Cannabidiol and epilepsy: Rationale and therapeutic potential

Pharmacol Res. 2016 May:107:85-92. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2016.03.005. Epub 2016 Mar 11.


Despite the introduction of new antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), the quality of life and therapeutic response for patients with epilepsy remains still poor. Unfortunately, besides several advantages, these new AEDs have not satisfactorily reduced the number of refractory patients. Therefore, the need for different other therapeutic options to manage epilepsy is still a current issue. To this purpose, emphasis has been given to phytocannabinoids, which have been medicinally used since ancient time in the treatment of neurological disorders including epilepsy. In particular, the nonpsychoactive compound cannabidiol (CBD) has shown anticonvulsant properties, both in preclinical and clinical studies, with a yet not completely clarified mechanism of action. However, it should be made clear that most phytocannabinoids do not act on the endocannabinoid system as in the case of CBD. In in vivo preclinical studies, CBD has shown significant anticonvulsant effects mainly in acute animal models of seizures, whereas restricted data exist in chronic models of epilepsy as well as in animal models of epileptogenesis. Likewise, clinical evidence seems to indicate that CBD is able to manage epilepsy both in adults and children affected by refractory seizures, with a favourable side effect profile. However, to date, clinical trials are both qualitatively and numerically limited, thus yet inconsistent. Therefore, further preclinical and clinical studies are undoubtedly needed to better evaluate the potential therapeutic profile of CBD in epilepsy, although the actually available data is promising.

Keywords: Cannabidiol; Clinical evidence; Epilepsy; Preclinical studies; Seizures.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Cannabidiol / therapeutic use*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy*
  • Humans


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Cannabidiol