How Does Cannabis Help With Diabetes?

Diabetes affects more than 100 million adults to date, and nearly ten percent of the American population suffers from the condition. The condition, which is characterized by high blood sugar and insufficient insulin levels, causes an array of uncomfortable symptoms, like swelling, fatigue, slow healing times, and weight changes. 


Further, diabetes can also cause a number of other health conditions, especially if severe or untreated for a long time. Diabetes comes with an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, nerve damage, eye problems, and foot problems. Both Type I and Type II diabetes generally require treatment, which can include a series of treatments and prescription medications. 


Type I diabetes is often treated with insulin or amylinomimetic drugs, while alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, Biguanides, DPP-4 inhibitors, along with insulin, are commonly prescribed for Type II diabetes. All of these medications act in various ways on the liver, pancreas, or other hormone-regulating functions. 


One drawback of these hormone-based therapies and other diabetes medications is their side effects. Some possible side effects of the medications frequently prescribed for diabetes include bloating, nausea, gas, stomach pain, tiredness, dizziness, and more. 


Luckily, a new therapeutic option may soon be able to rise to the occasion. Studies have shown that cannabis may reduce insulin resistance. Further, cannabidiol (CBD) has been noted to have preventative properties that may reduce the risk of developing diabetes for non-diabetics, which may be useful for those who are at increased risk for diabetes based on genetic or lifestyle factors. Ultimately, more evidence is needed before CBD can officially be considered a treatment for diabetes, but this preliminary research gives hope for a more natural alternative, and many people have already turned to CBD with positive results. 


Though it’s still in its early stages, this research suggests that CBD could help in many ways, including with hormone regulation and with managing related symptoms. To better understand the link between diabetes and CBD, we look at various existing medical studies. 


What Studies Exist to Support the Use of CBD in Diabetes?

CBD was discovered in the 1940s, but continued to be shrouded in mystery until the past decade. Now, research regarding CBD’s health benefits is rapidly expanding, and researchers are identifying many ways that CBD may help manage the causes and symptoms of many types of chronic disease. 


Researchers first identified a link between a disruption in the endocannabinoid system and insulin resistance and diabetes. Because the endocannabinoid system has a direct impact on many of the hormone regulating functions that directly impact the body’s ability to utilize blood sugar as energy, it has an undeniable impact on diabetes and related symptoms. 


Further research identifies that cannabidiol may help prevent retina cell damage and cardiovascular damage that can lead to permanent damage to the eyes or an increased risk of heart problems. Research also suggests that cannabidiol could act as a preventative against the development of diabetes overall. CBD’s potential anti-inflammatory properties may also help explain the way that CBD is useful for patients with diabetes. 


Because of the understanding of how the endocannabinoid system impacts hormone-regulating functions, research efforts regarding the use of CBD for diabetes are expected to continue to grow. Many of these efforts aim to eventually establish CBD as a primary treatment option for diabetic patients, and potentially even a preventative method for those classified as pre-diabetic. For now, we look to the following evidence to see what we do know about CBD for diabetes:

1. The Impact of Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance among US Adults

A 2013 study looked at the use of cannabis in 4,657 adults with diabetes, and found that “In multivariable adjusted models, current marijuana use was associated with 16% lower fasting insulin levels… We found significant associations between marijuana use and smaller waist circumferences.”

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2. Cannabidiol attenuates cardiac dysfunction, oxidative stress, fibrosis, and inflammatory and cell death signaling pathways in diabetic cardiomyopathy.

A 2010 study reports that the results “coupled with the excellent safety and tolerability profile of CBD in humans, strongly suggest that it may have great therapeutic potential in the treatment of diabetic complications, and perhaps other cardiovascular disorders, by attenuating oxidative/nitrative stress, inflammation, cell death and fibrosis.”

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3. Cannabidiol lowers incidence of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice.

A 2006 study evaluated CBD’s potential as a preventative against diabetes and concluded “Our results indicate that CBD can inhibit and delay destructive insulitis and inflammatory Th1-associated cytokine production in NOD mice resulting in a decreased incidence of diabetes possibly through an immunomodulatory mechanism shifting the immune response from Th1 to Th2 dominance.”

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4. Neuroprotective and blood-retinal barrier-preserving effects of cannabidiol in experimental diabetes.

A 2008 study evaluated the effects of CBD on retinal-cell death and found that “CBD treatment reduces neurotoxicity, inflammation, and BRB breakdown in diabetic animals through activities that may involve inhibition of p38 MAP kinase.”

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5. Diabetic retinopathy: Role of inflammation and potential therapies for anti-inflammation.

This 2010 review is focused on the “therapeutic effects of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive native cannabinoid, as an emerging and novel therapeutic modality in ophthalmology based on systematic studies in animal models of inflammatory retinal diseases including diabetic retinopathy – a retinal disease associated with vascular-neuroinflammation. Special emphasis is placed on novel mechanisms which may shed light on the pharmacological activity associated with CBD preclinically. These include a self-defence system against inflammation and neurodegeneration mediated by inhibition of equilibrative nucleoside transporter and activation of adenosine receptor by treatment with CBD”

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6. Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids in metabolic disorders with focus on diabetes.

A 2011 review discusses the endocannabinoid system’s direct involvement with metabolic disorders and suggest that a disruption in endocannabinoid regulation can lead to obesity and diabetes, “thus raising the possibility that CB(1) antagonists might be used for the treatment of these metabolic disorders. On the other hand, evidence is emerging that some nonpsychotropic plant cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol, can be employed to retard β-cell damage in type 1 diabetes. These novel aspects of endocannabinoid research are reviewed in this chapter, with emphasis on the biological effects of plant cannabinoids and endocannabinoid receptor antagonists in diabetes.”

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7. The endocannabinoid system in obesity and type 2 diabetes.

A 2008 review also explores the endocannabinoid system’s involvement in diabetes and shows that “Following unbalanced energy intake, however, the EC system becomes dysregulated, and in most cases overactive, in several organs participating in energy homeostasis, particularly, in intra-abdominal adipose tissue. This dysregulation might contribute to excessive visceral fat accumulation and reduced adiponectin release from this tissue, and to the onset of several cardiometabolic risk factors that are associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

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Which CBD products help with diabetes?

When looking to manage diabetes with CBD, you should first note that CBD for diabetes has not yet been proven. Many people have tried daily CBD for diabetes and related symptoms with good results, encouraging many of them to begin regular doses of the cannabinoid. In other words, CBD may be most effective when used regularly. CBD can also be used to manage sudden acute flares, but establishing a baseline concentration in your system can help you actively lessen the frequency of those uncomfortable symptoms. 

There’s definitely no shortage in selection, but for managing diabetes and related symptoms, we recommend ingesting full spectrum CBD oil daily in the form of tinctures or gel capsules

Both of these products are powered by full spectrum hemp oil, but provide completely different dosing methods to better suit different needs. Tinctures are easily dropped under the tongue, while CBD gel capsules are swallowed like other pills. Both can provide a suitable dose of CBD, but ensure that the product you choose combines CBD with a high-quality MCT oil—an ingredient crucial to the body’s ability to effectively absorb cannabidiol. 

If you find that you still need a way to manage sudden flares, there are many CBD products you could choose from. However, some dosing mechanism deliver relief more quickly than others. 

Whether caused by poor diet, lifestyle changes, or other factors– we recommend vaporizing CBD isolate to combat these sudden symptoms. Vaping is one of the quickest delivery methods for CBD. Vaping CBD isolate, a 99% pure form of CBD, can provide total-body relief in as little as 10 minutes. 

If you prefer, you can simply increase your tincture or gel capsule dose to manage flare-ups. Keep in mind that they have a delayed onset of up to 90 minutes, so you should take them at the first sign of discomfort. 

Many people find that the best approach requires a combination of CBD products, used in a pattern that provides 24 hour protective and therapeutic coverage. 

What is the correct CBD dosage to help treat diabetes?

The best dose for you may vary greatly from the next person, as dosing is affected by unique biological factors like weight, tolerance, health condition, and the severity of your symptoms. Often, the “low and slow” approach is an easy, safe way to find your best dose. 

We suggest those suffering from diabetes and related symptoms start with 10mg per day of CBD. If this low dose doesn’t bring relief, we suggest slowly increasing by increments of 5-10mg. Tinctures make it easy to accurately measure CBD in small increments, so they may be convenient for testing out different dosages.  

CBD gel capsules, on the other hand, provide neat, pre-measured doses. If this is the way you prefer to go, you can find capsules as low as 5mg. There’s no harm in starting with a larger dose because you can’t overdose on CBD and there are no severe side effects. 

Once a base dose is established, many people find that these ingestible products provide sustained relief from uncomfortable symptoms. Note that these ingestible CBD products can take up to 90 minutes to take full effect. Be sure to leave plenty of time to monitor the effects before you decide to increase your dose. 

Dosing is different when you vape CBD because it’s difficult to precisely measure the amount of cannabidiol in each puff. Instead, try measuring the dose in “number of puffs,” which is easy due to the quick onset. Simply take a puff, wait ten minutes to monitor the effects, and then dose again if needed. 

A Note About CBD and Drug Interactions

CBD’s safety profile is consistently confirmed by leading organizations, like the World Health Organization, who report no public health risks linked to CBD. However, it’s important to note that CBD may interact with certain medications that utilize cytochrome P450 pathways for absorption. CBD is also metabolized by this group of liver enzymes, competing with other drugs to utilize the pathways. Therefore, CBD interacts with other medications by decreasing their absorption and efficacy. 

Interactions could include many of the prescription medications and popular treatments used for diabetes which utilize cytochrome P450 pathways for absorption. Often, these interactions are not dangerous, unless the medication affected is meant to treat life threatening ailments. 

Luckily, CBD only briefly affects these liver enzymes, and many people report no significant interactions between CBD and their regular medications. If you already take daily medications or suffer from a chronic illness, it’s still best that you talk to your doctor about CBD before you get started.