Which Strains of Medical Marijuana Are Used for Treating Epilepsy?
For years, the talk of medical marijuana has been met with a lot of eye rolling from critics who claim that cannabis’ medicinal benefits are non-existent or exaggerated for the purpose of legalizing drug dealing. Those critics were recently silenced as the FDA approved the first cannabis-derived prescription pharmaceutical drug Epidiolex for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. The drug consists of mainly purified cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychotropic cannabinoid produced in cannabis flowers. Not only is Epidiolex the first cannabis-derived drug to be approved by the FDA, it’s the first ever to be approved for the treatment of Dravet syndrome.
Before the FDA gave the go-ahead for the use of CBD in the treatment of these conditions, lawmakers and government officials states such as Florida and Texas had looked at the evidence and decided that enough citizens could benefit from its use to implement statewide CBD-only or low-THC medical cannabis programs.
Epidiolex’s effectiveness was studied in three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials involving 516 patients. Results of the studies showed it was effective in reducing the frequency of seizures compared with a placebo.
But what about the other major cannabinoid compound, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)? Is there evidence that THC is also effective for treatment of seizure disorders?
There is ample anecdotal evidence that medical marijuana and cannabinoid-rich derivatives such as cannabis oil have the ability to reduce seizures. However, there is very little scientific research to back it up. There have been a handful of studies conducted in the U.S. and in other countries around the world beginning as far back as 1970. However, most modern studies have focused on CBD.
Studies show that THC and CBD interact with cannabinoid receptors in the brain and central nervous system. THC has been shown to be effective in regulating pain response by attaching to CB-1 receptors. CBD seems to play a complementary role. Rather than binding with cannabinoid receptors, it regulates the production of endocannabinoids which may be responsible for seizures. Also, both THC and CBD have been shown to have neuroprotective effects in a number of studies.
Strains of Marijuana Used To Treat Seizure Disorders
There are two classes of Cannabis — C. indica and C. sativa. Indica varieties as well as indica-dominant hybrids are believed to be superior for use in treating seizures. This is thought to be due to the fact that indicas are generally higher in CBD than sativas.
Strains which are high in CBD include Harlequin (5:2 THC:CBD), Cannatonic (5:1), Sweet and Sour Widow (1:1), and Pennywise (1:1). For those who would prefer to keep the psychoactive effects to a minimum, there are strains which are also very low in THC such as Charlotte’s Web and Remedy. These contain bold ratios of CBD to THC as high as 24:1, such as Ringo’s Gift. If a dispensary does not carry these strains simple ask for a high-CBD or low-THC strain.
Although cannabis edibles can be used as a daily dietary supplement, for sudden onset conditions such as seizures, sublingual tinctures are often recommended.
Pediatric Use: Treating a Child With Cannabis
When using cannabis to treat a child with seizure disorders or any other condition, it’s very important to know exactly what you are doing and go slowly, especially parents weaning a child off pharmaceutical medications and contending with withdrawal effects.
Here are some considerations for pediatric use of cannabis provided by pediatriccannabissupport.com:
- Create clear treatment goals and steps. Referring to a well-thought out dosing schedule and titration plan can slow you down and avoid mistakes.
- Get as much education as you can on the use of cannabinoids for treating your child’s condition.
- Talk to your pediatrician. If your doctor isn’t supportive, you may need to find a more progressive physician.
- Network with other parents who are also treating their children with medical cannabis. There are numerous online groups.
- Start slow and work your way up slowly. Go with the most conservative dosage that makes sense.
- Oils can be administered by syringe, in capsules and through G-Tubes. Rectal dosing has been found helpful when digestion is problematic or in emergency situations.
- Have realistic expectations. Some kids are lucky and stop seizing from the first dose. Others take longer, sometimes months, to show results.
For general education, the author recommends Dr. Bonni Goldstein’s book, “Cannabis Revealed.”
How To Obtain Medical Marijuana in Your State.
We have put together comprehensive guides for individual states. Please check the United States map on the MedCard main page here to see how to obtain medical marijuana in your state. Some states are not available, as you know.
To make it easy, if you are a resident of a legal state interested in trying medical marijuana to treat a seizure disorder, epilepsy or other medical conditions, you will first need to consult with a certified doctor in order to get a medical marijuana card. To get started, simply fill out the MMJ patient registration form, press submit and a physician or clinic representative will contact you as available.