CBD for epilepsy: The story of Charlotte Figi

How one young girl changed public opinion on CBD use for epilepsy

She was only six years old, yet young Charlotte Figi managed to change the way we look at the use of CBD for epilepsy. Suffering from the dreaded Dravet Syndrome, her parents saw CBD as a last chance solution... until her story took a global dimension, and led to outstanding medical advances.  


CBD for epilepsy: the miracle solution for a hopeless case

Doomed at birth

This battle for the use of CBD for epilepsy began on October 18th, 2006 in the United States, when Charlotte Figi was born. Paige and Matt, her parents, are very happy. But the honeymoon wasn’t meant to las: at only three months old, Charlotte has her first epileptic seizure, and at two years old, she is diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome.  

Also known as myoclonic epilepsy, Dravet syndrome is a form of epilepsy that is characterized by particularly long seizures. The problem is that there is no cure for this condition: medication can only reduce the duration and frequency of the seizures, not eliminate them.

Even more seriously, this syndrome disrupts the child's development and daily life. It can cause psychomotor delays, language, behavior, sleep and eating disorders.

CBD for epilepsy: the last chance solution

Over the years, little Charlotte Figi's seizures became more and more constant and violent. By the time she was five years old, she was having up to 300 seizures a week, having difficulty speaking, and even walking and feeding herself, to the point where she was forced to use a wheelchair and feed herself with a tube. 

To save their daughter, Paige and Matt explored every possible treatment, but nothing seemed to help. Even worse, some of the drugs made it impossible for her to breathe. The couple finally stumbled upon the story of a family who used CBD for epilepsy, their son also suffering from Dravet syndrome. 

It was a last-ditch solution: the Figi family moved to Colorado, where medical cannabis is allowed. In the course of her research, Paige finds Joel Stanley, a cannabis farmer who, along with his brothers, has managed to develop a strain of cannabis rich in cannabidiol (CBD) and low in THC.  

In 2012, Paige administered her first dose of CBD to Charlotte.

CBD for epilepsy: the implications of Charlotte's story

Charlotte’s Web legend

Using CBD for epilepsy, Paige didn't expect such dramatic results: her seizures were immediately reduced from 300 per week to only two or three per month. At the age of six, Charlotte began to talk, eat, walk and even ride her bike. At last, she could enjoy a more normal life. The treatment was so effective that the little girl was finally able to be weaned off the anti-epileptic drugs. 

Charlotte's story inspired other families of children with epilepsy. And to pay tribute to the little girl, the strain she consumed was renamed Charlotte's Web. Since cannabis is not legal in all states, Colorado emerges as a haven for parents whose children suffer from a similar diagnosis, so by 2014, more than 41 children were consuming Charlotte's Web in Colorado: all of them observed that using CBD for epilepsy helped them drastically reduce the frequency of their seizures.

Soon, Charlotte became known worldwide. The following year, Dr. Sanjay Gupta devoted a documentary to her on CNN. It shows a young child having fun and laughing, thanks to CBD. 

With her fame, Charlotte Figi became the spearhead of the movement for the legalization of medicinal cannabis, symbolizing progress and hope in the face of backward mentalities. Even after her death in 2020, the girl remains an inescapable symbol and her influence will never be forgotten. 

Charlotte et son père Matt
Brennan Linsley / AP file​​

CBD for epilepsy: from Charlotte's Web to medical research

Beyond the symbol, Charlotte's story has helped advance research on the use of CBD for epilepsy

Clinical trials have been conducted on Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes. Where they were resistant to conventional treatments, these syndromes reacted positively to CBD. This work led to the approval of Epidiolex, a CBD oil used as a medication, and available by prescription. 

A New York University study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2018 confirms the effectiveness of Epidiolex: the 225 patients, who suffered from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, saw their seizures reduced by 42% after administration of the treatment. And this, with very few side effects. 

CBD for epilepsy: how does the molecule work?

But how does CBD for epilepsy actually work ?

Epileptic seizures are caused by an overactivation of the TRPV1 vanilloid receptors, which are responsible for detecting temperature variations. Cannabidiol helps regulate and control this overactivity, thus reducing seizures.

The molecule also has anticonvulsant effects because it helps the muscles to relax during seizures, but also to reduce the inflammation that causes this cerebral overactivity leading to seizures. 

Finally, the neuro-protective properties of CBD improve brain activity, reducing the risk of overactivity and therefore dysfunction.

This is where the story of little Charlotte Figi ends, who single-handedly managed to breathe new life into the CBD legalization movement. We hope you found this article interesting. For more content on the effects of CBD and its place in history and culture, feel free to check out our blog or subscribe to our instagram. Until then, we'll see you next week for a new article!

Cake it easy,