CBD for Seizures- Use, Effectiveness, Side Effects, and More
If you have seizures or are the parent of a child who has seizures, then you are probably constantly on the lookout for ways to control seizures with as few side effects as possible. CBD oil is one of the latest things to be touted as a miracle cure for seizures. While its effects are not the miracle cure some people suggest, it is a promising treatment that might be right for you.
What is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is a chemical found in marijuana. It is not the same as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical in cannabis that is responsible for the “high” feeling people get from marijuana.
What does CBD do?
Well, people make many claims about what CBD can do. Not all of them have been tested and verified. However, there is support for claims that CBD may help reduce pain and anxiety.
Does CBD help seizures?
The short answer is yes. CBD can help prevent some types of seizures in some people and animals. Clinical trials have demonstrated a significant reduction in seizures for people taking CBD to treat Lennox-Gastaut, Dravet syndrome, or tuberous sclerosis complex. Research in other areas is still in early stages, but there are indications that CBD may help prevent other types of seizure or increase the efficacy of other antiepileptic medications. Early clinical trials suggest that CBD may dramatically reduce seizures in people with CDKL5 deficiency disorder, Aicardi syndrome, Doose syndrome, and Dup15q syndrome. In addition, CBD appeared to retain its efficacy over the length of the clinical trial.
How does CBD help prevent seizures?
That is a wonderful question, but, unfortunately, the research simply is not sufficient to give a definitive answer. What we do know is that bodies contain natural neurotransmitters and receptors known as the endocannabinoid system. CBD is believed to interact with that system, which is believed to influence a range of bodily functions and systems including immune response, appetite, pain, and sleep.
Is CBD approved by the FDA to treat seizures?
Yes, but not all CBD oils and not all types of seizures. Currently, Epidolex, a prescription form of CBD, is approved to treat seizures caused by Lennox-Gastaut, Dravet syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis complex.
Does CBD interact with other seizure medications?
Yes. We know that CBD interacts with brivaracetam, clobazam, eslicarbazepine, stiripentol, rufinamide, topirimate, valproic acid, and zonisamide. It also possible that it interacts with other antiepileptics, and as research continues, we should have a better idea of other possible interactions.
How do I use CBD or CBD oil to treat seizures?
If you have a seizure disorder, you should be seeing a neurologist for treatment. It is very important to discuss whether you should use CBD oil with your neurologist. While it is generally safe to use, there is always a risk of potential drug interactions. In addition, some people actually experience an increase in seizures when they use CBD. Therefore, just like with any antiepileptic drugs, you want to have a professional monitoring your use of CBD.
What is an average clinical use of CBD to treat seizures?
The starting dose for CBD is 2.5 mg/kg of Epidolex, two times a day. A normal maintenance dosage is 5mg/kg twice daily, and the maximum dosage is 10mg/kg twice daily. As with other antiseizure medications, it should be introduced or stopped gradually, as sudden changes can increase seizure activity.
What are the potential side effects of CBD when used to treat seizures?
Whether used alone or with other seizure medications, there are some potential side effects of using CBD to treat seizures. It can lead to an increase in suicidal thoughts or behaviors, sleepiness, drowsiness, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. While most of these side effects are inconvenient, interactions can also cause liver damage.
Can CBD increase my seizures?
This is a tricky question to answer. Anecdotally, it seems clear that some percentage of people will have an increase in the number of seizures in response to using CBD. However, why is not so clear. Research seems to suggest that people who use commercial CBD products are likely to see an increase in seizures, while people using prescription CBD are likely to see a reduction in seizures. The speculation is that commercial products are not pure CBD, but are tainted with THC, which is known to be a potential seizure trigger.
Can I use over-the-counter CBD to treat epilepsy?
The problem with OTC CBD is that it is not regulated by the FDA. This makes it impossible to know what dose you would be getting, if the product is contaminated with impurities, or if it even is CBD. If you want to explore using CBD to treat seizures, talk with your doctor about adding Epidolex, an FDA regulated product that eliminates the specific risks posed by an OTC product, to your treatment plan.
CBD Dosage: How Much Should You Take?
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Table of Contents
- Determining the Best CBD Dosage for You
- How to Calculate CBD Dosage
- How to Take CBD
Cannabidiol (CBD) is growing increasingly popular, thanks to its many purported health benefits and non-intoxicating properties (most CBD products contain less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC). In fact, 60% of U.S. adults have tried CBD at some point and believe it has medicinal benefits, according to a recent Forbes Health survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll. As research evolves and sheds light on CBD’s efficacy, especially for pain relief, more and more people are adding it to their daily wellness regimens.
Consumers can choose from a variety of CBD products, from oils to gummies to vapes to capsules. But figuring out the safe and effective CBD dose for an individual is a complex decision.
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Here’s how to find the right CBD dosage for you and how to consume it safely.
Determining the Best CBD Dosage for You
With the exception of one CBD product, a prescription drug used to treat seizures associated with particular syndromes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate the use of CBD. (In fact, it’s illegal to market CBD as a supplement or add it to food.) Therefore, it’s best to consult a doctor with experience in CBD administration to determine your ideal dosage.
Expressed in milligrams (mg), CBD dosage largely depends on the conditions and symptoms you’re trying to treat and your unique endocannabinoid system, which is associated with motor control, behavior, emotions, the nervous system and homeostasis. CBD dosage remains an area of active research—more large, high-quality studies are needed in different populations to determine appropriate dosing, efficacy and safety guidelines.
“It’s best to start small and gradually increase your dose up to a level that gives you the desired effect,” says Cheryl Bugailiskis, M.D., a cannabis specialist at Heally, a telehealth platform for alternative medicine. Your starting point might look like half a CBD gummy or a drop of oil. Ideally, navigate this process under the guidance of a qualified physician.
If you’re still not sure where to start, mydosage.com offers a questionnaire and CBD calculator to help you based on your specific symptoms and usage goals.
How to Calculate CBD Dosage
When you consume CBD gummies, capsules or softgels, dosage is typically expressed per unit. For example, there may be 50 milligrams of CBD in each individual gummy. These products don’t offer much dosage flexibility since you can’t split up capsules easily. For instance, if one softgel capsule didn’t provide your desired result, you would have to take another full capsule, doubling the total dose.
CBD oil, on the other hand, makes it easier, to begin with a small dose. But calculating CBD oil dosage can be less straightforward. Oils and tinctures tend to come in a dropper bottle and, typically, only the total liquid volume and CBD contents are listed on the label. For example, the label might simply state there’s 1,500 milligrams of CBD in the 30-milliliter bottle.
But what does 1 milliliter look like? Due to the current lack of regulation of CBD, this calculation can be tricky. Start by figuring out the volume of a single drop in your dropper, which is usually 0.05 milliliters, according to Dr. Bugailiskis. If you’re unsure, ask the company.
Here’s where math comes in. Let’s continue with the 30-milliliter bottle with 1,500 milligrams of CBD and 0.05 milliliters in a single drop as our example.
1500mg÷30mL = 50 mg/mL
This bottle contains 50 milligrams of CBD per milliliter. Let’s see how many milligrams are in a drop:
50mg/mL ×0.05mL/drop = 2.5mg/drop
Each drop contains 2.5 milligrams of CBD.
Next, you can calculate how many drops you need to reach your goal dosage. Let’s say you want to consume 25 milligrams each day.
25mg÷2.5mg/drop = 10 drops
10 drops ×2.5mg = 0.5mL
With this CBD oil dosage calculator as your guide, you would find that you needed to consume 10 drops, or 0.5 milliliters, to reach 25 milligrams. And if you intend to consume 25 milligrams daily, you can expect this particular bottle to serve as a 60-day supply.
Some CBD products do some of this math for you and illustrate how many milligrams are in a milliliter, some even marking these points on the dropper so you know exactly what you’re taking.
CBD Dosage for Different Ailments
Without FDA approval, there is little guidance in the U.S. on how much CBD a person should consume for various conditions.
In many medical studies on CBD, you see administered doses reach hundreds of milligrams a day, which sounds severe compared to our starting dosage example of 25 milligrams. However, Steven Phan, founder of Come Back Daily, a CBD dispensary in New York, points out that patients in these studies are often dealing with serious flare-ups and pain-inducing conditions compared to everyday dispensary customers.
Below are clinically-studied CBD dosages based on different ailments and conditions. Note: Some of the formulations studied contained THC as well—not all available dosage research sticks strictly to CBD.
*Dosages are based solely on small, short-term clinical study results where CBD proved significantly successful over placebo. Much larger studies are needed to further strengthen the evidence.
FDA-approved Epidiolex administers CBD orally as a liquid to treat seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Dravet syndrome and tuberous sclerosis complex. The dosage of Epidiolex is determined by taking the patient’s weight in kilograms (kg) into account.
Several countries, including Canada and those in the U.K., have approved the use of Sativex, an oral spray with equal amounts of CBD and THC, to treat pain stemming from multiple sclerosis. Canada has also approved it for treatment of cancer pain.
The medical and research community still has a long way to go before figuring out what dose works best for each condition. At an individual level, consumers can experiment with caution until they find what works best for them.
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How to Take CBD
Popular ways to take CBD include:
- Oils and tinctures (extracts of plant material dissolved in ethanol): A liquid that comes in a bottle with a dropper
- Gummies: A soft, chewable candy that’s often fruit-flavored
- Sprays: A liquid that comes in a bottle with a nozzle for spraying into the mouth
- Capsules: Tablets or softgels that are ingested by mouth
- Vapes: CBD oil that’s heated without ignition, resulting in an inhalable vapor
- Flower: Dried hemp plant that’s often ignited and smoked
- Edibles: Any food that CBD oil has been added to, such as brownies or chips
- Drinks: Any beverage that’s infused with CBD, often in the form of hemp extract
Your CBD product of choice will largely depend on your personal preferences, as well as your budget since prices vary depending on the potency of ingredients and manufacturing processes. Different mediums also offer varying levels of bioavailability—or how much of what you take is actually absorbed into your bloodstream to have an effect. For example, if you ingest 10 milligrams of CBD via 1 milliliter of liquid, your body might absorb about 60% of it, or about 6 milligrams.
Cannabinoids generally have a low bioavailability compared to other substances, according to Jordan Tishler, M.D., a physician specializing in cannabis treatment in Massachusetts. However, “products that contain emulsifiers like egg yolk (brownies) or lecithin (some gummies) do better,” he says.
With that said, ingesting CBD via gummies or other edibles may take longer to take effect since the CBD has to travel to your digestive system to be broken down and absorbed.
Can You Take Too Much CBD?
Like with any substance, you can take more CBD than your body can handle. Studies show doses up to 1,500 milligrams a day have been well-tolerated, but every person is different  Bergamaschi MM, Costa Queiroz RH, Zuardi AW, Crippa JAS. Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent. Current Drug Safety. 2011;6(4):237-49. . Ingesting too much CBD can cause unpleasant side effects, such as dry mouth, nausea, diarrhea, upset stomach, drowsiness, lightheadedness and general disorientation. While rare, liver damage can also occur.
What’s more, CBD can have serious interactions with certain medications. In evaluating available information on five prescription CBD-based medications, researchers found 139 medications could have a potential drug-drug interaction with CBD  Kocis PT, Vrana KE. Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol Drug-Drug Interactions. Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids. 2020;3:61–73. . People who take certain blood thinners, heart rhythm medications, thyroid medications and seizure medications need to be particularly careful.
At the end of the day, not all supplements are created equal, which is why it’s important to work alongside a health care provider when adding CBD to your wellness regimen and research reliable brands. And while emerging research and anecdotal evidence is promising, more large, randomized-controlled trials are needed to further understand the benefits of CBD and its dosing.