The science behind why cannabis oil helps treat seizures

  • CBD has become world famous for its anti-seizure properties
  • Children suffering life-threatening epilepsy have seen amazing results since starting CBD treatment
  • Here we explain some of the basic science behind this beautiful process

There’s has been a huge increase in the interest into medical cannabis over the past year. The nation’s media has become infatuated with inspirational stories of epileptic children winning their fight with the help of the ancient medicinal herb.

Children like Alfie Dingle, Jorja Emerson and Murray Gray have become national heroes, helping illuminate the wonderful potential medical cannabis has for helping these severely epileptic children live a more normal life, free from life-threatening seizures.

Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, has been placed firmly in the spotlight, due to it being non-toxic and its excellent anticonvulsant properties.

CBD has become popular within the mainstream due in part to its legal nature: anyone can legally purchase CBD over the counter in the UK.

The main reason for the rise in CBD’s popularity, then, is because, simply put: it works.

But how exactly does CBD help treat seizures?

To understand how CBD works within the human body, we must first understand what the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is and how it works.

The ECS works like a secondary nervous system, with cannabinoid receptors located in both the body and brain. The receptors work like a key hole, with cannabinoids acting like keys. We know these receptors as CB receptors; CB1 receptors are primarily located in the brain (neurones), while CB2 receptors are primarily located throughout the body (the immune system).

There are more receptors involved in the ECS, but CB receptors seem to have the most relevance for treating seizures.

Both CB1 and CB2 receptors are widely distributed along the central nervous system, belonging to a class of G-coupled receptors. The discovery of cannabinoid receptors on the nervous system began a search for naturally occurring cannabinoids (endogenous) cannabinoids. These were found to be anandamideand 2-AG.

A number of clinical studies have suggested that endocannabinoid signalling is involved in epileptic seizures.

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.

An Israeli study, investigating the ECS and autism, also found a connection between children with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have lower levels of endocannabinoids than children not on the spectrum.

Cannabinoids have been shown to have a variety of complex pharmacological properties.

While THC is not as well known as CBD for its anti-seizure properties, they are studies which have found the psychoactive cannabinoid to have them. Researchers believe this is due to the activation of the CB1 receptor, which is also causes the psychoactive effects associate with THC.

Conversely, CBD has a much weaker affinity with CB1 and CB2 receptors. Its anti-seizure properties is believed to be activated in other areas of the body. Some researchers believe 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.

While legal CBD is sweeping the nation, with those suffering from myriad medical conditions, from those diagnosed with epilepsy to those suffering arthritis, flocking to shops to buy CBD over the counter, we must remember that there are other cannabinoids, and that they work far better together.

Isolating cannabinoids is fine, but can never replace whole plant extract.

Cannabis works best as it is intended: as one. When cannabis oil contains all the chemical compounds present in the cannabis plant, it produces something known as the “entourage effect.”

For now though, it is beautiful to see so many wonderful families given a second lease of life due to the immense impact CBD is having for their children.

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