

drawing of human head in profile with seizure waves in brain cannabis oil and seizures

These are the exciting times in the cannabis research, specifically in the treatment of the seizures. After almost four millennia of their documented medical use in the treatment of the seizure disorders, we are very close in obtaining the conclusive evidence about why it works.

Branislava Zagorac
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