disorder herbs, supplements, vitamins, diet and food, natural ways to prevent or
Ray Sahelian, M.D.
February 19 2016
A seizure is the response to an abnormal electrical discharge in the brain. Anything that irritates the brain can produce it. Two thirds of people who experience a seizure never have another. One third go on to have recurring seizures (a condition called epilepsy).
Precisely what happens during a seizure depends on what part of the brain is affected by the abnormal electrical discharge. The discharge may involve a tiny area of the brain and lead only to the person noticing an odd smell or taste, or it may involve large areas and lead to a convulsion--jerking and spasms of muscles throughout the body. The person may also have brief attacks of altered consciousness; lose consciousness, muscle control, or bladder control; and become confused.
High fever due to infections. Most of the time, these types of febrile seizure are temporary. Brain infections from a number of viruses and bacteria are a cause of seizure. Antibiotic or antiviral therapy can treat the infection and hence prevent the seizure from reoccurring.
Seizure can occur due to heatstroke.
Exposure to toxic drugs and substances such as excess alcohol, amphetamines, and cocaine can certainly lead to seizures. Even certain substances not thought of to be a causative agent may be responsible, for instance camphor.
Withdrawal after heavy use of alcohol, sleep aids, tranquilizers.
Adverse reaction to prescription drugs.
Metabolic disturbances such as high levels of sugar or sodium in the blood, low levels of sugar, calcium, magnesium, or sodium in the blood, kidney or liver failure.
Insufficient oxygen to the brain from strokes or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Destruction of brain tissue form head injury or brain tumor.
In rare cases, excessively high doses of certain nutrients and herbs may cause a seizure or make it more likely to occur. Side effects of certain natural supplements such as ginkgo biloba herb.
A severe brain injury puts people at high risk for more than a decade after they are first hurt.
Childhood vaccines may trigger early onset of a severe form of infant epilepsy, Dravet syndrome, but researchers say the disorder is ultimately caused by defective genes and lifesaving vaccines should not be withheld from these children. The disorder generally begins with seizures around six months of age.
High levels of stress.
Natural therapy for seizures
The ketogenic diet may be helpful in reducing the frequency of seizures.
Improvement of sleep patterns can help reduce the frequency of seizures.
Improvement in diet. A high-fat, low carbohydrate diet can drastically cut seizures in children with severe epilepsy and could reduce the need for medication.
Vitamin E may be useful afterwards.
Mol Neurobiol. 2014. Post-Seizure α-Tocopherol Treatment Decreases Neuroinflammation and Neuronal Degeneration Induced by Status Epilepticus in Rat Hippocampus. Vitamin E (as α-tocopherol, α-T) was shown to have beneficial effects in epilepsy, mainly ascribed to its antioxidant properties. Besides radical-induced neurotoxicity, neuroinflammation is also involved in the pathophysiology of epilepsy, since neuroglial activation and cytokine production exacerbate seizure-induced neurotoxicity and contribute to epileptogenesis. We previously showed that α-T oral supplementation before inducing status epilepticus, markedly reduces astrocytic and microglial activation, neuronal cell death and oxidative stress in the hippocampus, as observed 4 days after seizure.
Fish oils may be helpful, according to Dr. Christopher DeGiorgio, of the University of California, Los Angeles. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can cross from the bloodstream into the central nervous system, where they reduce the excitability of brain cells that trigger seizures.
Melatonin has been found to be helpful in children taking valproate (see study below).
Taurine amino acid hyperpolarizes neurons and inhibits their firing.
Passionflower herb should be considered.
Add calcium mineral and vitamin D since patients on medications often lose bone mass.
Bacopa has been used in India for epilepsy however research on this herb regarding seizures is very limited.
Carnosine has been looked into, see study below, but no human studies are available.
Scutellariae radix water extract has anticonvulsant activity against tonic seizures in mice. Its role in humans is not clear.
Yoga is helpful. Any type of stress reduction could be of benefit.
Fish oils and seizure
Fish oils help reduce the risk of cardiac arrhythmias by helping stabilize neuronal excitability in heart tissue. I wonder if fish oils or eating fish could have the same benefits in brain tissue, helping reduce neuronal excitability and thus reducing the occurrence of seizures. I would be interested in getting feedback from neurologists or other experts would have studied this topic.
Diet enriched with omega-3 fatty acids alleviates
convulsion symptoms in seizure patients.
We examined whether a dietary supplement containing omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) can alleviate and/or reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures in patients with central nervous system (CNS) diseases treated with anticonvulsive drugs. A special spread containing 65% n-3 PUFAs was added to the daily diet. The patients consumed 5 g of this spread at every breakfast for 6 months. Five patients completed the study. In all of them, a marked reduction in both frequency and strength of the epileptic seizures was recorded. Incorporation of the dietary supplement containing n-3 PUFAs may be beneficial in suppression of some cases of epileptic seizures.
Q. I sometimes work as a locum pharmacist in and around Dublin and have
experienced a case of this type. Largely driven by the research in the UK,
Omega-3s are becoming very popular for all paediatric neurological complaints.
One parent who came to our pharmacy described how his daughter’s liquid omega3
supplement is now covered (i.e. no payment required by the patient) by Ireland’s
General Medical Services (GMS) based on the outcome of a brief trial which he
(GMS is the Irish equivalent of the British NHS; but with more limited access -
available to over 70s and those on below-average incomes), but with no charges
to patients. OTC products are generally not covered, but Regional Health Service
Executive offices have discretionary systems for special or hardship cases,)
This man’s daughter’s (aged about 7) seizures had been refractory to therapy –
resulting in several seizures per week. After several months on Omega 3s,
seizures became much less frequent (down to one every few months). The brands
she had been receiving are Eskimo and EyeQ.
Carnosine and seizures
Carnosine, a precursor of histidine, ameliorates pentylenetetrazole-induced kindled seizures in rat.
Neurosci Lett. 2006.
The objective of this study was to examine the effects of carnosine on the development of pentylenetetrazol (PTZ) kindling seizures and protection against the PTZ kindled seizures in rats. Injection of carnosine (200, 500 mg/kg, i.p.) significantly decreased seizure stage, and prolonged the latencies for myoclonic jerks, in a dose- and time-dependent manner. In the seizure development process, 500 mg/kg carnosine also significantly delayed the onset of PTZ kindled seizures. In addition, carnosine significantly reversed decreased histamine levels induced by PTZ kindled seizure in the hippocampus. These results indicate that carnosine can protect against PTZ-induced seizures in both the development of kindling and the challenge process in rats. The results suggest that carnosine might be an endogenous anticonvulsant factor in the brain and can be used as a new antiepileptic drug in future.
Case study report
Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016. Resolution of non-psychogenic epileptic-like seizures utilizing a vasodilatory and anti-inflammatory dietary intervention. A young female subject with ineffective pharmacological regulation of chronic vasoconstrictive-induced epilectic-like seizures was effectively treated with a dietary regimen targeted to promote vasodilatation and attenuate vascular inflammation. The intervention consisted of complete cessation of caffeinated beverages, supplementation with L-arginine to promote vasodilatation, consumption of foods rich in phytoestrogens, minimization of foods enriched with saturated fatty acids, supplementation with vitamin D concomitant with increased ingestion of dairy milk and supplementation with aged garlic extract
Supplements that may have an adverse effect on seizure
Reduce or eliminate any kind of supplements that have a stimulant effect such as tyrosine amino acid, ephedra, caffeine, guarana, citrus aurantium, ginkgo biloba herb, sexual herbs such as horny goat weed and tongkat ali, and teas that have caffeine.
Medications that can cause new onset seizures
Antidepressants lead to a higher risk for first-time seizures in people being treated for depression:
SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
SNRIs, or serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
Other antidepressants, including bupropion, mirtazapine, reboxetine, and trazodone
Anti seizure medication warning
The US Food and Drug Administration is requiring that the label of all anti seizure medications include a warning about the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Widely used anticonvulsant drugs, including Neurontin and Trileptal, increase the risk of suicide, attempted suicide and violent death in patients taking them for the first time. Compared with Johnson & Johnson's generic epilepsy drug topiramate or Topamax, Dr. Elisabetta Patorno of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, found an increased risk for suicide in new users of Pfizer's Neurontin (sold generically as gabapentin), GlaxoSmithKline's Lamictal or lamotrigine, Novartis' Trileptal or oxcarbazepine and Cephalon's Gabitril or tiagabine. The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 2010.
taking Depakote (valproate) during pregnancy lowers the baby's IQ and lead to deformities in up to one in ten cases. NEJM/New England Journal of Medicine, June 9, 2010.
Type of seizure
Absence seizure can appear to others that the person is daydreaming, something we all do when we are bored or distracted. However, during the absence seizure the person cannot be woken up since they are temporarily unconscious.
Complex partial seizure
Petit mal - some people misspell this as petite mal seizure
Symptoms depend on the type, ranging from a hardly noticed few second mental distraction to a total full blown epileptic seizure involving all extremities and muscle groups leading to loss of consciousness. A diabetic seizure can occur due to a sudden drop in blood sugar from insulin overdose.
Seizure Research studies
Generally medication should not be started following a single seizure except in specific circumstances or in cases where the risk of recurrence is high.
After a seizure, early intervention with
anticonvulsant drugs appears to have little effect on the long-term prognosis of
epilepsy. When to begin treatment with antiepileptic drugs in patients with few
or infrequent seizures is a difficult decision. Doctors and patients must weigh
the risk of seizure recurrence against the risk of medication side effects.
Researchers evaluated the outcomes of patients who had single seizures and early
epilepsy whose doctors were uncertain whether to proceed with treatment. The
researchers randomly assigned 722 patients to start treatment immediately and
721 to defer treatment until the doctors and patient agreed that seixure
treatment was necessary. In the deferred-treatment group, 332 started treatment
during the course of the trial.
Patients who deferred treatment had a shorter time until the first or second recurrent seizure. However, the two groups did not differ in time to a fifth seizure. By the two-year follow-up, 32 percent of those in the immediate-treatment group had a recurrent seizure versus 39 percent of those in the deferred-treatment group. There was no greater improvement in quality of life among those assigned to immediate treatment versus deferred treatment. Immediate treatment was associated with more adverse events that were believed to be treatment related. After three years, 74 percent of the immediate-treatment group and 71 percent of the deferred-treatment group were seizure-free. At 5 years, 76 percent and 77 percent were seizure free.
Screening of plants used in Danish folk medicine to treat
epilepsy and convulsions.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2005;
Department of Medicinal Chemistry, The Danish University of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2 Universitetsparken, 2100 Copenhagen O, Denmark.
Aqueous and ethanolic extracts of 42 plants used in Danish folk medicine for the treatment of epilepsy and convulsions, or for inducing sedation, were tested for affinity to the GABA(A)-benzodiazepine receptor in the flumazenil-binding assay. Ethanolic extracts of leaves of Primula elatior and Primula veris and aerial parts of Tanacetum parthenium exhibited good, dose-dependent affinity.
Vaccination with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine appears to increase a child's risk of having a seizure from a high fever -- a usually harmless event. However, the increased risk appears to be small and short-lived, Danish researchers report. Moreover, like other febrile seizures, those arising after vaccination were not associated with an increased risk of developing epilepsy.
Herbal Medicines and Epilepsy: The Potential for Benefit and Adverse Effects.
Spinella M. Epilepsy Behav. 2001.
Herbal sedatives (kava, valerian, chamomile, passionflower) may potentiate the effects of antiepileptic medications, increasing their sedative and cognitive effects. Despite some anti seizure effects in animal models, they should not be used in place of standard seizure medications because efficacy has not been established. Anecdotal, uncontrolled observations suggest that herbal stimulants containing ephedrine (ephedra or ma huang) and caffeine (cocoa, coffee, tea, mate, guarana, cola or kola) can exacerbate seizures in people with epilepsy, especially when taken in combination. Ginkgo and ginseng may also exacerbate seizures although the evidence for this is similarly anecdotal and uncertain. St. John's wort has the potential to alter medication pharmacokinetics and the seizure threshold. The essential oils of many plants contain epileptogenic compounds. There is mixed evidence for evening primrose and borage lowering the seizure threshold. Education of both health care providers and patients is the best way to avoid unintentional and unnecessary adverse reactions to herbal medicines.
Add-on melatonin improves quality of life in epileptic children on valproate
monotherapy: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Lady Hardinge Medical College and Associated Hospitals, New Delhi, India.
Epilepsy Behav. 2004.
This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in epileptic children aged 3-12 years evaluated the effects of add-on melatonin administration on the quality of life of these children on sodium valproate (VPA) monotherapy using a parental questionnaire. Quality of Life in Childhood Epilepsy is a questionnaire designed to assess a variety of age-relevant domains such as physical function, emotional well-being, cognitive function, social function, behavior, and general health. Of the 31 patients, 16 randomly received add-on melatonin (MEL), whereas 15 received add-on placebo (P). The questionnaire had good internal consistency reliability, because for most of the multi-item scales Cronbach's [Formula: see text] reliability exceeded 0.5 (range: 0.59-0.94). To our knowledge, this is the first study assessing quality of life in epileptic children with add-on melatonin administration in the form of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The study suggests a potential use of melatonin as an adjunct to antiepileptic therapy due to its diverse spectrum of action as an antioxidant, neuroprotector, and free radical scavenger, thus offering the advantage of reducing oxidant stress and subsequent damage. The beneficial effects of melatonin on sleep, its wide safety window, and its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier have the potential to improve quality of life in pediatric epilepsy.
The results of a
small study confirm previous findings that treatment with the anti-seizure drug
valproate tends to increase body weight. The results also show that patients
treated with the drug appear to have an increased risk of developing
nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
Sphaeranthus indicus herb has been studied in rodents.
Seizure natural treatment, prevention, supplements
and herbal remedy emails
Q. I have epilepsy and last year in I started taking Ginkgo Biloba (120mg One a day), as I believed it would improve my poor circulation and there was nothing stated on the packaging to suggest I shouldn't take it. One month later I had a seizure. My usual recovery time is a maximum of 2 days , however I had to take two weeks off work due to residual effects, predominately severe disorintation. The unexpected long duration of my initial recovery was very destressing and I have only recently felt 100% again. I researched the supplement after the incident, as this was the only change to my lifestyle and was horrified that the risk of seizures although not 100% founded at present was stated in several sources. Nothing was mentioned on the packaging of the supplement and although I have sent and received various letters from the company who is responsible, nothing could come of my misfortune due to the lack of legislation relating to herbal supplements. The conclusion taken not only by myself but also by my Neurologist was the supplement had triggered my seizure, with my consent a medial case report has been compiled. The purpose of my email is simply to pass the message on, and hope somewhere along the line suitable changes to packaging and awareness are made.
Q. I have been taking 500mg a day of L-Tyrosine
in combination with 500 mg of Para Thyrolate, and vitamin B (as
prescribed by a nutritionist.) Also, I have high blood pressure and have been
taking hydrocholorathiazide for the past two years. On Friday December 22 I had
a Grand Mal Seizure followed by a second one 5 hours later. I have never had a
seizure before in my life and I am 36 years old. The day of the seizure I had
been feeling like I was coming down with a cold or flu and barely ate anything
all day. I have been reading up on the side effects of L-Tyrosine and realized
that I have been experiencing side-effects for quite some time; heart
and what appeared to be mini panic attacks. Has L- Tyrosine ever been documented
to cause seizures? At the hospital they ran lots of tests and could not seem to
find anything wrong with me so the seizure remains unexplained.
A. Although we have not come across any published studies regarding the role of l tyrosine on seizure inducement, we can not rule out the possibility, that, in some people, it is possible that high doses of l tyrosine could reduce the threshold for a seizure to occur. This is just speculation since we have not seen actual research blaming l tyrosine supplement use and seizure occurrence.
Q. My husband was placed on Keppra for a mild seizure problem after a stroke, he is 75 years old. The cure was worse than the disease. Keppra gave him agitation, dizziness, no balance, runny nose and a whole list of other side effects. He is so much better after stopping the Keppra. I told his doctor I refuse to give it to him.
I have had 3 mild seizures over 15 years and am aware what riggers
them. Have you a formula for mild epilepsy. i take vit E. passionflower
I currently do not have an herbal or nutritional formula for seizure treatment.
I had seen that someone asked on the site about natural suppliments
for epilepsy. Someone bought a bottle of Dr christophers anti-spasmodic formula
for my epileptic daughter. It may work like a charm, but it's so easy to throw
an epileptics chemistry off and impact seizure activity (we would know after 8
diff medications and finally keto diet) so I have not given the above formula a
try. I was curious if since that question has come up if you had come across any
information on natural suppliments such as this one. Any information you may
have is appreciated. Ingredients: Dr christophers anti-spasmodic formula
consists of the following: Skullcap herb, Lobelia herb, Cayenne, Valerian Root,
Skunk Cabbage, Myrrh Gum and Black cohosh.
I have not seen any studies with this formula so I do not know if it is of benefit or whether it has side effects.
Thirteen years ago I had acute pancreatitis from Depakote. I've had seizures since I was three years old; I am now 56. I quit all my prescriptions about three months after recovering from acute pancreatitis and turned to natural ways to control my nocturnal tonic-clonic with tongue biting. I'm taking L-Taurine, Vitamin C, and magnesium, three times a day and it has caused my epilepsy to be less severe.
Q. Are there natural therapies for seizures
starting around menopause?
A. I have not studied this topic of menopause related seizures at this time.
I have been immensely impressed with your
expertise for a very long time. What do you think about small amounts of taurine
and lipoid acid for stabilizing brain agitation. I have had seizures for a few
months which needed hospatilisation 4 times. I have used R Lipoic acid product
for all sort of things its amazing. Now that I am seizure prone is it
appropriate? I am having to use diazepam to stave off the seizures and obviously
increase my healthy living. The main cause of my seizures in the first place was
alcohol abuse and extreme stress.
A. I have not seen studies regarding the influence of alpha lipoic acid on seizures, but at this point I would prefer not using it until I come across more information. As to taurine, perhaps it could be of help.