British researchers have determined that a chemical in the cannabis plant could lead to effective treatments for epilepsy, with few to no side effects.
The team at Britain's University of Reading, working with GW Pharmaceuticals and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, tested cannabidivarin, or CBDV, in rats and mice afflicted with six types of epilepsy. They found it "strongly suppressed seizures" without causing the uncontrollable shaking and other side effects of existing anti-epilepsy drugs.
According to the findings, reported last week in the British Journal of Pharmacology, CBDV also delayed and reduced seizures in conjunction with two common anticonvulsant drugs.
"There is a pressing need for better treatments for epilepsy," said Dr Ben Whalley, the lead researcher. "It's a chronic condition with no cure and currently, in around one-third of cases, the available treatments do not work, cause serious side effects and increase fatalities."
The study, he added, highlights "the potential for a solution based on cannabinoid science. It has shown that cannabidivarin is the most effective and best tolerated anticonvulsant plant cannabinoid investigated to date".
The casual use of cannabis to control seizures dates back to ancient times. A number of the plant's more than 100 cannabinoids are non-psychoactive.