This article is part of a series for our #420forChange campaign. The articles in this series seek to educate the public about high-CBD cannabis and its benefits to those suffering from seizures. To learn more about the #420forChange campaign, visit 420forChange.org
This month, the #420forChange campaign is looking to bring attention amongst the general public to the challenges faced by people suffering with epilepsy who wish to consider cannabis as a treatment option. As discussed previously, there is a lack of research into the effectiveness of medical cannabis when treating epilepsy. There is, however, a wealth of anecdotal evidence. Probably the most well-known story of medical cannabis as it pertains to epilepsy is Charlotte’s Web.
Charlotte’s Web is, of course, a popular children’s book. However, we are focusing on the lesser known Charlotte’s Web – a cannabis strain known for producing remarkable results in patients with epilepsy.
Charlotte’s Web is a very specially bred strain of cannabis named after Charlotte Figi, a young girl who suffers from Dravet Syndrome – a form of epilepsy known for causing frequent and severe epileptic seizures. The strain is low in THC, the psychoactive compound present in cannabis known for producing a high. While being low in THC, Charlotte’s Web is high in CBD. CBD does not produce a high which makes it ideal for treating children. The CBD from the strain is extracted from the plant to form an oil that is easy to administer and often preferred over smoking, especially when being given to children or toddlers.
Charlotte Figi became a high-profile advocate for medical cannabis seemingly overnight at the young age of five years old. Her situation was dire. Prior to trying cannabis as a treatment Charlotte was having up to 300 grand mal seizures per week. She was confined to a wheel chair, living in a hospice, and attached to a feeding tube. Medical marijuana was a last ditch effort to save Charlotte’s life. Immediately, improvements were seen. Charlotte experienced a major reduction in the occurrence of seizures. Charlotte’s parents then met with medical marijuana growers in Colorado and chose a strain for their daughter that would soon bear her name. After starting a treatment regimen consisting of high CBD oil, Charlotte saw a complete turn-around in her condition. Now, she experiences just 4 grand mal seizures per month – a vast change from the 300 grand mal seizures she was experiencing per week. And Charlotte is not alone. Others – who you will hear about during the #420forChange campaign – have seen incredible results from Charlotte’s Web and similar medical cannabis strains.
So why does Charlotte’s Web seem to work so well? One could think that, due to its low THC content, the strain could be less effective than others with a higher THC content. However, the results seen in Charlotte and many others suffering from epileptic seizures suggest CBD is the active compound beneficial to patients with epilepsy. It should be noted that medical cannabis patients with other conditions like MS, Fibromyalgia, and Arthritis also have seen benefits from CBD-rich strains.
So if CBD is the compound in marijuana that many believe helps patients with epilepsy, then what exactly is CBD and why is it so different from THC? As mentioned before, the biggest difference between CBD and THC is the high. Because it’s non-psychoactive, CBD does not produce the high that THC does. But there has to be more to it than that? Some recent studies into CBD specifically have found it has unique medical properties that THC does not. One of the properties CBD was found to have is an anticonvulsant property. This could explain why a high dose of CBD oil has helped many patients to reduce the occurrence of their seizures.
CBD works differently than THC when it is introduced to the body. CBD suppresses the ability of FAAH – an enzyme in our body – to break down the endogenous cannabinoid, anandamide. When anandamide is not broken down, it is attracted to excited CB1 receptors more than the CB2 cannabinoid receptors. 2-AG, another endocannabinoid, is released after stimulation from CBD and binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors. So there is a very specific way by which CBD affects the endocannabinoid system. Could the specific endocannabinoids that seem to benefit from the introduction of CBD be the secret to reduced seizures in people with epilepsy?
The point of this article is to bring to light the incredible differences that two strains of medical cannabis can have. An effective treatment plan involving cannabis must consider a variety of strains and their specific THC and CBD content. Experimenting with strains like Charlotte’s Web may help patients with epilepsy achieve a freedom they may never have known previously. However, finding the right medical cannabis strain can also prove exceedingly difficult. Even if it was as simple as just giving everyone the same strain to treat their condition (it’s not), patients would have to be able to trust that their vendor or licensed medical marijuana producer will always have stock and charge a fair price for their necessary strain. This can increase costs for patients and their families – something the #420forChange campaign hopes to help with.
Along with raising funds to help patients today, the #420forChange campaign also aims to increase awareness. Many non-medical cannabis users may not realize the issues faced by patients who require specific strains or concentrations of CBD and THC. In fact, some people may not realize there are even unique strains of cannabis. Until people are aware and engaged, change cannot happen. Change is motivated by knowledge and we hope with this series of articles you can not only increase your own awareness, but go out with the knowledge necessary to create a discussion amongst your friends and family.