Diabetes is a chronic and life-threatening disease with no cure. However, researchers suggest that a natural, non-toxic compound found in hemp called cannabidiol, or CBD, might be useful in treating diabetes. In fact, CBD, has recently become the focus of serious diabetes research and hopes are high that studies will lead to developing new, safe diabetes drugs. What exactly are CBD’s effects on Diabetes?
Many diabetes patients are reporting that CBD therapy helps to regulate blood sugar and appetite. Additionally, CBD is also used to mitigate the effects of diabetes such as chronic neuropathic pain. Given these claims, researchers are working hard to find the mechanisms which might play a role. Particularly, researchers believe that CBD may stimulate insulin production as well as provide other therapeutic benefits to diabetes patients.
Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect blood glucose, or blood sugar levels. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps cells process sugar from foods so it can be used for energy. People with diabetes don’t produce enough insulin, or can’t utilize insulin properly, leading to high glucose levels in the blood. 
The body’s main source of energy comes from calories in the food we eat, and the most readily available energy source come from sugars such as fructose found in fruit and vegetables and lactose found in dairy. Our bodies convert these sugars into glucose in order to feed our cells.
Insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas, helps cells metabolize blood glucose and transform it into energy. But in diabetics, the mechanisms that produce and make use of glucose are dysfunctional. This leads to high blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels. High blood sugar can lead to a long list of health problems. 
Essentially, there are three main types of diabetes – Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational Diabetes. 
- In Type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys the cells of the pancreas which normally produce insulin. But, Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children and young adults but can appear at any age. 
- Type 2 diabetes causes dysfunction in producing or using insulin properly. And Type 2 diabetes is the most common and occurs most often in middle-aged or older people. 
- Gestational Diabetes can develop in women during pregnancy. But, typically, this condition goes away after birth, but women who’ve had this form of diabetes are at a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes later in life. 
Other forms of diabetes such as monogenic diabetes and cystic fibrosis diabetes exist but are extremely rare.
Some Diabetes Facts
A national diabetes report for 2017 produced by the CDC outlined their estimates of diabetes and its economic burden in the U.S. Their estimates on prevalence and incidence of diabetes are accumulated from various data systems, surveys, and published studies. Here are some key facts from their report. 
- An estimated 30.3 million people of all ages had diabetes in 2015.
- 23.8% of adults 18 years or older, 7.2 million people, diagnosed with diabetes were unaware of their condition.
- 1 in 4 people aged 65 years and older have diabetes.
- 0.18% of U.S. children, 132,000 have diabetes.
- Native Americans, including Alaskan Natives, had the highest prevalence of diagnosed diabetes for both men and women.
The report lists important figures on the incidence of diagnosed diabetes among adults. 
- In 2015, an estimated 1.5 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed among U.S. adults. More than half of these were adults 45 to 64 years old.
- Data suggests that people with less than a high school education are twice as likely to develop diabetes than those with more than a high school education.
According to research, there are certain lifestyle factors that influence one’s risk of developing diabetes. 
- Nearly 16% of diagnosed diabetics from the report smoked cigarettes.
- 87.5% of diagnosed diabetics from the report were overweight or obese.
- 40.8% of diagnosed diabetics from the report got less than 10 minutes a week of physical activity.
- 73.6% of adults had high blood pressure or were on prescription blood pressure medication.
- 58.2% of adults 21 years or older had high cholesterol.
- 15.6% of adults had high blood sugar.
Research Into CBD’s Effects On Diabetes
When studying the effects of CBD’s effects on diabetes it’s important to look at two particular factors. The first – does CBD help the production and use of insulin in any way? The second – does CBD provide any relief or therapeutic benefit from the symptoms and side effects of having diabetes?
In order to investigate these questions, let’s take a glance at a few scientific studies, which may provide some clues to the biological mechanisms CBD’s effects on Diabetes.
Researchers are working hard to validate the anecdotal claims of many diabetic patients who are self-treating their condition with CBD. Most studies are aimed at defining the mechanisms by which CBD is potentially helping to attenuate blood glucose levels and reduce symptoms.
Reduction In Pro-Inflammatory Cytokines
In one 2006 study published in the journal Autoimmunity, entitled, “Cannabidiol Arrests Onset of Autoimmune Diabetes in NOD mice,” researchers reported that CBD treatment significantly reduced the incidence of diabetes in NOD mice from an 86% in non-treated control mice to 30% in CBD-treated mice. 
The data revealed that CBD treatment resulted in a significant reduction of plasma levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines, IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha. This is indicative of CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties, which may serve diabetics therapeutically.
The most astounding results of this particular study 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.”
In other words, CBD treatment may potentially be able to prevent diabetes from developing in those who have a high risk through attenuation cell-mediated immunity and suppressing inflammation.
Relaxing Hypertension In Arteries
A 2013 study in Zucker rat models of type 2 diabetes entitled, “Cannabinoids Alter Endothelial Function In the Zucker Rat Model of Type 2 Diabetes,” reiterates similar results. Researchers presented data in the European Journal of Pharmacology that suggests CBD can increase the circulation of endocannabinoids, which can provide a host of benefits to patients. 
The authors theorize that CBD’s benefit for diabetics may be in part to its ability to relax hypertension in arteries, which can increase one’s risk of developing diabetes. And, researchers conclude by saying, “Part of the beneficial effect of cannabidiol in diabetes may be due to improved endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation.”
CBD in the Treatment of Diabetes
Diabetes is typically characterized by the onset of chronic inflammation and hypertension. Studies into CBD’s effects on diabetes show that it has an anti-inflammatory effect in humans and animals and that it can increase relaxation in the arteries. 
Cannabinoids and Glycemic Control
Most recently, in a report entitled, “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,” a team of U.K. researchers concluded that cannabinoids may actually represent a new therapeutic agent in glycemic control in subjects with type 2 diabetes. 
In the study, 62 subjects with noninsulin-treated type 2 diabetes were randomized to five treatment arms over a 13-week period. Surprisingly cannabinoids significantly decreased fasting plasma glucose and improved pancreatic cell function. Furthermore, the data from research into diabetics treated with CBD suggest that the drug may potentially prevent the onset of diabetes by stimulating the endocannabinoid system, which may, in turn, attenuate the immune system, preventing it from abnormally attacking pancreatic cells responsible for insulin production, a key hormone involved in metabolizing blood glucose for energy. 
While there are still many questions to be answered about CBD’s effects on diabetes, the current research suggests that CBD oil should continue to be studied as a potential new treatment for those at risk or diagnosed with diabetes.
Each person responds uniquely to cannabinoid therapy according to genetics, environment, dosage, potency, and method of administration. Diabetes, at any level, is a serious condition and should be treated as such. Regular checkups with your doctor can detect signs of diabetes early. And detection of advanced signals can provide a window for avoiding some of the long-term effects of diabetes such as neuropathic pain.
Always consult with a qualified medical professional before beginning any treatment regimen for the treatment or prevention of diabetes.
You may also like our article about using CBD to treat obesity.
Sources for CBD’s Effects On Diabetes:
- What is Diabetes? The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Health Information Center. NIDDK. Web. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes
- National Diabetes Report 2017. Estimates of Diabetes and Its Economic Burden in the United States. CDC. 2017. Web. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf
- Cannabidiol arrests onset of autoimmune diabetes in NOD mice. Weiss L. Neuropharmacology. 2008. Jan:54(1):244-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17714746
- Cannabinoids alter endothelial function in the Zucker rat model of type 2 diabetes. Stanley CP. Eur. J. Pharmacol. 2013. Nov 15;720(1-3):376-82 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24120371
- 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. Jadoon KA. Diabetes Car. 2016. Oct;39(10):1777-86. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27573936
Research Paper for CBD’s Effect on Diabetes
- The impact of marijuana use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance amongUS adults
- CBDattenuates cardiac dysfunction, oxidative stress, fibrosis, and inflammatory and cell death signaling pathways in diabetic cardiomyopathy
- CBDlowers incidence of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice
- Neuroprotective and blood-retinal barrier-preserving effects ofCBD in experimental diabetes
- Cannabidiol arrests onset of autoimmune diabetes inNOD mice
- Diabetic retinopathy: Role of inflammation and potential therapies for anti-inflammation
- Cannabinoids alter endothelial function in the Zucker rat model of type 2 diabetes
- The endocannabinoid system in obesity and type 2 diabetes
- Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids in metabolic disorders with focus on diabetes
- The endocannabinoid system and plant-derived cannabinoids in diabetes and diabetic complications
- Cannabinoid-mediated modulation of neuropathic pain and microglial accumulation in a model of murine type I diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain
- Biochemical and immunohistochemical changes in delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-treated type 2 diabetic rats
- Efficacy and Safety ofCBD and THC-V on Glycemic and Lipid Parameters in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes