Herbal ‘cures’ for convulsion, epilepsy, seizures


Catalepsy is a nervous condition characterized by muscular rigidity and fixity of posture regardless of external stimuli as well as decreased sensitivity to pain. Catalepsy can appear in schizophrenia, Parkinsonism, and epilepsy. Symptoms include rigid body, rigid limbs, and limbs staying in the same position when moved.

Epilepsy is defined as a group of disorders of central nervous system (CNS) characterized by paroxysmal cerebral dysrhythmia, manifesting as brief episodes (seizures) of loss or disturbances of consciousness with or without characteristic body movement (convulsion), sensory or psychiatric phenomena. Epilepsy is the third most common neurological disorder affecting the worldwide population.

Tetrapleura tetraptera

Tetrapleura tetraptera belongs to the Mimosaceae/Fabacae family. It is locally known as aridan among the Yoruba, osakirisa or oshosho among the Igbo, dawo among the Hausa, all in Nigeria, and is also referred to as prekese among the Twi people of Ghana.

Results of a study published in Phytotherapy Research concluded: “Tetrapleura tetraptera fruit aqueous extract (TTE) possesses analgesic and anticonvulsant properties. These findings lend pharmacological support to the suggested folkloric uses of the plant’s fruit in the management and/or control of painful, arthritic inflammatory conditions, as well as for the management and/or control of epilepsy and childhood convulsions in some tropical African countries.”

Previous studies in our laboratories and elsewhere have shown that the fruit of Tetrapleura tetraptera is widely used in African traditional medicine for the management and/or control of an array of human ailments, including schistosomiasis, asthma, epilepsy, hypertension and so on.


Commonly called Velvet bean or Cowhage, Mucuna pruriens is known as werepe in Yoruba and agbala or agbaloko in Ibo. It belongs to the plant family Fabiaceae.

A study published in Indian Journal of Pharmacology has confirmed the anticataleptic and antiepileptic activity of ethanolic extract of leaves of Mucuna pruriens.

The plant Mucuna pruriens has high content of dopamine in seeds. The plant also contains 5-HT. The leaves of M. pruriens (MP) are also reported to contain dopamine. Dopamine is used for treatment of catalepsy. It also acts as a neuro-protective agent in epilepsy. The seeds of MP are reported to possess anti-cataleptic activity.

The researchers concluded: “The leaves of MP are reported to contain dopamine and 5-HT. Dopamine is used for treatment of catalepsy. Dopamine acts as a neuro-protective agent in epilepsy. Increased serotonin immune-reactivity has been reported in human epileptic brain tissue resected for the control of epilepsy. 5-HT1A receptors are reduced in the ipsilateral hippocampus in temporal-lobe epilepsy patients. So dopamine and 5-HT might play an important role in the anti-cataleptic and antiepileptic activity of the ethanolic extract of MP.”


Turmeric is a spice that comes from the root of Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family, Zingaberaceae.

In Nigeria, it is called atale pupa in Yoruba; gangamau in Hausa; nwandumo in Ebonyi; ohu boboch in Enugu (Nkanu East); gigir in Tiv; magina in Kaduna; turi in Niger State; onjonigho in Cross River (Meo tribe).

The curcumin found in turmeric proves beneficial in treating epilepsy. The low molecular weight and polar structure of curcumin allows it to penetrate into the blood-brain barrier effectively. Curcumin possess antidepressant activity, modulating the release of serotonin and dopamine associated with feelings of well-being.

Curcumin enhances the level of brain derived neurotrophic factor, which acts on certain neurons of the central nervous system. The neuro-protective properties of curcumin prove beneficial in treating epilepsy. It is a potent inhibitor of reactive astrocyte expression.

An experimental review of the effect of curcumin on epilepsy published in Reviews in Clinical Medicine concluded: “ Epilepsy is one of the worldwide important diseases, which both the seizure frequency and the treatment with antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) affect the quality of life of patients and many suffer from the consequences. Herbal medicine has been presented to be a safe adjuvant therapy with lower cost and better outcome.

“Curcumin-the major extract of turmeric has found to have antiepileptic effect according to recent investigations. It has been demonstrated to be safe in animal studies in a number of species. But it has to be mentioned the metabolism of curcumin between human and rats are different and humans can tolerate high doses of this medicine without significant side effects. It not only has no critical adverse effect, but also can protect patients from other AEDs severe side effects and hopefully it also makes it possible to gradually decrease the dose of AEDs in long-term combination therapy.”

Diet intake rich in magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral necessary for electrical stability of every cell in the body. Magnesium deficiency is also linked to epilepsy resulting in hyper-excitability in regions of the brain. Magnesium protects the cells from absorbing aluminum, mercury, lead, and cadmium thus inhibiting seizures.

Magnesium also has a calming effect in the nervous system resulting in good sleep. It helps in normal muscle and nerve functions. The fruits and vegetables that are rich in magnesium are Spinach, Kale, pumpkin seeds, beans and lentils, brown rice, avocado, yogurt, banana, coriander, dill, Sage basil, Flaxseeds, Brazil nuts, Peanut butter, beet greens, sweet corn, cabbage, peas, cucumber, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, guava, kiwifruit. Epsom salt is also a rich source of magnesium which one can consider taking one tablespoon in the morning.

Detoxification with fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C

Epilepsy is also the result of toxins like mercury and aluminum present in the brain, which is the result of improper functioning of the blood brain barrier. These metals get firmly bound to proteins and peptides. The presence of mercury leads to swelling of the astrocytes thus contributing to exaggerated and continuous stimulation by neurotransmitter leading to epilepsy.

The supply of Vitamin C changes mercury into gaseous form at body temperature, which crosses easily through the cell membranes and tissues, which can be thus eliminated from the body easily. So regular intake of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C will prove beneficial in detoxifying the brain and reduce epilepsy to a great extent. Some of the fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C are Kale, mustard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, papaya, oranges, strawberries etc.



Mild exercise is always beneficial. People with seizures fear that while exercising it will be triggered but such cases are rare. Not to overexert or continue any exercise if you feel like fainting.

Regular mild exercises reduce the cortisol level in the body related to fear, stress and overall a feeling of well being is developed and also proves beneficial in reducing the frequency of seizures.

Lifestyle changes

Certain lifestyle changes when made prove beneficial for patients of epilepsy. Say no to drugs or alcohol. Avoid emotional stress, skipping meals, avoid sugar and caffeine. Increase your intake of fluids and keep yourself hydrated.


Commonly called clove, Syzygium aromaticum belongs to the plant family Myrtaceae. The locals, especially in Lagos call it konofo. It is one of the important herbs used as an indigenous medicine and spice in many Asian countries, Africa and other parts of the world.

Cloves may provide the next novel drug for epilepsy, convulsion, toothache, tuberculosis, measles and erectile dysfunction.

The dried flower buds are used in making the popular local drink, Zobo. But several studies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) monographs on selected medicinal plants have validated the folklore uses of cloves in treating microbial infections such as Staphylococcus aureus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (causative organism for tuberculosis), herpes, polio, measles virus; epilepsy, seizures, convulsion, toothache, ulcer, constipation, sleeplessness (insomnia) and erectile dysfunction.

Nigerian researchers have found that extracts of cloves could be used to treat convulsion, seizures and sleeplessness. The study was published in Nigerian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The study reads: “The result of this study therefore suggest that the ethyl acetate fraction may not have contained the bioactive constituents that are useful in the treatment of epilepsy. However, the fraction may contain constituents that are beneficial in potentiating the effects of diazepam in inducing sleep suggesting sedative activity of the fraction. ”


Zingiber officinale (Ginger) is often used as a condiment in many countries, in some of which, it also acts as a treatment for ailments; for instance, colds, arthritis, migraines, hypertension, and so on.

One recent study on the anticonvulsant effects of ginger in timed intravenous pentylenetetrazol-induced seizure mice models has shown that different doses of ginger extracts significantly increased the threshold for the myoclonic seizures and forelimb tonic extension in comparison with control groups and be irrelative to the pentylenetetrazol intravenous time, while only higher dose of ginger significantly increased the threshold for the generalized clonic seizures.


Despite the extraordinary current enthusiasm for the use of Cannabis sativa/“medical marijuana” in the treatment of epilepsy and specifically for access to cannabinoids (CBD) among parents of children with intractable epilepsy, the medical evidence supporting the use of “medical marijuana” for the treatment of neurological disease is weak at best.

A very thorough review of the use of “medical marijuana” in neurological disease was recently published Translational Pediatrics. The study is titled “Cannabinoids for pediatric epilepsy? Up in smoke or real science?” Authors focused on the following neurological conditions: spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), central pain and painful spasms in MS, bladder dysfunction in MS, involuntary movements in MS, movement disorders, epilepsy. The overarching conclusion of this systematic review was that there is minimal high quality data to support the use of “medical marijuana” in any neurological condition other than for the treatment of spasticity in multiple sclerosis. It is enlightening to briefly review the data that supports this therapy and compare it with what exists with respect to the treatment of epilepsy with cannabis products.

Controlled trials of various pharmaceutical cannabis products for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (specifically the painful spasms of MS) began in the early 2000s. Initial studies did use a variety of preparations. This culminated in a series of high quality placebo-controlled trials with Sativex (a 50:50 mixture of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD) from 2006 to 2011. These trials demonstrated a statistically significant benefit of Sativex in the management of painful MS spasms, resulting in the marketing of this agent in England and many other countries (not including the United States). In addition, published post-marketing data regarding well over 10,000 patient-years of experience with Sativex demonstrates relatively low toxicity and statistical absence of serious adverse events. Since Sativex is a 50-50 mixture of THC and CBD, these observations do provide some reassurance that CBD itself may have minimal toxicity and a low propensity to result in dangerous or serious adverse effects.

In addition, considerable preclinical evidence regarding the potential efficacy of cannabinoids for the treatment of epilepsy does exist. Some of these studies began as early as the 1970s. Phytocannabinoids (particularly CBD) have been studied in a wide array of animal models of epilepsy. For the most part, these have demonstrated substantial efficacy. There is some evidence that THC itself can be pro- convulsant in some animal models. More recently, efficacy in animal models of temporal lobe epilepsy and partial seizures has been demonstrated.

In addition there is some evidence that tolerance to the anticonvulsant effects of CBD is not a prominent feature in animal models of epilepsy. Thus based on these preclinical studies, one would be excited about the potential therapeutic potential of the cannabinoids. However, it is undeniable that the complex regulation that surrounds these schedule I substances has impeded scientific investigation of their therapeutic potential.

Spurred by the widespread interest in the therapeutic potential of CBD for the treatment of intractable childhood epilepsies, GW pharmaceuticals (the makers of Sativex) developed a pure CBD product known as Epidiolex.