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New Study to Investigate CBD’s Effects on Kids’ Epilepsy

Canadian researchers are launching a study into the potential benefits of cannabis oil for managing seizures and improving quality of life in children with epilepsy.

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan announced a new study investigating cannabis’ efficacy for treating childhood epilepsy. University of Saskatchewan pediatric neurologist Dr. Richard Huntsman and pediatric epileptologist Dr. Richard Tang-Wai will be examining whether the cannabis oil will reduce the frequency of seizures and improve quality of life.

“For me, I would feel as a parent, having better quality of life would be just as important as control of seizures, so that’s something we really want to look at,” Tang-Wai said.

The cannabis oil used in the study will be rich in cannabidiol (CBD), a natural non-psychoactive natural compound that has been shown in a patent by the U.S. National Institutes of Health to have significant antioxidant and neuroprotective properties. The oil will not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound that causes a high.

“[CBD] seems to have an effect on certain neurotransmitter receptor in the brain,” said Huntsman. “That’s one of our theories on how it works.”

The researchers are currently recruiting 30 children between the ages of one and 10 years that are diagnosed with severe epilepsy. They’re hoping to find children within the city of Saskatoon first before expanding the study out to other children throughout Canada.

Huntsman says that parents of his own patients have been giving CBD oil to their children and have seen improvements in seizure frequency. The children are also more active and are sleeping better.

“It is something I’m hearing fairly often in my clinic. We’re not sure why that is. Could it be just the cannabidiol? Could it be the very minute amounts of THC? We’re not sure.

“Right now there is very little research on cannabis use for the treatment of epilepsy,” said Huntsman. “There are a few small studies that have been performed, retrospective reviews, that seem to suggest there are some children with very severe epilepsy… who do respond to cannabis oil.”

The children in the study will be administered CBD oil for seven months, all the while monitored by a team of experts. Funding will be supplied from several organizations, including the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation. Health Canada recently approved the study.

According to WebMD, about 400,000 children in the U.S. have an epilepsy disorder. Intractable epilepsy, which is a seizure disorder that cannot be controlled by traditional medications, develops in about one-third of those with epilepsy, says Stanford Health Care.

Previous findings do indicate that cannabis, particularly its non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD, effectively reduces seizures. A recent Australian nationwide survey found cannabis to reduce seizures in 90 percent of adults and 71 percent of children. Earlier this month, renowned pediatric neurologist Dr. Saul Garza Morales announced findings that THC-free RSHO-XTM CBD hemp oil reduced seizures by 50 percent or greater in 33 out of 39 children diagnosed with the rare seizure disorder, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. You can read more about Garza’s study here.

Learn more about CBD’s potential effects on epilepsy on our education page.