CBD oil and diabetes
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- Research overview
- The studies
- Patient perspectives
- What the experts say
- Bottom line
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
“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
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.
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.
CBD oil and diabetes Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Research overview The studies Patient perspectives What the experts say
CBD Oil for Diabetes?
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.
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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.