CBD Oil for Epilepsy: Can Weed Help Seizures?

Fact-checked by Alexandra Arnett, MS

Medically reviewed by Dr. Brian Kessler, MD

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes repeated seizures. Seizures are common among various medical conditions, but a doctor usually gives an epilepsy diagnosis after someone has experienced two unexplained seizures within 24 hours. 

The diagnosis is a broad term for several different types of seizures. There are two main categories, each with a subset of types.

Generalized seizures are when abnormal activity happens on both sides of the brain.

  • Absence – Also called petit mal, causes a loss of awareness, staring blankly, blinking or fluttering eyes, or slightly jerking body movement. 
  • Tonic, Clonic, Tonic-Clonic - Also known as grand mal seizures that can cause stiff muscles (tonic), repeated rhythmic muscle jerking (clonic), or a mixture of both (tonic-clonic) and a potential loss of consciousness.
  • Atonic- Also known as a drop attack or seizure, resulting in loss of muscle control.
  • Myoclonic – Seizures that cause sudden and brief jerking and twitching

Focal or partial seizures are when abnormal activity happens on one side of the brain.

  • Simple or focal aware – Changes perception to senses, may cause involuntary jerking to one part of the body.
  • Complex or focal unaware – Causes confusion, daze, and inability to respond to communication. It can cause minor shaking or muscle stiffening.
  • Secondary generalized – Starts in one part of the brain and moves to others.

A person diagnosed with epilepsy and actively experiencing seizures usually has the same type each time with the same symptoms.

The first description of epilepsy was documented during the times of ancient Egypt around 1700 BC.1 As of 2015, 1.2% of the population is affected by epilepsy in the United States, with 3.4 million being active diagnoses.

There is no cure for epilepsy, but new therapies have developed over the years. Most recently, the National Health Service UK announced the development of a new laser treatment that is a less invasive method to target and treat areas of the brain that cause seizures.

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What Causes Epilepsy?

The specific cause of epilepsy is sometimes unknown; other times, it is caused by:

  • Neurological diseases, most commonly strokes
  • Brain tumors and other abnormalities 
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Genetics
  • Infections of the central nervous system
  • Developmental disorders

Anyone can develop epilepsy at any age. Risk factors include:

  • Strokes or dementia
  • Age – it’s more common in young children and older adults.
  • Genetics – abnormalities or inherited
  • Head trauma
  • Brain infections
  • A history of seizures in childhood

The severity and frequency of seizures can depend on various other internal and external factors. 

Epilepsy Signs & Symptoms

If you are experiencing epilepsy, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Repeated seizures

Seizure symptoms can range, depending on the type of seizure but include:

  • Uncontrollable body twitching movements
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Episodes of blank staring
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Anxiety or deja vu
  • Mental Haze or confusion

Epilepsy can develop at any age and require management with medical treatment. In early childhood, people who develop the condition are more likely to experience lifelong episodes. For others, seizures' frequency may decrease or eventually stop altogether.

How Cannabis Can Help Alleviate Epilepsy Symptoms

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Modern treatment of epilepsy includes medications and, sometimes, surgery. Cannabis has traditionally been used as a treatment, although current research doesn’t offer sufficient enough evidence from quality-controlled studies to confirm.

In 2018, the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry reviewed the literature regarding the relationship between cannabis and epilepsy.

Most studies were observational and recorded self-reported cannabis use in which the dosages were not always known or monitored. Of those, many participants reported that cannabis consumption resulted in a significant decrease in the occurrences of seizures and, in some cases, a complete reduction during treatment. CBD was the cannabinoid studied in quality-controlled studies in cases of severe epilepsy. The review also found that 30% of participants withdrew from studies due to adverse effects like dizziness and drowsiness.2

A review from 2020 found that Epidiolex, a pure CBD formulation that is FDA-approved to treat two forms of epilepsy, was beneficial for seizure control in patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, as well as other epileptic patients.3

There is a growing curiosity for cannabis as a treatment for epilepsy, especially in its potential to reduce symptoms of seizures, but more research is needed.

Legality and Doctor’s Recommendation

To determine if your state considers epilepsy to be a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, check out our Laws & Regulations section for the medical cannabis rules for your state.

If you find that your state recognizes epilepsy as a qualifying medical condition, you can seek a doctor’s recommendation to register for your state’s medical marijuana program. 

How NuggMD Can Help

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NuggMD is the nation's leading medical marijuana technology platform, serving patients in 23 states and growing. We’ve connected over 1,000,000 patients with their new medical marijuana doctors face-to-face via our state-of-the-art telemedicine platform. 

We believe that every human being has the right to explore the benefits of medical cannabis and are fully committed to helping each patient explore all of their options in their journey to wellness. For further information on whether you qualify for medical cannabis, select your state.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Cannabis & Epilepsy 

Which cannabinoid is best for epilepsy?

CBD has been linked to reduced occurrences of seizures in severe cases of epilepsy. Some patients do experience adverse side effects that may trigger seizures. Consult with your physician if you are curious about cannabis treatment for your epilepsy.

Do edibles help with epilepsy?

If cannabis has been deemed a safe and effective treatment for your epilepsy, edibles, tinctures, or capsules might be a better cannabis consumption mode than smoking. Smoke inhalation has been linked to an increased risk of seizure. 

What kinds/symptoms of epilepsy can cannabis help with?

Current research is inconclusive as to whether or not cannabis consumption correlates with increased or decreased seizure episodes. Cannabis has been used in treating epilepsy for centuries; even today, some self-report a reduction in seizure occurrences with usage. A significant number of people also experience adverse effects from cannabis or an increase in seizures. More research is needed to determine how cannabis affects epilepsy.


1. Kaculini CM, Tate-Looney AJ, Seifi A. The History of Epilepsy: From Ancient Mystery to Modern Misconception. Cureus. 2021;13(3). doi:https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.13953

2. Stockings E, Zagic D, Campbell G, et al. Evidence for cannabis and cannabinoids for epilepsy: a systematic review of controlled and observational evidence. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. 2018;89(7):741-753. doi:https://doi.org/10.1136/jnnp-2017-317168

3. Ben-Zeev B. Medical Cannabis for Intractable Epilepsy in Childhood: A Review. Rambam Maimonides Med J. 2020;11(1):e0004. Published 2020 Jan 30. doi:10.5041/RMMJ.10387

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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