According to the WHO, epilepsy affects around 50 million people worldwide. To date, 30% of cases cannot be treated effectively. Doctors can only try, somehow, to prevent seizures by prescribing certain molecules to their patients. However, this could come to an end, with cannabidiol. According to a study published in May in the New England Journal of Medicine, this component of cannabis would reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures in their most severe form by 39%. And if this is the latest scientific advance in this field, it is not the first time that cannabis has been mentioned when it comes to preventing epilepsy. Far from it.
Its benefits have always been known
The cannabis plant has been used against epilepsy for more than a millennium. As early as the 10th century, Persian writer Al-Majusi described his use to control crises. He indicated that the “juice” should be extracted from the hemp leaf before being administered to the patient by the nasal route. In the 19th century, John Russell Reynolds, the physicist of Queen Victoria, wrote that if administered carefully and purely, this plant from India is “one of the most precious medicines we possess”. More than a century later, cannabis was on the list of prohibited substances because of its psychotropic effects. Research then stopped and this natural treatment was eclipsed by modern Western medicine.
The CBD, a miracle drug
In an article published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, researchers explain the benefits of the famous CBD, the second substance found in cannabis after THC. And it seems to perform miracles: it has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiepileptic properties. Researchers succeeded in growing plants containing as much THC as CBD, or even in reversing the grades. It appears that the more CBD you have in a plant, the less THC it has, proportionally.
No tripping in sight
If THC has strong psychotropic effects that cause “tripping”, this is not the case with CBD, which makes it valuable for medical use without side effects. In an article comparing the two cannabinoids, Newsweed explains that “THC targets brain receptors while CBD prefers receptors located in our body. (…) CBD counters the psychotropic effects of THC and produces calming effects, sought after by people suffering from anxiety or loss of sleep. It also lowers blood sugar levels and has shown promise for people struggling with pain, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy”.
Charlotte Figi and the exodus to Colorado
A report published in 2013 by CNN made famous the story of Charlotte Figi, a little girl living in Colorado. Every day, she was suffering from 300 epileptic seizures. The company GW-Pharmaceuticals, which has just developed Epidiolex, a drug whose CBD is one of the active ingredients, then proposes to Charlotte’s parents to test it. From 300 daily crises, it down scaled to only one. Charlotte is even capable of cycling, walking, in short, living. Consequently, the articles multiplied. Vice, The Denver Post, the Huffington Post retrace the story of hitherto helpless families who have regained hope by learning about Charlotte Figi’s case and decided to exile themselves in Colorado, in search of the miraculous drug.
CBD could also save animals
Human beings would not be the only ones who could benefit from CBD epilepsy treatment. Published in ScienceDirect in 2013, a study argues that the anti-epileptic virtues of cannabinoid are also found in rodents.