March 18, 2021

Should you take CBD oil for seizures?

Managing your condition

Have you thought about taking CBD oil for seizures? There is evidence that medical-grade CBD could reduce epilepsy symptoms - find out more

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). 

Around one third of people with epilepsy have drug-resistant epilepsy, which means traditional medication does not control their seizures. For people with drug-resistant epilepsy (also known as refractory epilepsy), the possibility that medical marijuana could help them reduce or even end seizures is, of course, exciting. 

Here is everything we know about CBD oil and seizures. 

Plant used to create CBD oil for seizures


What is CBD?

Cannabidiol - known as CBD - is a chemical found in cannabis plants and it is believed to help treat a number of conditions. It is different to THC, which is the chemical in marijuana that makes people feel ‘high’. 

CBD can be extracted from marijuana plants and it is usually turned into an oil that you swallow. 

How does CBD oil stop seizures?

CBD oil may help to stop seizures by activating certain cells called CB1 receptors. These cells are found in the nervous systems and in parts of the brain that are related to memory. Researchers are still not exactly sure how CBD affects seizures, but it may help protect brain cells against damage or from becoming ‘over excited’. 

Epidiolex - a CBD oil for seizures

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:

  • Dravet Syndrome
  • Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome

The medication was approved after several trials showed a significant reduction in seizures for people with these conditions (in combination with their existing anti-epilepsy drugs). 

If you or someone you know has Dravet Syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and you would like to use CBD oil for seizures, talk to your epilepsy specialist about using the drug. 

Buying CBD oil for seizures at health food stores

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. 

If you wish to purchase CBD oil for seizures, you should always speak with your doctor first. Research has shown that ‘artisanal’ CBD oil - which is legal but made by small companies - is much less effective than pharmaceutical grade CBD. So it is best to go with your doctor’s recommendation. 

Learn more: Why might a seizure medicine not work for you?

Side effects and interactions between CBD oil and seizure medicine

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:

  • Side effects: CBD oil can cause sleepiness, diarrhea, fatigue, decreased appetite and, potentially, liver damage
  • Interactions: CBD oil may interact with any anti-epilepsy drugs. People taking valproic acid may see an increase in liver enzymes which could cause liver damage, while people taking Clobazam may feel especially tired

Cautious optimism about CBD oil for seizures

It is always positive to learn about a new treatment for epilepsy, and the potential benefits of CBD oil for seizures in adults and children are exciting. However, we are still learning about how CBD affects people with epilepsy, so until we know more it should not be seen as a replacement for standard treatments. 

If you would like to find out more about CBD oil and seizures, speak to your doctor about how it might work for you and whether it is safe for you to try it.