, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 415–420 | Cite as

Botanicals and herbs: A traditional approach to treating epilepsy

  • Steven C. SchachterEmail author
Theme 5: Hormonal and Dietary Therapy


Botanicals and herbs have a centuries-old tradition of use by persons with epilepsy, in many cultures around the world. At present, herbal therapies are tried by patients in developing as well as developed countries for control of seizures or adverse effects from antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), or for general health maintenance, usually without the knowledge of physicians who prescribe their AEDs. Well-designed clinical trials of herbal therapies in patients with epilepsy are scarce, and methodological issues prevent any conclusions of their efficacy or safety in this population. Furthermore, some botanicals and herbs may be proconvulsant or may alter AED metabolism. In spite of these limitations, further preclinical evaluation of botanicals and herbs and their constituent compounds using validated scientific methods is warranted based on numerous anecdotal observations of clinical benefit in patients with epilepsy and published reports showing mechanisms of action relevant to epilepsy or anticonvulsant effects in animal models of epilepsy. This review highlights the use of herbal therapies for epilepsy, outlines the role of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in regulating herbal products, and presents the author’s approach to the scientific assessment of herbal therapies as potential therapies for patients with epilepsy.

Key Words

Epilepsy herbal medicine botanical dietary supplement complementary and alternative therapies huperzine A 


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Copyright information

© The American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, Inc. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical CenterHarvard Medical SchoolBoston

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