Can Marijuana Treat Epilepsy?

Maylin Rodriguez Paez, RN

In an effort to treat their children’s intractable seizures, many families have made the move to Colorado where medical marijuana is legal.

This may seem almost insane to some, but it‘s the only option left for many children whose seizures don’t respond to traditional treatments.

Many doctors are reluctant to prescribe marijuana to their patients, especially if they’re children. Which begs us to ask the question, can this stuff really help?

Anecdotal Reports on Marijuana and Epilepsy are Promising

In a documentary called Weed, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta presented the case of Charlotte Figi. She suffers from a condition called Dravet Syndrome which caused her to have hundreds of seizures a week.

Medications were not working for her, and she came close to dying on several occasions. After exhausting all options, her parents considered the use of marijuana. They saw online reports of children being helped.

After jumping through many loops, they were able to give her a special strain of marijuana high in cannabidiol (CBD) and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound. The results were nothing short of a miracle. In the first day of treatment, Charlotte had significantly fewer seizures.1

Charlotte’s case is not unique. Several other children with intractable seizures have reportedly found relief as well. Their cases have been documented online and in the news.

To some, these stories may just be coincidental; to others it may signal a medical breakthrough, especially considering the safety of CBD.

Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive and does not cause people to get “high.” In addition, CBD has been shown to be safe and non-toxic, with drowsiness being the most significant side effect. On the other hand, traditional anti-seizure medications are laden with side effects and have even caused deaths.

CBD from Marijuana Has Anti-Convulsive and Neuroprotective Effects

Endocannabinoids are natural chemicals produced by the human body. They modulate cannabinoid receptors, which influence many physiological processes.

These processes include pain, memory, sleep, mood, immune function, metabolism, and appetite. Compounds in marijuana, such as THC and CBD are closely related to the endocannabinoids.

A cannabinoid receptor called CB1 influences neuronal excitability and regulates the release of neurotransmitters. It’s believed that CBD acts on CB1 receptors to “calm” the brain.

Animal studies show CBD has anticonvulsant effects.2 It increases the threshold of seizure activity; it reduces seizure severity and lethality, and it even has neuroprotective effects.3-5

In a small clinical trial, four out of eight epileptics taking CBD were almost convulsion-free during the experiment and three showed partial improvements.6

The Bottom Line

The research examining the anti-seizure effects of marijuana goes back several decades. It’s only recently that the media has showed a renewed interest in the topic.

In the meantime, more research needs to be done to examine the long-term effects of CBD and, hopefully, those who need access won’t be denied much longer.


  1. Available at: Accessed March 16th, 2014.
  2. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1977 Apr;201(1):26-32.
  3. Epilepsy Behav. 2013 Jul;28(1):1-7.
  4. Seizure. 2012 Jun;21(5):344-52.
  5. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2010 Feb;332(2):569-77.
  6. Pharmacology. 1980;21(3):175-85.


Anonymous said...

I suffer from migraines. I have had every kind of migraine with every symptom. I have aura and vision loss, slurred speech, body paralysis, nausea, dizziness, muscle weakness, light, taste and smell sensitivity, aura without pain, mental confusion, and memory loss. I'v had attacks that lasted a few hours and some that lasted days. they started getting worse, and i was having 3 or so per week. After a migraine, i would have a day or two of 'swollen brain' / hang-over which, though not as painful as the actual migraine, had its own set of drawbacks. I am allergic to ergotamines and because of other health issues cannot take other migraine medicines. My typical treatment was coffee, aspirin or naproxen, cold towels and a dark room, with daily doses of magnesium, coq10. My 'triggers' were increasing and my life started to fade away. I decided to try a cbd tincture out of pure desperation. Within the first week of tincture 3 times per day, i was migraine FREE! I have continued with this treatment for over a year now and have had 4 migraines, that put me into bed for about 6 hours each. I have had 3 migraines that gave me aura only. While having the FEW migraines that i did have, I noticed something else. After the migraine, i did NOT have the 'swollen brain/hang-over' symptom that i had previously suffered with my whole life! (this used to take 1 or 2 days to recover from). I HAVE MY LIFE BACK!! Now i want to go traveling and visit family in other states, but i can't take my cbd medication across state lines!! (i can only go 2 days without it or the migraines return). I hope the laws change soon, and i hope more people will give it a try, as it surely has been a miracle for me and my family (they have their mom back) !

Life Extension said...

Anonymous - Glad you found your miracle. We're happy to hear of your success story! One of the ways to change the laws is to spread the news of your recovery. By reaching out to others and to your local representatives, you can make an impact in your state laws. Good luck to you.

marijuana Coupons said...

Thank you for Marijuana Treat Epilepsy information-

THC Wiki said...

Thanks for marijuana Great News post share with us. i think this post and blog helpful for about knowing marijuana.

Life Extension said...

THC Wiki - You're welcome.

Cannasos said...

I am not sure about epilepsy. But there are a lot of strains that can help with convulsions.

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