Herbs for Epilepsy

Question: What vitamins or herbs do you recommend for Epilepsy? I’ve been on Dilantin for over 15 years and I still have occasional seizures.

Answer: There is not a great amount of information about this topic in herb books. I did find the same small group of herbs mentioned in several books. In some ways this is comforting. Black Cohosh, Lobelia, Valerian, Scullcap were some of these repeated in many references. I especially like the information in books obviously based in scientific fact. I have plenty of faith in anecdotal evidence especially when the information is from historical sources. I don’t think past civilizations or generations would have bothered to pass on information about an herb if it wasn’t actually effective as a remedy. For me though, when passing on information to someone else I am much more comfortable using mainly scientific sources. This puts you in a better position for example if you want to share this information with your doctor.

Valerian is currently one of the most popular orthodox antispasmodic medications in Russia and Germany according to Daniel Mowrey author ofHerbal Tonic Therapies. It is its anticonvulsant action that has been useful in treating epilepsy. My experience with herbs has shown what is a treatment for a condition is quite often a preventative for the condition. I cannot give you advice because I’m not a doctor but if it were me I would consider taking a small set of herbs or just one herb on a regular basis in hopes of preventing or lessening the severity of occasional seizures. Valerian looks good to me. Speaking of prevention, Valerian was used in the First World War to prevent shell shock in front-line troops. Valerian is a great herb to discuss here because it is classified as a tonic herb. It can regulate and balance opposite extremes. Recent research has shown it to be a sedative but more research has reported it can also stimulate in a way as to improve coordination, increase concentration and energy. This tonic nature of Valerian allows it to depress or stimulate where necessary depending on the current needs of the nervous system. Another way Valerian has been characterized by clinical studies is that it has neurotropic effects directly on higher centers of the central nervous system. One of the most remarkable aspects of Valerian is the almost total lack of toxicity, even with long term use.

Clinical studies have proven the antispasm action of Lobelia. Historically it has been used to treat epilepsy. While I may not know of any recent studies done on this herb for this condition, I would consider using it myself.

Chinese Ginseng, perhaps the most famous medicinal plant of China, is considered a tonic to whole body and has folk use for this condition.

Mistletoe has a historical use for epilepsy but no recent studies that I know of have focused on this condition. Hippocrates claimed it was highly effective remedy for the spleen and some modern European physicians believe treating the spleen may be beneficial in epilepsy. Sir John Colbatch, an English Physician in 1720 wrote a small publication titled The Treatment of Epilepsy by Mistletoe. There has been confusion about the toxicity of this herb but paying attention to the correct botanical and current safety warnings, the herb can safely be used.

Motherwort was used to calm epileptics during the 17th century and now is used as a nerve tonic and sedative. Current evidence has confirmed its benefits as a cardiotonic and hot-water extracts also show sedative and anti-epileptic effects in animals.

Extracts of Mugwort have been injected into laboratory animals confirming its sedative effects so researchers conclude it is possible the herb could be beneficial for epilepsy. Mugwort has been used for this condition.

Sage is famous throughout history in many different cultures as a miracle herb. A constituent in a Chinese variety Salvia militiorrhiza may become the source of a new tranquilizing agent but without the side-effects of Valium. Valium and Librium are benzodiazepines which are widely prescribed since 1960 to treat epilepsy. Benzodiazepines act on the central B2 receptors in the central nervous system. The herb compound also interacts with the central B2receptors.

Scullcap has always been known as a mild and safe nervine. Traditionally it has been used for delirium tremens, St. Vitus’ dance, convulsions, seizures, hysterical states, lockjaw, tremors and epilepsy.

Blue Vervain is worth mentioning here after reading old American herb doctors tales of their successes with stubborn cases of epilepsy. Blue Vervain is another wonderful herb nervine use by many cultures all over the world. It is an American Indian remedy for several diseases including nervous afflictions.

Black Cohosh is so highly recommended in numerous respected publications. Like many of the herbs I have already mentioned it’s considered a sedative and antispasmodic and has been extensively used for epilepsy. I know the wonderful effects this herb provides our customers for a variety of conditions. This one would be a definite choice of mine.

Herbs have a balancing effect on our systems allowing the use of these kind of relaxing herbs mentioned above, to be used during the day without excessive drowsiness. I am a professional musician as well as an herbalist and for more high pressure concerts I sometimes use Valerian extract before the performance to keep me relaxed and breathing deep. In a situation like this, there is no danger of me falling asleep on stage and the herb just takes the edge off my nervousness. However, I would not take this herb before driving long distances on a road trip for example. I would be concerned it would make me feel too drowsy sitting hour after hour behind the wheel of a car. When in a relaxed state, like before bedtime, Valerian can really help as a sleep aid.

Vitamins and foods have been clinically studied for their beneficial effects on epilepsy. Vitamins especially B1 and E have shown good results. Foods that are clinically classified as antiepileptic are: asparagus, carob, wheat, ben nut, white lupine, Chinese cabbage, soybean, chives, buffalo gourd, groundnut, butternut, almond, opium poppy, tomato, Italian stone pine, chaya, cowpea, blackbean, pignut hickory, white mustard.

I sure do hope you have success with natural remedies. It is always advisable to consult your doctor about a new herbal regimen.



Black Cohosh Root Cimicifuga racemosa

Avoid when pregnant or nursing, limit use to 6 months.


Blue Vervain Herb Verbena hastata

Avoid during pregnancy


Ginseng Root (Chinese) Panax ginseng

Some authorities suggest to avoid during high blood pressure.


Lobelia Herb Lobelia inflata

Avoid during pregnancy. Avoid large doses. May cause nausea and vomiting.


Mistletoe Herb Viscum album

Do not exceed recommended dose, avoid during protein hypersensitivity, chronic-progressive infections such as tuberculosis and AIDS. Do not take with MAO-inhibitors. It is advised that blood pressure be checked regularly by those consuming the tea. Standard Dose: 2.5 grams, infused in cold water for 10 to 12 hours, up to 2 times daily.


Motherwort Herb Leonorus cardiaca

Avoid during pregnancy.


Mugwort Herb Artemesia vulgaris

Avoid during pregnancy.


Sage Leaf Salvia officinalis

Avoid during pregnancy. Not for long term use, do not exceed recommended dose. Standard Dose: 4.0-6.0 grams daily.


Scullcap Herb Scutellaria lateriflora

Safe to consume when used appropriately.


Valerian Root Valariana offinalis

Safe to consume when used appropriately.




Balch, James F. and Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group. 1997.


Blumenthal, Mark., et al Ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Austin: American Botanical Council. 1998.


Hoffmann, David. The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal. Shaftsbury, Dorsett: Element Books. 1996.


McGuffin, Michael, et al Ed. American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton: CRC Press. 1997.


Mowrey, Daniel B. Herbal Tonic Therapies. New Canaan: Keats Publishing Co. 1993.


Murray, Michael T. The Healing Power of Herbs. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing. 1991.


Null, Gary. The Clinicians Handbook of Natural Healing. New York: Kensington Books. 1997.


Shook, Edward E. Advanced Treatise in Herbology. Beaumont, CA: Trinity Center Press. 1978.


Weiner, Michael A. and Janet A. Weiner. Herbs That Heal. Mill Valley: Quantum Books. 1994.

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