CBD & THC Synergize in Epilepsy

Although great strides have been made in epilepsy treatment, a third of patients still do not find effective methods for preventing seizures. Cannabinoids, particularly CBD, have taken the limelight with their dramatic life-saving effects in some cases of intractable epilepsy. But cannabis is not the same as FDA-approved Epidiolex, an extract of isolated CBD. A recent study from scientists in Montreal highlight the this difference, demonstrating synergy between the anti-seizure activity of THC and CBD. Although epilepsy is known to result from neuronal hyperactivity, it’s underlying causes can be diverse. The researchers used two models of seizures (one chemical, another genetic) in zebrafish. High doses of either THC or CBD reduced the apparent seizures, but also caused side effects in healthy fish. By combining the two cannabinoids, the dose could be lowered. Seizures were reduced in the genetic model of epilepsy, but the behavior of regular fish remained normal. Although the 1:1 dose was synergistic, ratios with more CBD than THC (5:1 and 10:1) did not demonstrate much synergy. Being a fish study, of course, it doesn’t necessarily translate directly to humans. But there is quite a bit of evidence piling up that THC, CBD, and other components of cannabis synergize in such a way that a lower dose with fewer side effects can be used.

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Adrian Devitt-Lee, Project CBD's chief science writer, is pursuing his PhD in Mathematics at the University College of London.