For most people with epilepsy, diagnosis sets off a gauntlet of trial-and-error attempts to find the right medication. The process is tortuous, with seizures alternately dying down and flaring up while side effects— fatigue, nausea, liver damage, and more—develop without warning. This is partly due to the fact that “epilepsy” is actually a broad category that includes a number of distinct seizure disorders. About 30 medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are currently used to treat these conditions, and when a person first begins having seizures, there is often much tinkering with combinations and dosages. I spent years battling side effects like vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, and severe headaches, which were alleviated only by yet another prescription medication. Parents who endure enough sleepless nights caring for a sick child can become desperate for a cure.
Out of the 17 states that have passed CBD-only laws, five— Missouri, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas—would also establish licensed cultivation centers to grow high-CBD strains of cannabis, which could be turned into oils and other CBD products. This would cut down on the demand for CBD oil from unregulated manufacturers abroad. Even then, though, impediments remain. In Missouri, for example, two neurologists recently refused to prescribe CBD oil for an eight- year-old boy suffering from seizures, citing concerns over federal law and the safety of non-FDA approved products.
A survey led by the McGill University Health Centre in Canada revealed that cannabis use results in an improvement in non-cancer pain, sleep, and the mood patterns. In the same survey, it also revealed that ‘high’ and dry mouth were the most commonly reported side effects. People who suffer from cancer also turn to cannabis-related options, including therapeutic grade CBD oil, when the pain of chemotherapy or the disease itself becomes unbearable.
“These studies mainly point to CBD’s ability to interact with ... serotonin receptors and GABA receptors in the brain,” she explained. “Serotonin plays an important role in mood and anxiety, and GABA is known as the main ‘inhibitory’ neurotransmitter, meaning it calms excess activity in the brain and promotes relaxation. GABA receptors are the target of benzodiazepines, which are a class of anti-anxiety drugs.”
It’s important to note that each state has its own individual laws on possession limits. Many states now have their own laws on the books for CBD oil specifically. Tennessee, for example, has made cannabis oil legal if it’s derived from hemp rather than marijuana. As Professor Elliot Altman of the Botanical Medical Research Center at Middle Tennessee State University, explains, “The legal definition is hemp is less than point three percent THC which is the psychotropic agent. Marijuana is point three percent or greater.” (14)
“It’s such an interesting plant, such a valuable plant,” says Nolan Kane, who specializes in evolutionary biology. “It’s been around for millions of years, and it’s one of man’s oldest crops. And yet there are so many basic problems that need to be answered. Where did it come from? How and why did it evolve? Why does it make all these suites of compounds? We don’t even know how many species there are.”
A review published in 2017 in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology described how CBD may work to protect the hippocampus — the part of the brain responsible for several important functions, such as learning, memory and navigation — during times of stress, and may also help prevent brain-cell destruction that results from schizophrenia. Another 2017 review published in the journal Annals of Palliative Medicine summarized a handful of studies that suggest cannabis oils containing THC or CBD, or both, may help with chronic pain management, but the mechanism is unclear.
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