Several herbal medicines have a long history of successfully treating seizures
07/12/2019 // Ralph Flores // Views

Herbal medicine is experiencing a renaissance these days, thanks to studies that show its many health benefits. A study in the journal Alternative and Complementary Therapies is one example. In their paper, a team of researchers from Bastyr University in Washington reviewed some of the medicines commonly used in managing seizure disorders.

Seizure disorders happen when the brain's electrical activity is disturbed, causing temporary dysfunction. Some seizures cause uncontrollable shaking and loss of consciousness, but most reported cases involve a person becoming unaware of what is happening. Around two percent of people will experience a seizure once in their lifetime, with only a third of them experiencing another one.

Seizures fall under two categories:

  • Epileptic – A term used to describe seizures that do not have an apparent trigger and occur two or more times. The most common type of epileptic seizure is symptomatic epilepsy, a condition common in newborns and older adults and is probably caused by a disorder in the brain.
  • Non-epileptic – These are seizures triggered by a condition that irritates the brain. Some triggers include a stroke, head injury, and infection. Certain drugs can also cause non-epileptic seizures.

While a seizure can last anywhere from 10 to 15 seconds, it can be risky for some people, especially if it happens when they are standing. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone loses consciousness during a seizure. There is, however, a type of seizure disorder called the convulsive status epilepticus, where the seizure lasts for more than five minutes, and intense muscle contractions cause difficulty breathing. This is a medical emergency and should be attended to immediately. It's also worth noting that putting an object in the mouth of someone having a convulsion isn't helpful either as it can cause more harm.


After a seizure, most people report having headaches, sore muscles, confusion, and fatigue -- a condition known as the postictal state.

Herbal medicine can help with seizure disorders

In the study, the researchers looked at recent studies on the efficacy of herbal medicines while also conducting historical research for their traditional uses. Some of the herbs that they reviewed include the following.

Black cumin (Nigella sativa)

Black cumin and cannabis are the most documented herbs when it comes to preventing convulsions. A 2007 study with epileptic children found that a water extract from black cumin seeds significantly reduced seizure activity. Meanwhile, another review published in the Journal of Toxicology noted that the brain-protective properties of black cumin extended even to memory impairment and even neurotoxicity.

Cannabis (Cannabis sativa)

Cannabis was introduced into Western medicine in the 19th century by William O’Shaughnessy, who shared his experiences and studies after working in India with the East India Company. Since then, its ability to treat symptoms of seizure disorders has been well-documented and studied extensively. Cannabinoids, the active ingredients present in cannabis, are effective against cases of drug-resistant therapy, according to a study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. (Related: Cannabidiol (CBD) found to cut seizures in HALF among severe epilepsy patients, scientists find.)

Skullcap (Scutellaria lateri?ora)

Skullcap has been used as an anticonvulsant for over 200 years. The herb, native to North America, is also used for treating anxiety and nervous tension. Recent studies also showed that skullcap can be used for neurological disorders, which include depression, anxiety disorders, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender is the international flower for epilepsy, and for good reason: Studies showed that lavender and its essential oil have anticonvulsant effects, thanks to their relaxing properties. This was also the conclusion reached by researchers in an article published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. In their report, the team found that lavender has mood-improving, sedative, and neuroprotective properties. Not all types of lavender are equal, however. Spike lavender (L. latifolia), a type of lavender native to the Mediterranean, should be avoided as this can induce seizures instead. has more on plants with anticonvulsive properties.

Sources include:

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