It’s no secret that marijuana-related medical products have been on the rise in recent years. The plant’s recent legalization in several states over the last decade have pushed the herb into the public spotlight. As it’s grown in popularity, marijuana has been entered into more scientific research -- especially for medicinal purposes.
Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive phytochemical in marijuana, has emerged as a major player in modern medicine. It’s been used to treat seizure disorders, chronic pain, sleep issues, and more. CBD oil and diabetes might not seem like compatible things, but you’d be surprised!
People are flocking to CBD because of its effectiveness, its cheapness relative to standard pharmaceuticals, and its non-psychoactive effects. That’s right: it comes from marijuana, but it won’t get you high. CBD is a different chemical than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive side-effects.
So, as marvelous a medicine as it is, does CBD have any effect on diabetes? Can CBD help regulate blood sugar or aid in the secondary symptoms of diabetes? You might be happy to know that, yes, a body of evidence is growing on CBD’s effectiveness in helping stave off the symptoms of diabetes!
A Brief Overview of Diabetes
Before we can discuss how CBD can help with the disease, it’s important to cover the mechanisms of diabetes itself. In short, diabetes is a disease that occurs in the body when blood glucose -- or “blood sugar” -- is too high. Blood sugar is the body’s main energy source. You get it from the food you eat and digest. Your pancreas usually uses the hormone insulin to move glucose from your food into your cells, where it can be used for energy.
For various reasons, the body can have difficulty producing insulin, or it can be bad at managing it. This can cause glucose to stay in your blood. High levels of sugar in your blood can lead to a host of medical issues, like:
There are different types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes means your body does not make insulin on its own. Your body’s immune system will attack and destroy the insulin-making cells in your pancreas. Type 1 diabetes is most often diagnosed in children and young adults, but it can appear in anyone at any age. People diagnosed with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day.
Type 2 diabetes means your body just isn’t very good at making or using insulin. Type 2 diabetes is often diagnosed in middle-aged and older people, but it can be diagnosed at any age. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes.
Gestational diabetes develops exclusively in pregnant women. Essentially, the rigors of pregnancy can make a woman’s insulin production go a bit wonky. This type of diabetes is usually temporary and goes away after birth. However, having gestational diabetes does increase your chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Diabetes is very common. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), 30.3 million people in the United States -- about 9.4 percent of the overall population -- were diagnosed with diabetes as of 2015. Diabetes affects 1 in 4 people 65 years or older. About 25 percent of people with diabetes don’t even know they have it. Roughly 90-95 percent of adult diabetes cases are type 2 diabetes.
Can CBD Help with Treating Diabetes?
The evidence is looking good when it comes to CBD’s usefulness in treating diabetes. A recent study in Clinical Hemorheology and Microcirculation found that CBD eased pancreatic inflammation caused by type 1 diabetes. The study also showed a lower occurrence of the disease overall. To be fair, the study was conducted on mice, but the results could obviously be beneficial to humans in the future.
CBD hasn’t yet been found to reduce the overall occurrence of diabetes in humans. Yet. However, there’s more than enough evidence to suggest CBD really is useful in treating diabetes. The Diabetes Council reports that CBD treatment has been effective in reducing autoimmune attacks on insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Not only can CBD help the immune system better regulate itself, but it can also provide a protective shield for insulin-producing cells when they are under autoimmune attack. In fact, scientists have been able to use CBD to totally reverse diabetes in mice.
Additionally, CBD has been shown to reduce inflammation in the pancreas, improve glucose tolerance (meaning, how much sugar in the blood the body can “handle”), and increase insulin sensitivity for people with type 1 diabetes. This essentially means that less insulin is needed for type 1 diabetics in order to treat their disease. That’s great news! Not only does that mean fewer shots throughout the day, but it also means less money is spent on procuring insulin.
So, can CBD help regulate blood sugars? As far as research can tell, not exactly. But CBD can help protect insulin-producing cells, reduce autoimmune attacks on pancreatic cells, increase the body’s threshold for glucose levels in the blood, and increase insulin’s effectiveness in general. It’s not a direct treatment, but CBD’s use as a supplemental device can greatly increase comfort in diabetics. And, if the findings in mice continue to be positive, there could come a point soon where diabetes is totally curable with CBD.
Studies are being conducted on humans right now. It might be some years before the results are fully published, but things are looking good!
CBD doesn’t just help with the physical symptoms of diabetes, though. It also has several benefits on the mental aspects of the disease.
CBD’s Effectiveness on Stress and Anxiety in Diabetics
There’s no medical condition in the world that’s solely physical. Mind and body are intrinsically connected. What affects one will affect the other. Living with a disease like diabetes can be a stressful, disheartening experience. Unfortunately, stress can trigger bodily responses in diabetics that can make their problems worse.
Stress happens when something (a stimuli) makes your brain think you’re in physical danger. This ancient process is a survival mechanism passed down from our early ancestors. We aren’t running away from sabretooth tigers or hunting mammoths anymore, but our body’s stress responses are still triggered by everyday events.
The body’s response to stress is called the fight-or-flight response. Basically, your body is preparing you to either run from danger or attack it head-on. The fight-or-flight response drastically increases all sorts of hormones in the body. The point is to super-boost your energy levels by breaking down stored energy sources (like glucose and fat).
This can lead to a number of dangerous side-effects for diabetics. People with diabetes have a difficult time regulating blood sugars already. Stress and the fight-or-flight response can directly alter glucose levels, which can obviously lead to diabetic complications.
Things like surgeries, work-related stressors, or difficult life situations (like the death of a loved one or just received some bad news) can force the body into a fight-or-flight response. Stress can happen at any time. So, dealing with and managing stress is vital for people with diabetes.
Luckily, CBD is perhaps one of the best stress-reducing medicines available today. Its greatest strength is its anti-inflammatory ability, which has been used to treat stress- and anxiety-related disorders. Things like generalized social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have shown a significant decrease when subjected to CBD treatments.
We’ve already covered that CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties can aid the pancreas in times of autoimmune attack, but CBD’s ability to reduce inflammation is also useful to the endocrine system -- your body’s hormone network. During the fight-or-flight response and in times of high stress, your body will purposefully inflame hormone glands in your body. Think of it as “squeezing” your glands of the needed hormones. CBD can drastically reduce this gland inflammation. It also helps in aches and pains associated with stress-induced muscle inflammation.
CBD is not a miracle drug by any means. No substance should be used as a single cure for all the ailments of any disease or disorder. But CBD has been studied with clear effectiveness in helping with stress. If it’s used as a supplement in dealing with stress in diabetics -- combined with a healthy diet, practiced (healthy) coping mechanisms, and stress-reducing exercises (like controlled breathing), CBD can be very useful in reducing stress and anxiety in diabetics.
In turn, this use can lead to greater regulation of blood sugar.
CBD’s Effects on Secondary Symptoms of Diabetes
As stated above, elevated blood glucose levels can cause secondary health effects. CBD can’t treat or help with all those secondary symptoms, but it sure gives most of them a run for their money!
Cardiovascular (Heart) Complications
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that CBD can suppress arterial inflammation. Heart problems can occur frequently in diabetics as the heart works harder to circulate sugar out of the blood. Sometimes, lots of sugar can just clog up the arteries as well.
Both these things can result in arterial inflammation, which can decrease blood flow and cause pain. Arterial inflammation can lead to blood clots, swelling, cramps, varicose veins, and more. CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties help stop blood vessels from constricting, ensuring blood flows the way it should and hampering arterial inflammation.
Nerve Complications and Damage
Between 60 and 70 percent of diabetics have some form of nerve damage. Common types of diabetic nerve damage include:
Arms, hands, legs, and feet
Autonomic nerve damage (affecting blood pressure, blood sugar, and the heart)
Head and torso
Hips, thighs, and buttocks
A large majority of diabetics are prescribed opioids to manage the pain associated with nerve damage. Unfortunately, opioids only tend to work as a short-term treatment, and they often have such strong psychoactive effects that they can render a patient essentially useless when it comes to daily activity. Opioids also plateau at about 50 percent efficacy. None of this is even mentioning the addiction problems and other severe side-effects associated with opioids.
CBD, on the other hand, has proven a safe and very effective means of pain management for nerve damage without the psychoactive, addiction, or other dangerous complications of opioids. Vaporized CBD has been shown to reduce pain and even slow the advance of nerve damage in general. In some cases, CBD offered a 30 percent improvement in pain management and nerve damage without negatively affecting daily function.
Diabetics often face a host of skin complications. This is often due to varying blood sugar levels, pancreatic malfunction, and medications. Foot sores, rashes, and general skin irritation are all very common in diabetics. But guess what? CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties can help here too. In fact, you might find it interesting that CBD has become a power player in the skin health and beauty business!
CBD helps reduce inflammation in general. That includes skin issues. It has an almost magical anti-aging and moisturizing effect (which is why beauty companies are jumping onto it), but it’s the sedation aspect of the medicine that helps most. Because CBD reduces inflammation and generally helps “numb away” pain without being psychoactive, it can reduce the need for scratching or rubbing irritated areas. This can help skin irritation heal much faster and lessen the likelihood of future complications.
Eye complications, leaky blood vessels in the eye, and retinal (eye) cell death are all common issues in diabetics. The sad truth is: diabetes will damage your eyesight and eye health over time. Fortunately, CBD can help with this as well. Studies have shown that CBD can help reduce diabetic retinopathy (damage to the retina). It works to stop blood vessels in the eye from leaking by reducing pressure in the vessels themselves and helping circulate blood. It also seems to reduce cellular decay and death in general, though the cause for this is still a mystery. There are even whispers that CBD could help regenerate damaged cells, which could explain its anti-aging properties, but more research is needed to determine the cause for this as well.
How to Use CBD Products?
First, always consult your primary care provider, diabetes specialist, and other medical professionals on your team to ensure that CBD products are right for you. You never want to add anything to your medicinal regimen that might cause more harm than good. It also doesn’t hurt to speak with regular CBD users to find the best method of use for you, either.
Also, remember this: CBD is not psychoactive, but THC is. Some CBD products may contain various levels of THC. It is highly recommended that you investigate this before purchasing or using any cannabis product.
Tinctures, Oils, and Lotions
Cannabinoids (like CBD and THC) can be extracted from the cannabis plant to create liquid solutions. Some of these tinctures can be applied orally, while others can be used as a coating on the skin (like lotion). In most cases, CBD tinctures come with a dropper that allows you to precisely measure the amount used. This can be widely beneficial for narrowing down the amount you need. CBD oils are considered the “safest” form of delivery and are often recommended to people who aren’t accustomed to (or don’t like) smoking.
When people think of ingesting marijuana, smoking it is usually what comes to mind. Certain strains of marijuana are grown to contain mostly CBD and as little THC as possible. Some incredibly gifted growers have even been able to eliminate THC from the plant altogether. The most common method for smoking is to finely grind up the flower buds, burn them, and inhale the smoke. This can be done through pipes, bongs, joints, or cigars (blunts).
Also known as “vaping,” this method entails heating up concentrated CBD liquids and inhaling the vapors it releases. It’s common to see vaporizing done in “pen” form, wherein the smoker simply puffs on an electronic cigarette containing a heating coil surrounded by CBD oil. (No, there’s no nicotine.) This method is often less stinky and less harsh on beginner smokers. It is also a more powerful method, as CBD oils and concentrates tend to be stronger than just smoking the plant buds themselves.
Dabbing is a relatively recent ingestion mechanism. It’s very similar to vaporizing -- really, it is a kind of vaporizing -- in which CBD Concentrate or oil is heated to high temperatures and the resulting vapor is inhaled. In most cases, a person dabs with a “rig,” a variation on a bong. The concentrate used for dabbing is often a sticky oil or wax processed from CBD concentrate. It’s heated with a heating device (sometimes a coil, sometimes a hot pen) and inhaled the same as a bong. Dabbing wax is usually very high in CBD and THC content. It’s not recommended for people who are not accustomed to either the chemical or the process.
Infusions and Edibles
If all the huffing and puffing isn’t your cup of tea, you might be able to just… well, have tea. CBD can be concentrated and infused into things like cooking oil, creams, and butter. Many people like to use these ingredients in food items (confections like cookies, brownies, and muffins). Others like to add CBD cream to their morning coffee, their pancake syrup, or even their ice cream! If you look long enough, you’ll find all sorts of food products that contain CBD. Gummy bears, lollipops, cupcakes, pasta sauce, and more! It’s important to remember that CBD’s potency will lessen when used in cooking and that it should be properly measured when taken as a medicine to ensure consistency.
Dermal (Skin) Patches
Even if you aren’t into ingesting CBD, there’s still a method you can use to deliver the medicine to your body: CBD patches. They work exactly like nicotine or pain-relieving patches in that you simply apply them to your skin and allow the chemical to absorb into your bloodstream that way. There are dissolving oral strips (like breath freshener strips) that operate the same way. For the ladies, there are CBD-infused tampons to aid with menstrual cramping and other side-effects.
Side-Effects of CBD: Is CBD oil safe to use?
Nothing is perfect and no medicine will work for everyone. Unfortunately, marijuana is still considered a controlled substance at the federal level (in the United States) and is flat-out illegal in many other parts of the world. There is a limited body of research on its negative effects because of this. But we do have some sources. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) of the United States, marijuana can:
Create drowsiness/sleepiness and lethargy
Damage short-term memory
Damage lungs when inhaled
Cause dizziness and nausea
It is also possible for marijuana to create dependency and addiction in some rare cases, despite the public opinion that a person can’t be addicted to it.
As with all medicines, it is important to use CBD and marijuana-related products in moderation and for specific purposes. It is never recommended to use any substance casually. If you’re looking into CBD, it is likely for a reason. Remember that reason when you’re using and don’t fall into the trap of using any substance “just because.”
Every individual will experience CBD and marijuana differently. Like any medication, first, consult a medical professional on use and treatment. Try starting low and working up. Never do anything that could impair the effects of life-saving medications and be careful when using medicines with psychoactive ingredients.
Individuals with chronic allergy issues should avoid smoking, vaping, dabbing, or otherwise inhaling these kinds of products. This also applies to people who are sensitive to or allergic to smoke.
Cannabinoids like CBD can cause elevated heart rate immediately following consumption. It is not recommended for people with chronic heart conditions or for people with high blood pressure/heart disease. This includes people who have suffered from a stroke or heart attack. People with peripheral vascular disease should also avoid cannabis products.
CBD will cause dilation and increased blood flow, which can offset or disrupt other medications.
Individuals suffering from mental health conditions should avoid cannabis-related products. Marijuana has been shown to exacerbate the symptoms of psychosis and schizophrenia. In very rare cases, marijuana can also cause these conditions. People suffering from bipolar disorder, depression, or other mental health conditions should consult with their mental health professionals before using cannabis products.
Children, young people, and pregnant women should only use cannabis-related medications as a last resort. There is currently no direct link to cannabis’ effect on the developing brain. While it is clear that marijuana (especially CBD) does not have nearly the sort of effect on the developing brain as alcohol, more research is still needed to identify potential harms.
The jury is still out on the long-term use of marijuana, but some studies indicate that chronic use can seriously affect memory and cognition.
Special Considerations for Diabetics
Changes in perception are possible, even when using products that claim to have no psychoactive ingredients. Always use your products in a safe environment first to judge their effects on your cognition before doing things like driving, swimming, or being out in public. Never operate any vehicle under the influence of any substance.
“Munchies” is a real thing and can lead to snacking or over-eating. Make sure you compensate for the effect by snacking on foods that don’t upset your blood glucose levels. If need be, adjust your insulin levels to accommodate the increase in food.
Sugar is common in edible cannabis products -- usually to mask the flavor of marijuana concentrates. Make sure you’re looking at the Nutrition Facts of any edible product and never trust a product without them unless you’ve made it and measured the ingredients yourself.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is an incredibly potent and effective medicine that has been used to treat all sorts of chronic diseases and disorders, including diabetes. It can be useful for the maintenance of secondary symptoms and is an excellent supplement for helping regulate blood sugar levels. Always consult trusted medical professionals before adding any medicine into your treatment routine. Do your due diligence and ensure you are choosing the safest methods for you. Always handle any medication -- even something as “safe” as CBD -- with caution and care. Do what’s right for your body!
We hope you found this article helpful in answering some of your questions on CBD and diabetes and we wish you the very best! Here’s to hoping you find a CBD product that works wonders for you!