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Some of the numbers related to epilepsy are simply mind boggling. More than 65 million people across the world endure this chronic neurological disorder characterized by epileptic seizures. Out of this 3.4 million people reside in the U.S alone. The number of new cases of epilepsy in the United States each year has crossed the 150,000 mark, and it is still rising. This number looks even more shocking when one realizes that almost 1/6th of them are children. 1/3rd of people with epilepsy live with uncontrollable seizures because the current medications are ineffective in many cases. As more and more cases get registered every year, the focus has now shifted to alternative medicines such as exploiting the benefits of CBD oil.
The Causes of Epilepsy
As mentioned above, epilepsy is a neurological disorder. The electrical communication between neurons in the brain is somehow compromised resulting in vigorous shaking and trembling. However, no two epileptic attacks are the same. In fact epilepsy is broadly classified into six categories.
Learn more about how cannabinoid receptors are key to understanding epilepsy, here.
Focal (or Partial) Seizures
Seizures typically occur in one hemisphere of the brain or limited to a certain part of the brain. To put it in simple words, the seizure is focused in a particular section and there are two types of focal seizures; with retained awareness and without retained awareness.
As the name suggests, generalized seizures are widespread. In a sense, they occur on both the left and the right hemisphere of the brain. Moreover, there are different types of generalized seizures. Some of the common ones are mentioned below.
Absence Seizures or Petit Mal
Epileptic activity typically covers the entire brain area. The seizure is of mild nature and more often than not the concerned individual falls unconscious. After regaining consciousness that person has absolutely no awareness of the seizure. Absence seizures generally occur without warning and show no signs of convulsions. Some of the other symptoms include rhythmic blinking, rapid breathing and slight movements of hands and fingers. Apart from these minor symptoms absence seizures brings about complete unconsciousness.
Tonic-Clonic or Convulsive Seizures or Grand Mal
Tonic-clonic results in electrical discharge within the entire brain which results in instant unconsciousness. Although the duration of the seizure may vary from 1 to 3 minutes, it may also occur in sequence which puts the patient in a life-threatening situation. Immediate medical attention is required. The muscles tend to stiffen (tonic phase) and the patient may experience short, loud cries. There is also increased pressure on the bladder and bowel resulting in uncontrolled discharge and soiling.
Atonic seizure is also called drop attack because of the nature of the seizure. The patient may simply lose consciousness and drop on the floor without warning. Like petit mal, even here the convulsions are missing. After a while the child gets up and walks around as if nothing happened.
Typical symptoms of clonic seizures include loss of body functions and tremors. It is dominated by unconsciousness and confusion. Over a period of time it may evolve into generalized tonic-clonic seizure.
Tonic seizures portray facial and truncal muscle spasms and a state of part consciousness. It is a common variant, and characterized by multiple types of seizures and intellectual disability. As the symptoms suggest it generally starts from an early age, but may also develop at a later stage.
Abrupt muscle jerks such as involuntary kicking of feet and/or legs or waving of hands and/or arms are typical in myoclonic seizures. However, the entire body may experience convulsions in some cases. Moreover, it may occur as a single attack or multiple seizures. Although the concerned person is conscious, holding things and latching on to something becomes difficult.
Additional Seizure Types
Infantile spasm is one of the examples of additional seizure types, and is categorized as a seizure which does not fall under focal or generalized seizures.
Although epileptic attacks can occur any time and sometimes without warning, there are triggers which can be avoided in order to prevent attacks. It does not eliminate the ailment but can help to manage it.
Some of the common external factors which may aggravate or initiate a trigger include.
There are a range of established treatments for epilepsy. However, most are only effective some of the time. In case none of the treatments work then the patient needs to opt for a more customized or specialized treatment plan. A point to note – in spite of the advancement in understanding and treating epilepsy, 30% of people living with the condition do not respond to existing anti-epileptic drugs, especially those suffering from Dravet syndrome.
For this reason, researchers all over the world are seeking alternative sources to treat this disease and ease the struggles of patients. In recent times medical fraternities have been talking about the usefulness of cannabis and its derivatives ( CBD oil benefits )for treating epilepsy.
CB oil is derived from the seeds of the hemp plant. Hemp, a cousin of the better known cannabis plant, is one variant of the cannabis plant. It has long been known for its medicinal properties.
However, there is still much suspicious and mistrust around hemp products as people believe it will cause the same addictive ‘high’ as its cousin does. This is, however, untrue. Hemp and the cannabidiol (CBD oil) it produces do not contain the same properties as cannabis does, making them perfectly safe to use.
So far, preclinical and even clinical trials have proved that CBD oil reduces seizures effectively, particularly in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy. CBD oil has proved to be effective against not only reducing the intensity of these attacks but also the number of occurrences.
Cannabinoids latch on to the receptors present in the body to produce relevant effects. Incidentally, the human body produces its own cannabinoids and has dedicated receptors called CB1 and CB2 to process these substances. Interestingly, receptors are located across the body but most of them are found in the brain which is the hub of complex functionalities. While the CB1 receptors in the brain manage coordination and movement, pain, emotions, thought process, mood, appetite and memory, the CB2 receptors affect inflammation and pain.
It has been clinically proven that CBD oil is effective against epileptic attacks both in terms of quality and quantity. However, there is no proof as of yet to suggest that CBD oil has any effect on focal seizures.
The exact reason for its effectiveness is still undergoing thorough study. Once this understanding is clear it will enhance its usage and potential for use even further. As scientists work round the clock, experimenting with CBD oil for various illnesses including neurological disorders, it is no doubt destined for a major overhaul in the epilepsy domain.
Some of the major reasons why the scientific community is seriously experimenting with CBD oil are mentioned below.
CBD oil is not expensive. This single factor makes it a potential candidate for further investigations. In some of the major clinical trials cannabidiols have been found to be extremely effective in providing short and long term relief. As compared to some of the current anti epileptic drugs, CBD oil costs a fraction making it a much more accessible option to patients.
CBD oil is biocompatible. This simply means it works with human tissues and organs in the most efficient and safe manner. Moreover, it does not harm internal or external organs even if used for lengthy periods.
There are no proven negative side effects of CBD oil; even if used for an extended period. The ability of CBD oil to alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy and seizures has been proven on animals. The FDA has already approved human trials specifically on epileptic children in order to study the role of CBD oil in greater depth.
Why Use CBD Oil for Epilepsy
CBD is a synonym for cannabidiol, a derivative or a chemical substance found in Cannabis sativa plant. This compound has several therapeutic benefits and is non psychotic in nature. Unlike THC, another chemical substance found in cannabis, CBD is not addictive nor can it be abused in any way.
The answer to the question “Why use CBD oil for Epilepsy” lies in the mechanism of human ECS or endocannabinoid system. The scientific community has known for a long time that a strong ECS system is vital for effective and robust immune system and the body’s ability to fight, treat and heal its built-in defective functionalities, epilepsy being one of them.
The Endocannabinoid system can be boosted through external supplements or substances such as CBD oil, especially when the body fails to produce its own cannabinoids due to improper diet or biological malfunction. In the early clinical trials it was exposed that the ECS system is responsible for the regulation of the human body’s “consistent” state of balance or homeostasis, and how any changes within this system could bring about internal irregularities.
This could lead to anxiety disorders, loss of appetite, hormonal imbalance, reduced pain threshold and weak immune response. Incidentally, whenever a change takes place, it is facilitated by the human body to restore its normal levels of cannabinoids, thereby keeping the whole system in a healthy state. This typically reduces illnesses and incase a treatment is in progress CBD oil acts as a catalyst.
Coming back to the clinical trials, the studies conducted at various medical facilities have proven beyond doubt that CBD oil lessens the indications and seizures. Doctors and consulting physicians typically prescribe a minimum dosage of CBD oil during the early treatment. The quantity is either scaled down or up depending on the results.
It should be understood that cannabis and hemp are part of the same family of plants. Their main differences being that cannabis has THC and hemp does not. Both are rich in CBD however any CBD oil generated from cannabis will always have to state that it could have some THC trace elements within it. Each will have their own mixture of natural and essential oil, but this is dependent on the overall product and treatment. CBD from hemp or cannabis doesn’t make a difference in regards to its recreational and medical benefits. This is all, once again dependent on the product/treatment.
As more and more states legalize the use of medical cannabis, the future looks bright for those suffering from epilepsy as it opens up the door for further studies and better treatments based on this miracle chemical substance. The benefits of CBD oil just cannot be ignored anymore.