One of the controversial developments in the medical field is marijuana’s potential in treating patients with various illnesses like chronic pain, depression, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.

One of the most common neurological conditions people suffer from is an illness called epilepsy, wherein seizures occur on a regular basis or sporadically, due to a sudden jolt of electrical activity in the brain that causes a disruption in the messaging between brain cells. Treatment for epilepsy is available, but recent studies have uncovered another, natural option: medical cannabis.

But does it really help?

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis is a group of plants with psychoactive properties. It exists in three species: cannabis Sativa, cannabis Indica, and cannabis Ruderalis. The plants are made up of more than 120 components — cannabinoids — the most well-known and prevalent of which are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These and other cannabinoids occur naturally in the leaves and resinous output of the cannabis plant. 

CBD is a non-psychoactive component, while THC causes the “high” for which cannabis is so admired and reviled. While recent science shows both cannabinoids boast many medicinal properties, CBD is believed to be the primary beneficial ingredient in the treatment of epilepsy.

What is Medical Cannabis?

Since the legalization of cannabis in some countries, the government has now defined cannabis-based products for medicinal use, to help treat symptoms like nausea, pain, and lack of appetite. These naturally derived compounds can also be useful to people with conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain.

When using pure cannabis products — the many varietals or strains — people can choose the best option for their symptoms based on the balance of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. The differing ratios of cannabinoids give cannabis strains their varying medical properties. Educated healthcare providers who are willing to prescribe or promote cannabis as a treatment can help patients find the best strain for their condition.

seizures and cannabis

Medical Cannabis and Epilepsy

Current research conducted in the United States is studying a drug called Epidiolex, which is derived from a primarily oil-based CBD extract. The FDA has granted researchers permission to incorporate the drug into the treatment regimens of a limited number of patients at certain epilepsy centers. The existing research shows patients’ seizures decreased by 54 percent on average due to the treatment; some of these patients’ seizures had been previously unresponsive to other treatments.

One of the benefits of using CBD in these treatments is the ability to treat both adults and children with epilepsy. Use of THC in children can be detrimental to brain development, due to its action on cannabinoid receptors in the brain, but as CBD has minimal if any mental interactions, many parents of epileptic children are turning to this alternative. A specific strain, Charlotte’s Web, was bred in 2011 and named for the little girl who prompted its creation. Following administration of extracts from the strain, Charlotte’s seizures — more than 1000 a month — decreased by more than 95 percent.

Are There Side Effects of Cannabis for Epilepsy?

Like many medications, both natural and synthetic, cannabis does have side effects, though many are dependant on the quantity and frequency of use. These side effects do not necessarily outweigh the benefits, especially where people with previously untreatable forms of illness are concerned, it is essential to understand these adverse effects.

If a person is taking other medications in addition to cannabis, unsavory interactions may occur. For example, VPA, a commonly anti-seizure medicine, could cause liver issues if taken together with marijuana. The most common side effects of medical cannabis use are relatively minor, including fatigue, diarrhea, and upset stomach.

Social Issues

Aside from health issues, the legalization of medical cannabis is not yet implemented worldwide, and as such patients have legal issues with which to contend when using cannabis medicinally. That being said, in the United States, almost every state allows conditional medical cannabis use for epilepsy. It is generally the first condition for which use is approved, which further speaks to its widespread and documented benefits.

The Takeaway

Even though there is still an ongoing debate about controversial medical cannabis, in terms of its legality and society’s acceptance of it, it is undeniable that this age-old plant gives hope to patients with a wide range of illnesses, including epilepsy. Although it is still being researched — another difficult feat due to restrictions — the promising results so far have fairly solidified it as a lasting and valuable medicine.

If you are considering medical cannabis as a treatment for epilepsy or another condition, consider speaking with your doctor or finding a cannabis-friendly physician in your area to ensure your experience with this healing natural option is as positive as possible. The internet is full of helpful sites that can offer insight into the best strains and appropriate methods of consumption for whatever ailment from which you seek relief.


Tricia Blake is a freelance creative writer who collaborates with various healthy lifestyle enthusiasts to share her experiences through the written word. She especially loves writing about health and the various ways to become healthy. Tricia worked as a part-time content writer at PharmaQuotes.

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