Cannabis sativa has been domesticated and cultivated by humans over millennia for its fibre, oils and psychoactive properties; throughout history, the resin, leaves and flowers of the plant have been described as having therapeutic activity.
In Ayurvedic and Chinese texts, cannabinoids — the plant’s natural components — were recommended for the treatment of seizures. The effectiveness of hashish in treating a child with a convulsive disorder was described by physician William Brooke O’Shaughnessy in the 1840s, following observations made in Bengal. And in 1980, Cunha et al. reported anticonvulsant benefits in a phase I trial of cannabidiol (CBD) — the plant’s most commonly identified non-intoxicating cannabinoid. Over the past few years, several trials have reported that the safety profile of CBD justifies randomised trials in patients with epilepsy who do not respond to conventional strategies.