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CBD Oil for Diabetes?

Cannabis-Infused Cocktail CBD is turning up in everything from beauty products like lip balm and mascara to soda, coffee, infused waters and alcohol, too. (Photo: Unsplash)

Claims that cannabidiol oil—widely known as CBD oil or hemp oil—can help control blood sugar for people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes or even reverse diabetes are all over the Internet.

A quick Google search of the terms “CBD Oil” and “Diabetes” turns up 2.9 million hits, with promises and testimonials that the compound cannabidiol in this hemp- or marijuana-based oil could “stabilize blood sugar 1 ”, “improve insulin resistance 2 ”, “decrease the need for insulin 3 ” and even “suppress, reverse and perhaps cure the disease. 4 “

Trouble is, there’s no proof it can do any of those things.

“I don’t know that I would recommend CBD oil for diabetes,” notes integrative medicine doctor Taz Bhatia, MD, of Atlanta, Georgia, author of the books Super Woman RX and What Doctors Eat. “CBD is showing promise as a pain-reliever, an epilepsy treatment, and for wasting disease associated with cancer. It may help with neuropathic pain in diabetes. I think it is ok to try it, but don’t skip or cut back on diabetes medications.”

Eileen Konieczny, RN, past president of the American Cannabis Nurses Association and author of the book Healing with CBD: How Cannabidiol can Transform your Health without the High (Ulysses Press, September 18, 2018) agrees. “I have not witnessed blood sugar control or management with CBD alone,” Konieczny told On Track Diabetes in an interview. “CBD clearly will help with the inflammation that accompanies diabetes and in that way [can be] a very helpful addition.”

It may also ease the pain of peripheral neuropathy, she says. But people with diabetes shouldn’t expect it to lower their glucose levels or their A1Cs. “I have never seen anyone stop needing their diabetes medications because they started using CBD or cannabis,” she says.

What Research Really Says

Unlike marijuana, the compound cannabidiol won’t get you high even though it’s derived from cannabis. But product sales and interest in CBD are hitting new heights. In June, the FDA approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol), the nation’s first drug derived from marijuana, for two rare forms of epilepsy—Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome 5 .

Over-the-counter and Internet sales of non-prescription CBD oil are expected to rise from $190 million in 2017 to $626 million by 2022 according to the Hemp Business Journal’s State of Hemp 2018 report 6 .

CBD is also turning up in everything from beauty products like lip balm and mascara to sodas, alcohol, and infused waters.

CBD’s got real potential in a wide variety of health conditions. There are currently more than 75 human studies of cannabidiol that are active, recruiting volunteers or in planning stages for conditions ranging from seizures to anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, Crohn’s disease, heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, bipolar depression, and cocaine dependence .7

Not one focuses on diabetes.

In fact, one of the only studies to ever look directly at the effects of cannabidiol on blood sugar and insulin levels in people with diabetes found no benefits at all. 8 Published in the journal Diabetes Care in October of 2016, this British study compared the effects of CBD and another cannabis compound (tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)) on blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, HDL cholesterol and other markers in 62 people with type 2 diabetes.

They took one of the compounds, or a combination of the two, daily for 13 weeks. The result: While THCV reduced blood sugar a little, CBD didn’t affect blood sugar levels. (CBD did seem to cause small changes in resistin, a protein that boosts inflammation and may be involved in insulin resistance; and glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide hormone that stimulates insulin release.) “But there were no detectable metabolic effects,” the researchers concluded.

Related

  • Considering Pot for Pain?
  • Diabetes Medications & Heart Disease: Are You Getting the Care You Need?

The research had been supported by the UK drug company GW Pharmaceuticals, which went on to develop Epidiolex for seizure disorders. In April 2017 the company, which specializes in the development of cannabidiol-based medicines, announced that it was no longer researching its CBD compound for diabetes “due to negative data in diabetes.” 9

So what about all the research cited online suggesting blood sugar benefits? Some mis-state the results of the UK study. All link readers to small studies in animals, with results that have not been tested or not been replicated in people. Many laud work done in Israel a decade ago, when 68% of diabetes-prone mice who got CBD didn’t develop blood sugar problems. 10

What the FDA Says

Between 2015 and 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to companies that marketed CBD products, over claims and testimonials that oils and other products could treat diabetes and other conditions—including cancer. The FDA also warned that in some cases, lab tests showed that the products contained no CBD.

You won’t find those unfounded treatment claims and miracle-cure testimonials on product websites anymore. But they are turning up more and more frequently on other websites. When the drug Epidiolex won approval in the US this summer, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, warned consumers about the dangers this could pose. “The promotion and use of these unapproved products may keep some patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases,” Dr. Gottlieb said in a statement.

“The FDA has taken recent actions against companies distributing unapproved CBD products. These products have been marketed in a variety of formulations, such as oil drops, capsules, syrups, teas, and topical lotions and creams. These companies have claimed that various CBD products could be used to treat or cure serious diseases such as cancer with no scientific evidence to support such claims. We’re especially concerned when these products are marketed for serious or life-threatening diseases, where the illegal promotion of an unproven compound could discourage a patient from seeking other therapies that have proven benefits.” 11

Dr. Bhatia says that while CBD oil can have an important role to play in medicine, its difficult finding unbiased information. “The controversy surrounding cannabis has to do with the tug of war between medical purpose and recreational use—not to mention big money,” she notes on her website. “I think for now it is best to try it for the conditions recommended. For example—epilepsy, pain, Crohn’s disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” she told On Track Diabetes.

“We are using CBD without THC for chronic inflammatory conditions as well.” If you still want to give it a try, do your homework to determine if it’s safe for you. And Dr. Bhatia says you should look for proof it’s helping—and not change your existing medications. “Try it for three months,” she says. “But don’t cut back on diabetes medications.”

OnTrack Diabetes investigates claims that cannabis can be beneficial for people with diabetes Part 1 in a series of three reports.

CBD and Diabetes

In this Article

  • What the Research Shows
  • THC and Diabetes
  • Use Caution

You may have heard about using CBD to treat diabetes. CBD is short for cannabidiol, and it comes from the cannabis plant. It doesn’t make you feel high, but research is ongoing to see if it can help control blood sugar, calm inflammation, and ease nerve pain from diabetes.

What the Research Shows

Most studies of CBD’s effects on diabetes have been in mice or rats. This is a problem because laboratory conditions, differences between animals and humans, and other things can affect study results. Just because CBD works for them doesn’t mean it will work in humans.

In one study, researchers tested CBD on mice with less blood flow to the brain, a complication of diabetes for some people. They found that CBD:

  • Cut down hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
  • Lowered cholesterol and “bad fat” levels
  • Upped insulin production

Other studies of CBD in mice or rats found it:

  • Eases swelling and pain from nerve damage. One study showed CBD kept chronic inflammation and neuropathic pain at bay, which tends to affect the hands and feet of people with diabetes.
  • Lowers the risk of diabetes. Another study found CBD might ward off the disease.
  • Promotes “good fat.” CBD oil can help the body turn white fat into slimming brown fat. This can boost your body’s ability to use glucose.

THC and Diabetes

The effects of CBD and THC (the chemical in cannabis that causes a high) are different. In one study, CBD didn’t improve blood sugar and lipid levels in people with type 2 diabetes, but a variation of THC did. CBD did lower insulin resistance and boost gut hormone levels.

Use Caution

CBD comes in many forms, from liquid drops to capsules to vapes. But the FDA doesn’t regulate most of those products. The only FDA-approved form of CBD oil is Epidiolex, a prescription drug that treats two types of epilepsy. So it’s hard to be sure that other CBD products are what they say they are, even if the label looks official. For instance, THC has been found in some CBD products. There’s also no guarantee the product has as much CBD as the label says. CBD can also have side effects. It may cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth

It can also interact with other medications like blood thinners. So it’s important to talk with your doctor before trying CBD.

Sources

FDA: “FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived From Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy.”

Mayo Clinic: “Consumer Health: What Are the Benefits of CBD — And is it Safe to Use?” “Diabetic Neuropathy.”

Diabetes Care: “Efficacy and safety of cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabivarin on glycemic and lipid parameters in patients with Type 2 diabetes: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group pilot study.”

Chemico-Biological Interactions: “Cannabidiol improves metabolic dysfunction in middle-aged diabetic rats submitted to a chronic cerebral hypoperfusion.”

Journal of Experimental Medicine: “Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors.”

Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry: “Cannabidiol promotes browning in 3T3-L1 adipocytes.”

The American Journal of Pathology: “The endocannabinoid system and plant-derived cannabinoids in diabetes and diabetic complications.”

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics: “The Flaws and Human Harms of Animal Experimentation.”

Autoimmunity: “Cannabidiol lowers incidence of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t.”

CBD, or cannabidiol, isn’t approved to treat diabetes, but scientists are studying how it might affect the condition. Here’s what you need to know.