How Does Medical Cannabis Help with Epilepsy?

Reading time - 7 minutes - November 2, 2021

In 2018, the UK legalized medical cannabis and the whole nation was shocked. They weren’t shocked because they didn’t think it should have happened. They were shocked because a country that so often has a stiff-upper lip to drug policy, was now slowly but surely showing signs of understanding cannabis. There’s no doubt that as more research is done into the benefits of marijuana, it looks more and more likely that cannabis has a plethora of medical treatments. Medical cannabis has been used to help with both physical and mental health issues. Epilepsy is one of the major conditions that cannabis has been shown to help with. But what exactly is epilepsy ? And how can a plant help treat it? Let’s delve into the world of medicinal cannabis and find out. 

What is Cannabis? 

Cannabis or weed or mary jane is a psychoactive drug that comes from the marijuana plant. Cannabis was supposedly first found in central Asia and has been slowly moving through the world due to various empires spreading it across continents. In a way, cannabis is another example of Europe taking what they want from other cultures and giving nothing but occupation in return. However, as cannabis has spread itself across the globe, thankfully more research has been done into the wonders of the plant. There are over 400 compounds and 100 cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are what give cannabis its aromas and effects. The two most commonly spoken about are THC and CBD. 

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THC is one of the 100 cannabinoids within the cannabis plant and it is a psychoactive substance. What does this mean? This means that THC has mind-altering effects. THC is often the cannabinoid which brings with it controversy.  This is because it is responsible for the well-known ‘high’ effects of weed. 


CBD, on the other hand, is not a psychoactive substance. In fact, CBD does not have any real tangible effects. However, that’s not to say it does nothing to the body. CBD products are usually easy to find legally due to the fact it does not affect the brain receptors, and therefore does not surround itself with controversy. 

Effects of Cannabis

Cannabis can be used for a variety of physical and mental issues. However, it is also used for recreational purposes; for fun. But what does it actually do?


Both THC, CBD and multiple variants of cannabinoids are used for medical purposes. As more research is being done into the benefits of cannabis, more parts of the plant are being found to assist with more and more health issues. Here is a list of some of the physical and mental illnesses that cannabis has been found to help with:

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Cannabis, and more specifically THC, is used often due to its mind-altering effects. People enjoy cannabis as it can cause:

However, some would argue that even recreational use of cannabis is, technically, medicinal in its nature. Halcyon Organics writes:

“I encourage all “recreational” cannabis users to reevaluate their use.  If there is a prescription or over-the-counter drug designed to treat something that cannabis helps you with, that’s medical use.  If they sell something at GNC or Vitamin World that cannabis helps you with, that’s medical use.  You may not use these other medications because you already know that cannabis is a superior treatment, you just didn’t realize it.”


Is Medical Cannabis Legal?

As you can see then, in a sense, all cannabis use is medicinal. However, most governments definitely do not see it like that and, in the UK, recreational cannabis is illegal. More specifically, any substance that contains more than 0.2% THC is illegal. Whilst CBD products are legal in the UK to purchase easily, these aren’t necessarily effective medicianly. In fact, it’s often THC that has some medicinal benefits when combined with CBD. 

However, fortunately, in 2018: medicinal cannabis was made legal in the UK. Whilst prescriptions can only be bought privately, and the costs can be extortionate, there is slow evidence that suggests that it’s getting better and becoming more accessible. Interestingly, one of the watershed moments that causes the legality of medical cannabis was a young boy who needed it to treat his epilepsy. His name was Billy Caldwell.

Click here to find out more about the cannabis legal situation in the UK.

Billy Caldwell

The case of Billy Caldwell was huge in the progress of medical cannabis legalization in the UK. Billy’s mother would fly all the way to Canada and the US in order to pick up cannabis oil, in order to treat her son’s epilepsy. The cannabis oil contained more than 0.2% THC and was thus illegal in the UK. However, using the oil had caused Billy to avoid an epileptic fit for 250 days. He would usually have several a day. However, when she returned from Canada with 6 months worth of medicine, it was confiscated by the home office at the UK border. In consequence, Billy had life threatening seizures and was hospitalised. He almost died. Eventually, the doctors allowed him to use the treatment. Because of the case of Billy Caldwell, the UK government had to rethink their cannabis strategy. In result, medicinal cannabis was legalized in 2018. 

What is Epilepsy? 

Around 3.4 million people worldwide suffer from epilepsy. The condition of epilepsy occurs when sudden bursts of electrical activity in the brain cause fits and seizures. The cause of epilepsy isn’t always easy to nail down. Ultimately the fits occur when there is abnormal circuiting in the brain. This can happen due to family heritage, brain inflammation from an accident, or even infection. 

Fits seizures manifest themselves as uncontrollable shaking, losing awareness of your surroundings, stiffness, a sense of tingling and collapsing.

How Does Cannabis Help?

The Epilepsy Foundation states that:

“Early evidence from laboratory studies, anecdotal reports, and small clinical studies over a number of years suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) could potentially help control seizures.”

However, this is only the half of it. One of the first types of medical cannabis that was legalized in the UK was Epidyolex, which treats people with epilepsy. It doesn’t work for everyone, but as in the case of Billy Caldwell, his cannabis treatment completely eradicated his seizures. 

The cannabinoids within cannabis bind to the receptors in the brain that are effective against pain. They block the transmission of these pain signals. CBD also binds to other brain receptors, which seem to promote relaxation throughout the body and brain. It is this that people believe to have positive effects on epilepsy. By relaxing the mind, random electrical bursts in the brain become less common and, in consequence, fits and seizures cease. 

According to Epilepsy Action:

“A recent evidence review found that one in every 8 people taking CBD would have a 50% or greater reduction in seizures”

It’s important to note that this is only one type of cannabis medicine. Although the research into medical cannabis is slightly limited, since 2018 it has improved. The hope is that as research becomes deeper, there will be more variants of medical cannabis and more understanding of how different combinations of cannabinoids can assist with specific needs and issues. However, this is a start, and it is evident that cannabis benefits those suffering from epilepsy.

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What Next?

Now medical cannabis is legal in the UK, we have to hope that only more progression will follow. The more research done into medical cannabis, the more people with specific mental and physical problems will be able to benefit from it. So, continue doing your research and pushing for full cannabis legalization. 

Want to know more about the world of cannabis? Check out our other articles here.

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