Will Supplementing With CBD Decrease Seizures & Improve Epilepsy?
By Keith Alban
Seeing your child have seizures on a regular basis has to be one of the worst feelings a parent can go through. The visual of someone losing control and being subjected to that type of physical torture seems almost as torturous as going through it. The anticipation of never knowing when or where it may occur next is a helpless feeling that can be agonizing for a parent or child. According to the CDC, around 1 in 10 people may have a seizure during their lifetime. For a subset of people within that 10 percent, seizures are a regular occurrence with no end in sight. (1)
Seizures do not usually require emergency medical attention, although it is recommended under the following 7 circumstances:
1. There is difficulty breathing or waking up following a seizure.
2. The individual having the seizure has never had a seizure previously
3. If the person has heart disease, diabetes, or is pregnant
4. The seizure lasts more than 5 minutes
5. If there is any type of injury during the seizure, especially an injury to the head.
6. If multiple seizures occur.
7. If the seizure occurs in water.
Many people feel helpless and wonder if there's anything that can be done besides standard prescription medication, which doesn't always provide favorable results. Many parents have spoken out about medication altering their child's personality and behavior quite dramatically. CBD is one such option that's emerged as having high potential for epilepsy and seizures. CBD has experienced good success in high-quality studies with real people.
One piece of research speaks of tolerance that can potentially build for a segment of people supplementing with it though. This was found in a small percentage of people using CBD for seizures, but it's still been a very promising supplement in reducing seizures. It's not a miracle for seizures that will automatically make them cease to exist, but CBD has powerful properties that help to protect the brain.
CBD to the Rescue
In the last several years, many people have reported significant improvements in seizure frequency when supplementing with CBD. Some people have even mentioned that it may help during a seizure if a dose can be administered. These results may not occur in all people though. One piece of research demonstrated that cannabidiol was able to significantly reduce the number of seizures they experienced on a regular basis. Some of the results are dependent on factors that play a role like nutrient deficiencies, toxicity in the body that affects neuron function, and diet. (2)
Patients who show resistance to treatment often suffer from memory and attention deficiencies. This can reduce the quality of life and make functioning optimally a daily challenge. In a breakthrough study, administering CBD to patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy caused significant improvements in cognitive control, attention, and conflict resolution. After several weeks of supplementing with CBD, MRI scans revealed a decrease in epilepsy-related brain activity and an increase in normal functioning. (3)
Another high-quality study from the University of Alabama showed evidence of significant improvements in lowering the number of seizures in those prone to experiencing high amounts of them on a weekly basis. The study consisted of 132 patients, with over half of them being children. CBD not only helped to reduce the number of seizures, but also the severity and adverse events associated with them. All the participants had intractable epilepsy that didn't respond well to medication and standard therapies. The participants had an average of 144 seizures every two weeks, which was reduced by almost 2/3rds taking CBD! This reduction in seizures was consistent throughout the 48 week research period. (2)
The main takeaway from this study is the multifaceted effect that participants experienced. While CBD didn't reduce the number of seizures down to zero or even close to that, it caused an over 60% reduction in them. This is a fantastic result in the world of medicine, especially considering overall safety. Many parents that have given their children CBD oil have seen an even greater reduction. CBD's ability to reduce the severity of the seizures and the adverse events associated with them is very powerful as well. The intensity of a seizure can sometimes determine the level of damage that's done in the brain. Any natural compound that can lower the intensity and frequency of seizures is something that's very valuable for epileptics.
Powerful Protection from CBD
CBD may also help to protect the brain from some of the damage that occurs from regular seizures. MRI imaging has shown that seizures can cause some brain damage following very intense episodes. This isn't implying that CBD will protect against ALL damage that may occur, but the neuroprotective properties of CBD have been seen in multiple studies. (4,5) Another high quality, placebo-controlled study took a look at CBD for a severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Researchers found that CBD caused a 40% reduction in the number of atonic seizures that occurred. (6) Atonic seizures are a very severe and intense type of seizure that causes a loss of muscle control and balance.
The study was not without side effects though, which isn't normally seen with CBD. This may be due to the product that was being used in this particular study, or the dosing size. The product was actually a medication called Epidiolex, which is used for Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndrome. It seems that this is one of the first times side effects were noticed with CBD, although most of the side effects were relatively easy to deal with. The fact that a patented medication was used suggests that it may be a synthetic cannabinoid formula.
Patenting a medication requires it to be altered in some way, so that may explain the side effects experienced by some of the participants. Taking any one compound in such high doses isn't an ideal way of working with a condition. For the purposes of a study, using one product at different doses is needed, but the body usually responds much better to protocols that include multiple nutrients in balanced amounts. Since there are numerous causes of most health conditions, using a single medication or supplement to solve it is a flawed approach that may generate mediocre results.
The study that highlighted a subset of people may build tolerance to CBD needs to be addressed. This particular study tracked the participants for around 20 months total after starting CBD supplementation. This specific piece of research took place in Tel Aviv, Israel, and consisted of 92 participants that had treatment-resistant seizures. Obviously these are very difficult cases to treat, so the fact that CBD yielded any positive result is pretty impressive. After many months of the entire group experiencing significant benefits, around 1/3rd of the patients saw a drop off in results. Some increased the dose and saw a reduction in seizures once again, but not all participants. (7)
This study may seem negative in nature and speak to a reduction in benefits, but there are several things to keep in mind. This group was already unable to achieve results with medication, so the fact that over 60% of this group saw long term results is still very impressive. The other subjects experienced significant benefits for well over a year before the results tapered off. The participants were using a 20:1 CBD to THC extract, which may not even be ideal for many people. The average age in the study was around 12 years old, which is a little strange considering the extract that was used. Giving THC to a developing child may not be the best idea. Tolerance is nearly inevitable with so many herbs, vitamins, supplements, and prescription drugs. Supplements need to be cycled and used with other nutrients for ideal results.
The Incredible Importance of Magnesium For Seizures
There are a few other things worth mentioning that may have some anti-seizure properties and work well with CBD. Magnesium is an incredibly important mineral that everyone with seizures should be supplementing with. Every doctor should be giving out magnesium to patients before writing any scripts for medication. Not only is it one of the most common deficiencies in the United States, but several studies have shown almost shocking results with supplementation. Magnesium is known to play a role in hundreds of enzymatic reactions and processes in the body that are crucial for mental, emotional, and physical health. Without sufficient magnesium in the spine, brain, and body, many different metabolic processes suffer. It's also well known as one of the most calming nutrients, especially when the right form is taken.
Dr. Lewis Barnett, head of the Hereford Clinic and Deaf Smith Research Foundation in Texas, conducted research with patients that were epileptic. For this study, Dr. Barnett used 30 children that weren't responding well to any medication they were given. They found that magnesium supplementation played a vital role in central nervous system function. Every single subject in the study had low serum magnesium levels, which has been shown in other research as well. A trend like that where two studies show low magnesium levels in those with epilepsy is very significant. After supplementing with high doses of a magnesium supplement for several months, all of them experienced dramatic improvements! (8)
Magnesium deficiencies play a large role in a surprising number of physical, mental, and emotional states of disease. Stability in the body can begin to decrease when magnesium deficiencies increase. This can be the case with a number of deficiencies, depending on the importance of its role in the body. What Dr. Barnett found was that fluoride and synthetic vitamin D significantly lowered magnesium levels. This synthetic form of vitamin D is produced by irradiation and found in most store-bought milk. According to Dr. Barnett, 9 out of 10 children with epilepsy drink milk that contains this synthetic form of vitamin D. This fake form of vitamin D binds with magnesium at an unnaturally high rate.
What is done to dairy in supermarkets isn't natural and may contribute to lower magnesium levels. Healthy, grass-fed, pasture-raised (not to be confused with pasteurized) milk is rich in nutrients that can be healing in many ways. Supplementing with both magnesium glycinate and magnesium-L-threonate would be a great idea for anyone prone to seizures. Another supplement worth mentioning is called holy basil, also known as “tulsi” in India. This herb has powerful medicinal properties that may help relax and regulate the nervous system. According to a study done at Punjab University, holy basil helped achieve results that were comparable to the anti-epileptic medication, phenytoin. (9)
Other electrolytes and minerals besides magnesium may also play an important role in epilepsy. Testing your levels of calcium, potassium, and sodium may be useful, as some research has shown imbalances in many epileptics. Vitamin B6 deficiency was also noted in one study. Something else that's very important to mention is staying away from excitotoxins in food such as MSG, aspartame, phenylalanine, and dozens of other compounds that can trigger seizures. Heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, thallium, and many others also play an intimate role in just about every health condition in existence, including seizures. A combination of full-spectrum CBD, high dose magnesium glycinate and magnesium threonate, vitamin B6 in the form of P5P, holy basil, and bacopa extract would be a fantastic long term protocol for frequent seizures.