Updated on December 11, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Charlotte’s Web is a Sativa strain that has revolutionized the medical marijuana industry. It’s known for its extremely high CBD (cannabidiol) content and almost non-existent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). In fact, the developers ensure that its THC content is always 0.3% or less. It’s used to treat many different conditions, from cancer to PTSD. However, it’s the treatment of epilepsy that Charlotte’s Web is best known for.
In 2011, Charlotte Figi a five-year old suffering from a rare form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome, was dramatically impacted through her use of Charlotte’s Web. The Stanley brothers, Colorado-based growers, developed this strain and named it after Charlotte. As her story got out, it highlighted the medical marijuana debate and brought it to national attention.
Charlotte and her twin Chase seemed like two healthy babies. Born at 40 weeks, their development and health were completely normal. That is until Charlotte experienced her first seizure at only three months old. For two and a half years, the seizures worsened, and doctors were unable to identify its cause. Finally, Charlotte was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a rare epilepsy syndrome caused by dysfunction of the brain which develops in the first year of life.
Charlotte’s parents, Matt and Paige, tried every treatment possible, from heavy-duty barbiturates to diet changes. Some would work for a short time, but the seizures would always intensify again. Eventually, Charlotte was having 300 grand mal seizures a week, some lasting as long as an hour. It took a toll on her development — she couldn’t walk, speak or feed herself. Doctors gave up hope, saying there was nothing they could do.
After exhausting every other option, the Figis turned to medical marijuana. They had heard reports that it helped seizures. Getting approval for Charlotte to join Colorado’s medical marijuana program was quite difficult, as they had to find two doctors to approve it. Eventually they did, and she became the youngest patient ever to join the program.
The Figis had no intention of having their daughter smoke marijuana. They also wanted to avoid strains that were high in THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. That’s when they met the Stanley brothers, a family of medical marijuana growers based in Colorado who had developed a strain with an extremely low THC content.
The moment of truth arrived. Charlotte’s parents started putting the strain’s oil extract in her food, and the effects were almost immediate. Instead of a daily occurrence, her seizures were reduced to two or three a month. Her development got back on track, as well. Her brain is recovering from the massive seizures she’s experienced — and she can walk, talk, feed herself and even ride a bike. The future looks bright for Charlotte.
The Stanley brothers developed Charlotte’s Web as a crossbreed between a strain high in CBD and low in THC and industrial hemp. It’s named after Charlotte Figi and the web-like growths that wrap around the plant’s bud.
The priority in its development was to maintain a low amount of THC so patients using the product wouldn’t get the “high” associated with marijuana. The CBD reacts with our body’s endocannabinoid system and quiets the excessive neuron activity that causes seizures.
Charlotte’s Web doesn’t work for every patient with seizures — it doesn’t even work for every patient with Dravet Syndrome. However, researchers don’t understand why. Because marijuana is a federally banned as a Schedule I controlled substance, it’s hard to perform research studies to further our understanding.
As Charlotte Figi’s story highlights, medical marijuana has the potential to be a miracle treatment for many conditions. But to fully understand Charlotte’s Web and other strains of marijuana, the federal government needs to lift the stringent restrictions placed on medical researchers. Only then will we begin to see the full potential of cannabis.
For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat Epilepsy, check out our resources: