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CBD for Diabetes – March 2022

Medications commonly used for diabetes, like metformin and insulin, have side effects. Some drugs have more adverse effects on users than others.

For example, using thiazolidinedione, a type 2 diabetes medication, is linked with an increased risk of anemia and heart failure (5 ) .

A study in 2018 found that the use of type 2 diabetes medications , such as sulfonylureas and basal insulin , was associated with higher cardiovascular risks, like heart disease (6 ) .

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is usually diagnosed in children and teens, but some adults may also develop this disease. Meanwhile, type 2 diabetes (T2D) is more common in obese adults (7 ) .

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks the pancreas, resulting in the organ’s failure to produce insulin.

In type 2 diabetes patients, the body can still produce insulin, but it becomes resistant to insulin’s effects. Eventually, a type 2 diabetic patient’s pancreas stops producing insulin (8 ) .

Insulin is a hormone that lowers the amount of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. Little or no insulin results in excess blood glucose (9 ) .

As the studies previously mentioned have shown, diabetes medications may pose risks to patients. Hence, some diabetic patients have turned to cannabidiol or CBD oil to treat their diabetes.

CBD comes from the Cannabis Sativa plant. It is believed to have several therapeutic effects in patients without getting them high.

CBD’s counterpart, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), also comes from the marijuana plant. This active ingredient, however, can induce a high in users.

A study published in Neuropharmacology found that CBD is a potential therapeutic agent in the treatment of type 1 diabetes. The study was conducted in non-obese, diabetes-prone female rodents (10 ) .

Another study that was published in The American Journal of Pathology has shown that CBD reduces neurotoxicity, chronic inflammation, and blood-retinal barrier (BRB) breakdown in diabetic animals (11 ) .

BRB breakdown is a feature of diabetic retinopathy that could result in neural tissue damage and the loss of a diabetic patient’s vision (12. )

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye complication that affects the retina’s blood vessels. It can also cause blindness in diabetic people (13 ) .

Neurotoxicity and neuroinflammation, meanwhile, are caused by high blood glucose levels. When these conditions in diabetic patients are not managed, they may eventually lead to Alzheimer’s disease (14 ) .

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 2016 published in the journal Diabetes Care has shown that the use of CBD combined with tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), another cannabis compound, reduced glucose levels in the blood and increased the production of insulin in patients with type 2 diabetes (15 ) .

Another study reports that CBD may have promising therapeutic benefits in the treatment of diabetes and cardiovascular disorders (16 ) . The study outlines CBD’s ability to reduce oxidative stress, cell death, inflammation, and fibrosis.

Fibrosis is characterized by the thickening of connective tissues due to injury. In diabetic patients, fibrosis is likely to happen because high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can injure tissues (17 ) .

How CBD Oil Works to Alleviate Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Extreme hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Ketone presence in the urine (when the body does not have enough insulin, and hence, excess glucose), muscles and fats are broken down and produce a byproduct called ketones)
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores that heal slowly
  • Gum, skin, vaginal or other infections

CBD used for diabetes treatment may help manage some of the symptoms previously mentioned.

CBD for Inflammation

Inflammation is linked to diabetes and complications related to the disease.

A study in 2019 published in the journal European Cardiology has found that anti-inflammatory medications may help treat the disease, primarily type 1 diabetes (19 ) .

A study published in Future Medicinal Chemistry has found that cannabinoids, like CBD, are potent anti-inflammatory agents (20 ) .

There are three types of cannabinoids, namely endocannabinoids (produced by the body), phytocannabinoids (derived from the marijuana plant, like CBD and THC), and laboratory-derived cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and help it regulate several functions, including mood, appetite, memory, and immune response.

Another study has found that CBD’s immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory effects could be beneficial in the treatment of arthritis (21 ) .

Research has found that type 2 diabetes patients are likely to develop arthritis because both conditions are caused by common factors, such as age and obesity (22 ) .

CBD for Weight Management

Obesity is one of the contributing factors to diabetes. Obese individuals often have high amounts of various substances in the body that contribute to insulin resistance, such as fatty acids, glycerol, and cytokines (23 ) .

CBD has been found to help prevent obesity by contributing to fat browning, the process of turning white adipose to brown adipose. This process aids the body in burning energy (24 ) .

Another study in 2018 outlines the role of cannabinoids in weight loss (25 ) . Researchers have found that the manipulation of cannabinoid receptors (CB) can have anti-obesity effects.

Inhibition of cannabinoid receptor 1 helps reduce body weight and food intake. Stimulation of cannabinoid receptor 2, meanwhile, limits inflammation and, similarly, reduces food intake and weight gain.

CBD for Skin Irritation

Diabetic patients often develop a variety of skin conditions that can be benign, deforming, and even life-threatening.

These ailments can also be signs of the disease in patients who have undiagnosed diabetes (26 ) .

A 2019 study reports that CBD-enriched ointment was therapeutic in treating skin conditions, especially those with inflammatory backgrounds, without causing adverse effects in the test subjects (27 ) .

The study also concludes that CBD may help improve the quality of life of patients with skin disorders.

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Diabetes

The Pros
  • Studies done on human and animal models have shown that CBD has therapeutic properties that may help treat diabetes.
  • Diabetic patients should not worry about using CBD for their health condition as the safety of cannabidiol has been proven (28 ) .
  • CBD is non-addictive. This fact has been confirmed by the World Health Organization (29 ) . Therefore, there is no potential for CBD substance abuse.
  • As long as CBD use is allowed by federal and state laws, its purchase does not require a prescription.
The Cons
  • Further research still needs to be made on CBD’s ability to lower blood sugar levels and treat diabetes and the conditions that are usually associated with it.
  • Diabetic patients should still take note of the side effects of CBD, although they are minimal. These reactions include tiredness, diarrhea, and changes in appetite and weight (30 ) .
  • The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has yet to approve CBD for the treatment of diabetes. For this reason, a standard dosage for CBD as therapy for diabetes has not yet been developed.
  • The selling of CBD is unregulated by the US FDA. This lack of regulation resulted in the proliferation of mislabeled CBD products, especially from CBD manufacturers online (31 ) . Buyers are encouraged to check the brand’s credibility first to make sure that they are purchasing high-quality products.

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Diabetes

There are several alternative treatments for the alleviation of diabetes symptoms, such as acupuncture and herbal medicines.

Acupuncture

According to a study, acupuncture is used not only in the treatment of diabetes; it is also effective in preventing and managing the disease’s complications (32 ) .

The study details how acupuncture helps the pancreas synthesize insulin and lower blood sugar.

Acupuncture also has anti-obesity properties (33 ) .

Momordica Charantia

Momordica Charantia , a plant popularly known as bitter melon, is believed to be an effective diabetes remedy.

In a study conducted on diabetic rodents, the administration of Momordica Charantia as a fruit juice has significantly lowered the blood sugar of the test subjects (34 ) .

Another study affirms that Momordica Charantia is made of compounds that have anti-diabetic properties.

Trigonella Foenum Graecum

Trigonella Foenum-Graecum , popularly known as fenugreek, is used in households because of the plant’s aromatic properties (35 ) . In India, it is a popular treatment for diabetes (36 ) .

A study found that the blood sugar levels of type 2 diabetes patients markedly reduced when the test subjects were given 15 grams of fenugreek seed powder soaked in water (37 ) .

While the treatments mentioned above are effective in alleviating diabetes symptoms, the benefits of CBD help treat the symptoms of conditions related to diabetes, like high blood pressure and neuropathic pain .

In a clinical trial conducted in 2017, researchers suggested that CBD may have cardiovascular benefits, including the attenuation of blood pressure (38 ) .

Sativex, a cannabis-derived spray made of CBD and THC, has been approved in Canada to treat central neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis and for the alleviation for cancer pain (39 ) .

How to Choose the Right CBD for Diabetes

According to Mayo Clinic, diabetic neuropathy is characterized by nerve damage in the legs and feet (40 ) . It can be painful and even disabling.

A 2020 study was conducted in patients who had neuropathy of the lower extremities. Researchers suggested that the topical application of CBD oil may reduce intense, sharp pain, and cold, itchy sensations in the test subjects (41 ) .

The researchers suggest ed that, compared to current neuropathy therapies, CBD used as a pain relief medication may be more effective and well-tolerated in patients.

In purchasing a CBD oil product, buyers should be aware of the three main types. These include full-spectrum CBD oil, broad-spectrum CBD oil, and isolates.

Many users with experience in CBD oil treatments prefer to buy full-spectrum oils. This type of CBD oil is believed to be more therapeutic due to the entourage effect.

The entourage effect is characterized by the synergistic effect of all the active ingredients of a cannabis plant. These components include less than 0.3% THC, fatty acids, terpenes, flavonoids, and essential oils.

Some users, however, prefer broad-spectrum oils as they have the same components as full-spectrum oils, except for THC.

This type of CBD oil is recommended for those who want to avoid the risks of using CBD oils with trace amounts of THC.

Drug tests may detect THC. The substance may also cause mild psychoactive effects in some individuals.

There are also CBD isolates for those who prefer to use CBD oil made purely from cannabidiol.

CBD Dosage for Diabetes

Due to the lack of US FDA regulation, there is no dosage chart for CBD use in the treatment of diabetes.

The general rule is to administer small amounts of CBD to diabetic patients. If there are no adverse side effects, the dosage may be increased gradually.

Patients are encouraged to use a journal to document their reactions to CBD and whether the treatment shows significant improvement in their blood glucose levels. They may show this journal to their trusted physician for better guidance.

Before adding CBD to one’s diabetes medication regimen, they should inform their doctor first.

How to Take CBD for Diabetes

CBD products come in different formats, so there are several ways to take CBD for diabetes. Some diabetic patients prefer to take CBD orally.

CBD oils and tinctures (drops) can be mixed with food and beverages, like coffee. CBD products in these formats can also be taken orally.

For maximum efficacy, tinctures may be applied sublingually (under the tongue).

Some product formats allow diabetic patients to ingest CBD, such as gummies and pills.

CBD is also available in topical formulations, such as creams, lotions, balms, and salves. These CBD products may be applied to painful areas, such as joints, feet, and legs.

CBD oils and topical formulations can also be used during massages to help in the treatment of chronic pain.

CBD also comes in vape and pen formats. However, vaping may be damaging to the lungs (42 ) .

Conclusion

Diabetes can be managed, but it cannot be cured entirely. If its symptoms are left untreated, it could progress to worse conditions, like diabetic foot, amputations, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Conventional diabetes medications are effective. However, some diabetes drugs can cause adverse side effects in users.

CBD has therapeutic properties that may help in the treatment of diabetes symptoms, such as its ability to manage inflammation, weight gain, and skin disorders.

However, further research is needed on CBD’s effect on diabetes, such as its effect on an individual’s insulin levels.

CBD oil and diabetes

As many as two out of every five Americans will develop Type 2 diabetes during their lifetime. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are chronic disorders that stem from the body creating insufficient insulin or becoming resistant to insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps with the storage and usage of glucose, a sugar that supplies cells with energy.

Those with diabetes may also experience issues such as high blood pressure, circulatory problems, and nerve inflammation. Careful and consistent management of blood sugar levels is critical to avoid diabetes-related problems including vision loss, infections that can lead to limb amputation, kidney damage, heart damage, or stroke.

Medications that are commonly used to help manage diabetes can have unpleasant side effects such as nausea, stomach cramps, and dizziness. Emerging research and anecdotal reports indicate that cannabidiol (CBD) oil may represent a useful supplementary therapy for diabetes.

Research overview

While research exploring the effects of cannabis consumption on diabetes has been underway for some time, there are very few studies specifically investigating the effects of CBD oil as a treatment for the condition.

Emerging research and anecdotal reports indicate that CBD oil may offer supplementary therapy for diabetes. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Some researchers have pointed out, however, that CBD may offer relief from specific symptoms due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation plays a crucial role in the development of insulin resistance, which is the trigger for the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

The studies

Many of the studies exploring the effects of CBD on diabetes have been carried out on animal models, with promising results.

A 2006 study published in the journal Autoimmunity shows that regular administration of CBD significantly reduced the incidence of diabetes in mice. Lower levels of certain inflammatory cells were found in the plasma of the mice treated with CBD. CBD also appeared to inhibit destructive insulitis, which is a disease of the pancreas.

CBD also appears to offer anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, which can inhibit oxidative and nitrative stress in the body. These stressors can lead to neuronal injury and retinal damage, resulting in diabetic blindness. In a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Pathology, CBD treatment reduced inflammation and oxidative stress, preventing cell death in the retinas of diabetic rats.

A 2010 preclinical study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology noted that not only did CBD help to reduce inflammation in a diabetic population of mice, but it also helped to lower the likelihood of cardiovascular disorders that can occur among diabetics.

A 2019 study published in the Springer journal Neurotoxicity Researchfound that the neuroprotective effects of CBD were instrumental in preventing inflammation and improving memory function in the brains of middle-aged diabetic rats.

However, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial among human participants revealed less favorable results. The 2016 study published in Diabetes Care showed that CBD yielded no effect on glycemic control compared with a placebo. Glycemic control is essential to the successful management of diabetes and its associated symptoms.

CBD may offer relief from specific symptoms due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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The study did, however, find that the non-intoxicating cannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) significantly decreased one of the blood levels used to screen for diabetes. THCV also improved the function of pancreatic cells.

Although CBD did not affect glycemic control, it did help to reduce concentrations of resistin compared with baseline, but not the placebo group. High levels of the hormone resistin are associated with obesity and insulin resistance. The authors conceded that the study used low doses of CBD — 200 milligrams per day. Earlier studies in rat populations, and other studies of CBD in humans, have required higher doses of CBD for a therapeutic effect to take place.

Patient perspectives

For Bella Kyle, whose name has been changed for this article, using CBD oil as a supplement to her medication regime helps her to manage her morning blood sugar levels.

“Taking CBD oil at night helps me prevent the dawn effect, or elevated morning blood sugars,” Kyle said. She also observes that taking CBD oil on and off for two years has helped her to reduce her anxiety, and fall asleep more easily.

On a Reddit thread discussing CBD oil for diabetes, one contributor was positive about the effects of CBD combined with regular medication. “I’m a Type II diabetic, controlled by oral meds and diet. I’ve been taking CBD caps twice daily and my AM sugar has dropped 15-20 points.”

For other people living with diabetes, however, the benefits of CBD are debatable. Another Reddit contributor observed, “I’ve had my first try of it over the last few days and I’m honestly unsure what all of the fuss is about. Maybe I’m not dosing correctly, or maybe my expectations are too steep.”

What the experts say

Dr. Elaine Burns is a board-certified naturopathic medical doctor and medical director of The Southwest Medical Marijuana Evaluation Center in Arizona. While wary of supporting CBD as a potential treatment for diabetes, she does recognize that it may help in the management of certain symptoms.

“I have not seen a lot of evidence that CBD could be a first-line of treatment for diabetes – nor have I seen that in my practice over the years,” Burns said.

Dr. Elaine Burns, medical director of The Southwest Medical Marijuana Evaluation Center in Arizona, recommends CBD as an additional treatment, rather than a replacement medication. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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“However, what it can help with are the secondary issues caused by uncontrolled blood sugars such as inflammation, which is the cause of damage to the smaller blood vessels leading to diabetic neuropathies and eye damage.”

Burns recommends CBD as an additional treatment, rather than a replacement medication. ”Patients could use it as an addition to first-line treatments, such as dietary control and exercise, and necessary pharmaceuticals,” she emphasized.

Bart Wolbers is a researcher and health scientist at Nature Builds Health, a health-centric initiative that uses sunlight, breathing techniques, and meditation to improve health. He noted that since there is a lack of evidence in human studies that CBD is useful in preventing diabetes, or managing symptoms associated with it, he advises diabetes sufferers to refrain from using CBD.

“More research is needed, in part because animal studies conflict with the human study. Given the few studies that have been carried out, I’d not recommend CBD for diabetes patients until more research provides clarification,” Wolbers said. “CBD is expensive for many people, and better alternatives are available for diabetes patients at this point.”

Finally, Dr. Roberta DeLuca, a physician and educator at Cbdbiocare, notes that the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill should usher in a wave of new studies into CBD and diabetes that will provide more conclusive insights.

“Clinical research, although promising in the early years of study, was first conducted in animal studies. Later study results conducted in vivo have not been as favorable or conclusive,” DeLuca explained. “Now that the Farm Bill has passed, we should see an increase in relevant and more definitive studies.”

The passing of the 2018 Farm Bill should usher in a wave of new studies into CBD and diabetes that will provide more conclusive insights. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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DeLuca states that there is good reason to believe CBD may benefit patients with diabetes. “Diabetes is an autoimmune disease and CBD is generally and particularly well-suited for the symptoms of autoimmune disease: chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety, and neuropathy.”

In the meantime, DeLuca discourages individuals from using CBD as a first-line treatment until sufficient human research has been conducted, but she believes CBD could be included as an adjunct treatment.

“CBD can most effectively be used as part of a lifestyle approach, along with diet and exercise, to treat, prevent, and manage exacerbating symptoms of chronic neuropathic diabetic pain, inflammation, and some of the mood disorders characteristic of diabetes.” DeLuca also notes that CBD may also encourage faster metabolism of food to help prevent or manage obesity.

Bottom line

While studies in animal populations suggest that CBD oil may one day be recognized as a useful therapy for diabetic patients, at present, there are few studies among human participants to support its use, as well as a scarcity of data regarding appropriate therapeutic dosage.

Diabetic patients interested in trying CBD oil should consult with a medical professional experienced in cannabis medicine.