Commitment to Finding New Treatments
SEHRF is committed to supporting scientific research efforts that investigate the rationale for the development of promising new treatments, whether conventional or alternative, for use in patients with epilepsy.
In spite of continuing efforts, 30 to 40 percent of epilepsy patients are resistant to anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), while more than 50 percent of AED-responsive patients suffer from adverse side effects. These numbers are higher for children with early onset forms of epilepsy.
Integrative medicine incorporates both conventional and alternative therapies. Many doctors now agree that alternative therapies can be a valuable addition to conventional medical care.
The list of alternative therapies changes over time as new approaches are proven safe and effective, which then become part of conventional health care. In epilepsy, for instance, the ketogenic diet began as an alternative therapy but has been scientifically tested and is now considered a conventional therapy for some people with epilepsy.
Natural Products versus Nutraceuticals
Natural products and nutraceuticals represent difference kinds of alternative therapy. Based on definitions from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH; nccih.nih.gov), natural products include herbs, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics. Natural products are sometimes called dietary supplements.
Nutraceuticals are foods or fortified foods that supplement basic dietary needs while also providing medical benefits. A nutraceutical product may be defined as a substance, which has physiological benefit or provides protection against chronic disease.
Natural products such as botanicals and cannabinoids have been shown to have benefits in the treatment of epilepsy and brain disorders. By influencing a myriad of pathways, these products are able to restore dynamic processes with minimal risk.
Natural products or dietary supplements are products that contain one or more ingredients that are consumed in addition to daily food intake (e.g., vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, and other substances).
Evidence supporting the efficacy of botanicals in the treatment of epilepsy-related conditions is beginning to grow. In laboratory studies, hundreds of plant extracts have demonstrated anticonvulsant activity in animal models of epilepsy. Many botanical extracts have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and cognition-enhancing effects.
Most families with children that are resistant to conventional anti-seizure medications search for alternative approaches. CBD has become a popular choice for epileptic patients, thanks to its positive effects in clinical trials. While CBD use for epilepsy is becoming more common, there is still more to be learned when it comes to its mechanism of action, safety, effectiveness, and interactions with other drugs. Currently, there is no standard for the quality or purity of marijuana-based products, and it is not yet understood which of the many active cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant, or in what combination, are useful in controlling seizures.
Nutraceuticals are pharmaceutical-grade and standardized nutrients. Derived from the terms ‘nutrition’ and ‘pharmaceutical, nutraceuticals are foods with health benefits or that are used to treat and prevent disease.
In the US, nutraceuticals do not exist as a regulatory category. They are regulated as dietary supplements and food additives by the FDA. The appeal of nutraceuticals is that their purpose is to accomplish treatment goals with many fewer side effects.
Nutraceuticals continue to be identified, and there is a growing body of research that examines the efficacy and mechanism of action of these products. The hope is to provide new agents that are able to decrease the progression of epilepsy, aid in the treatment of seizures and other brain disorders, and restore homeostasis in the body.