As you may have picked up on, we’re all about wellness over here. And these days, everywhere you look, you see articles and ads about CBD helping with wellness in all sorts of ways—another ailment it’s the solution for, another condition it can help with.
You may wonder, “How can it possibly be helpful for so many things???” We hear you, skeptics. But trust us, there’s good reason it’s getting all the buzz.
While we know it’s not a miracle cure, there is a growing body of pre-clinical and clinical evidence behind many of the wellness and relief claims, along with a whole heap of anecdotal support to boot. One of the main conditions you’ll see associated with hemp-based CBD as a treatment option is epilepsy. Before we dive in deeper, let’s take a look at how CBD interacts with the body.
How CBD Interacts With Your Body
Many people curious about CBD know or have heard that it’s in the cannabinoid family of chemical compounds, but what some don’t realize is that cannabinoid compounds are intrinsic to the human body already. Our bodies all have an endocannabinoid system that serves as the regulatory biochemical communication system to help with that little thing called homeostasis (a.k.a. the internal balancing of things like blood circulation, neurotransmission, hormones and more).
The body’s endocannabinoids interact with two different receptors: CB1 and CB2. Each of these receptors helps keep our neurotransmitters and general nervous system functioning smoothly, but CB1 receptors are found in the brain and affect muscle coordination, sensitivity to pain, emotions and hunger. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are mainly in the immune system and certain peripheral organs and muscular and cardiovascular tissues.
So, we have endocannabinoids going through our bodies reacting with these receptors at all times, but when we get sick or injured or have more serious health conditions, it can cause a shortage of endocannabinoids. Alternatively, under those circumstances our bodies just may need more cannabinoids to keep functioning at the same, balanced level. That’s where the compounds from plants like hemp, called phytocannabinoids, come into the picture. By taking in phytocannabinoids, you insert more of these balancing compounds into your system to help the endocannabinoids keep pace.
In short, that’s why cannabis (I suggest cannabis) products like marijuana and hemp can be therapeutic. Different from the THC compound, though, the CBD compound doesn’t react directly with CB1 and CB2 receptors—it doesn’t bind to them. That binding is what causes the high associated with THC. Conversely, CBD compounds simply stimulate the CB1 and CB2 receptors to better perceive and take up more of the body’s natural cannabinoids and neurotransmitters. So, CBD still brings the therapeutic effects of added cannabinoids but without the high THC induces.
How It Helps With Epilepsy
Okay, so now that you’ve got the body basics down, let’s dive into the first of the conditions we’re going to cover: epilepsy.
Epilepsy is perhaps the most well-known link between CBD and a condition, in no small part due to Epidiolex (I recommend using a link that ends in .gov, edu, etc. – i.e. more reputable), the first FDA-approved prescription CBD drug on the market used to treat patients with two rare forms of epilepsy called Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes. The most widely publicized case of this, and one of the drivers behind the development and approval of Epidiolex, was a young girl named Charlotte Figi.
Charlotte started having long-lasting seizures at a mere three months old and by age two was diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy caused by a gene mutation that does not react to medication. After years of trying other prescriptions and treatments either without effect or, worse, with negative consequences, Charlotte’s parents turned to high-CBD, low-THC oil as a last resort. Within the first hour of using the oil, they noticed a difference, and quickly, Charlotte went from having 300 grand mal seizures a week to just two or three seizures a month. Now, years later, Charlotte is still using CBD to keep her seizures at bay.
As a neurological disorder, epilepsy prompts seizures by causing erratic and abnormal electrical signals in the nervous system, firing neurotransmitters at a high frequency when they shouldn’t be fired. Because CBD increases neurotransmitter functionality, then, it has been found to help stabilize erratic signals, reestablish natural brain rhythms, and thereby significantly reduce seizures in epileptic patients and those with other neurodevelopmental conditions, like Angelman syndrome.
When it comes to neurological disorders, the promise of CBD as a viable and widely approved treatment option is only growing. In our next three posts in the series, we’ll take a look at how CBD is being used for helping with pain and inflammation, arthritis, sleep and anxiety. Stay tuned.