Can CBD Oil Be Used to Treat or Prevent Diabetes? what The Research Says

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

The use of CBD to ease the symptoms of diabetes — as well as epilepsy, anxiety, and a wide range of other health conditions — is showing promise, though research is still limited.

CBD is short for cannabidiol, a compound found in the cannabis plant. The other major compound is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the ingredient that produces a “high.” CBD has no such psychoactive properties.

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Among the ongoing areas of research are whether CBD may help treat or even lower the risk of developing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Animal and human studies have looked at CBD’s effects on levels of insulin, blood glucose (sugar), and inflammation, as well as complications of diabetes, such as the pain associated with diabetic neuropathy.

Read on to learn the results of these studies and how you might use CBD to potentially help prevent diabetes or alleviate some of its symptoms.

CBD may improve diabetes prevention, inflammation, and pain

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes differ in their origin and treatment, but they present the same problem: too much glucose circulating in the blood.

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Our bodies use the hormone insulin to help regulate blood glucose levels. When you eat, the pancreas produces insulin, which acts as a key, unlocking certain cells to allow glucose from the foods and beverages you consume to enter the cells to be used for energy later.

About 5 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, which occurs when the body produces little or no insulin. This means glucose remains in the bloodstream, injuring blood vessels and depriving cells of fuel.

The vast majority of diabetes cases are type 2 diabetes, which develops when cells no longer respond to insulin. That’s called insulin resistance, and the result is also too much circulating glucose. Insulin resistance also boosts inflammation levels in the body.

Research findings are mixed when it comes to whether CBD can have a positive effect on diabetes symptoms and complications. CBD has been associated with improvements in the following:

Diabetes prevention
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There have been no clinical trials to test whether CBD oil consumption can actually lower the risk of developing diabetes in humans.

However, a study in the journal Autoimmunity found that nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice had a substantially lower risk of developing diabetes if treated with CBD.

Inflammation

CBD has been studied as an anti-inflammatory treatment for several years.

In a study specifically looking at inflammation triggered by high glucose levels, researchers found that CBD had positive effects on several markers of inflammation.

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This study suggests that CBD may be helpful in offsetting the damage diabetes can inflict on the walls of blood vessels.

Pain

A 2017 study of rats in the journal Pain found that CBD helped reduce inflammation and nerve pain associated with osteoarthritis.

CBD’s effectiveness not yet proven in these areas

There’s no evidence yet (although research is ongoing) that CBD is effective at improving HDL cholesterol levels or managing blood glucose.

HDL cholesterol

In a small 2016 study in the journal Diabetes Care, researchers found CBD use had little impact on HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels and several other markers, such as insulin sensitivity and appetite, on people with type 2 diabetes.

Blood glucose
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When it comes to potential diabetes treatments, the biggest concern is how it may help manage blood glucose levels.

At this point, there are no significant studies confirming CBD or CBD oil as a means of reducing high levels of blood sugar.

Other medications, such as metformin — together with a healthy diet and exercise — should be the main focus of your diabetes treatment and management. And if you need insulin, continue taking it as prescribed by your doctor.

How do you take CBD oil?

CBD oil is produced by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant and diluting it with a carrier oil, such as coconut or hemp seed oil.

Forms of CBD
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Forms of CBD that you can use to potentially relieve symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Vaping. Inhaling vaporized CBD oil (with the use of vaping pens or e-cigarettes) is the fastest way to experience effects. Compounds are absorbed directly from the lungs into the bloodstream. However, vaping could cause other harmful side effects such as airway irritation or damage.
  • Oils and tinctures. Oils placed (via dropper) under the tongue absorb quickly into the bloodstream. Drops can also be added to foods or beverages.
  • Edibles. These gummy-like candies or chocolates are good options for those who have trouble swallowing pills. Time from ingestion to effect can take a while.
  • Pills and capsules. CBD pills and capsules contain a version of an oil or tincture. The time from ingestion to effect can take a while.
  • Skin creams and lotions. Topical CBD creams are often applied to the skin to ease muscle or joint pain. Most topicals don’t enter the bloodstream. Instead, they affect local cannabinoid receptors in the skin.
Dosage

Talk with a doctor about which CBD brands and products may be best for you and at what dosage you should start your treatment.

When starting any new drug or supplement, it’s usually best to start with a low dose. This way you can see how well you tolerate it and whether it’s effective at that dose.

Side effects of CBD

An extensive review of CBD’s existing clinical data and animal studies reported that CBD is safe and has few, if any, side effects for adults.

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Most common side effects are:

  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in weight
Interactions

Since CBD is often used in addition to other prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs, more research is needed to understand how the cannabinoid interacts with other meds.

Using CBD may increase or inhibit another drug’s effectiveness or side effects. Talk to your doctor before taking CBD.

This is especially important if you’re taking medications that come with a “grapefruit warning.” Grapefruit and CBD both interact with an enzyme that’s vital to drug metabolism.

Talk to a doctor

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Until such time that it’s proven to be an effective treatment, use CBD with caution and with low expectations if you decide to try it.

If you’re concerned about whether it’s safe for you, talk with a healthcare provider. They can help you determine the proper dosage and form to try.

If you do try CBD or CBD oil, remember that it should be used as a complement to your normal diabetes treatment and not a replacement for proven therapy.

The takeaway

Early studies looking at CBD as a way to ease diabetes symptoms have shown encouraging results. However, much of this research has been done on animals.

Larger studies, especially on humans with diabetes, or who are at risk of diabetes, need to be done. This will give healthcare providers a better understanding of how CBD may be used to treat, manage, or prevent diabetes.

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3 percent THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3 percent THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

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