If you’ve already done some reading up on CBD, diabetes, and related symptoms, you may have heard some fairly incredulous things about the hemp-based compound and its ability to out-and-out cure the disease.
This is far from the truth. To date, there have not been any advanced clinical trials done on the effects of CBD for diabetes. Moreover, the limited research that has been done has been carried out on mice in a laboratory setting – far from the rigorous clinical conditions that doctors need in order to establish a compound as a viable medicine.
| “Does CBD cure diabetes? Probably not. But results from animal model studies have indicated it may be able to decrease the incidence of the disease through an immunomodulatory mechanism.”
That being said, it is no stretch to say that the therapeutic properties of CBD may be able to help with secondary symptoms, and – as we mentioned above – may even be able to help decrease the overall prevalence of the condition.
In this article we talk about CBD, diabetes, related low-sugar symptoms, and how active cannabis extract may play a crucial role in the near future by offering a safe, inexpensive, side-effect free form of treatment.
CBD, Diabetes, and What you Need to Know
Diabetes is a disease wherein the body has trouble regulating the level of sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream. In healthy individuals, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which works to transport glucose molecules across cell membranes and into cells for energy production.
In diabetics, depending on whether they suffer from the Type 1 or Type 2 form of the disease, the body is either unable to produce insulin, or it’s unable to use it in a way that’s sufficient enough to maintain glucose at a healthy level in the bloodstream. Irregular or unstable glucose levels can cause a huge array of serious, life-threatening conditions, which we talk about in detail in this article.
In regard to CBD oil for diabetes, there are two main things to consider in order to determine the degree of viability that the drug may have on the increasingly-prevalent disease:
- In what ways (if any) does CBD work to improve either the function and/or production of insulin, and
- In what ways might CBD work to alleviate the spectrum of side effects caused by irregular blood sugar levels
Here, in the hopes of shedding some light on why CBD oil for diabetes has gained such popularity among patients and physicians alike, we talk about recent research publications that have directly addressed both of these questions.
Diabetes: What is it, What Causes it, and Who is at Risk
To elaborate on the rudimentary processes explained in the introduction, diabetes is a disease wherein the body is unable to properly transfer the glucose from food into energy sources for cells.
And of course, without energy sources, the body’s cells (which are responsible for every functional mechanism of life) will be unable to carry out the requisite pathways needed to survive.
| “Without blood glucose regulation, cells are unable to carry out requisite pathways needed for survival. Can CBD help to reverse the adverse physiological effects of diabetes?”
In the case of Type 1 diabetics (who only make up about 5% of the diabetic population), the body is no longer able to produce insulin, which is the key hormone needed to transfer glucose molecules from the bloodstream into cells. This is generally due to an autoimmune attack on the pancreas – the organ responsible for the production of insulin. Type 1 diabetes usually arises in children or young adults who contract a pancreas-attacking virus, and other than perhaps a genetic predisposition, there are not many specific risk factors.
Type 2 diabetes is a more complex form of the disease wherein the body still produces insulin, but it either doesn’t produce enough of it, or the cells become resistant to its physiological pathways. Either way, the resulting effect is similar to that of Type 1 diabetes, wherein the underlying issue is a general inability to control blood glucose.
Also, Type 2 diabetes is a far more prevalent form of the disease; it is estimated to affect over 400 million people worldwide, or between 90 and 95% of the total diabetic population.
DID YOU KNOW: Type-2 diabetes affects over 400 million people worldwide?
Additionally, far more risk factors are associated with Type 2 diabetes than there are with Type 1. Several of the most prominent of these factors include:
- Weight (obesity)
- High sugar diets (combined with inactivity)
- Family history and genetics
- Ethnicity (African-Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians are especially susceptible, though the reason is unknown)
- Age (people over 45 are far more likely to develop diabetes)
Conventional, Non-CBD Treatment Methods for Diabetes
In both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, an inability for glucose to be absorbed into the body’s cells results in it building up to dangerously high levels in the bloodstream. This results in the severe, potentially life-threatening symptoms that are most often associated with the disease. Some of these symptoms include:
- Heart and blood vessel disease
- Nerve damage
- Kidney disease
- Vision problems
In short, there aren’t many areas of the body that go unaffected by the physiological detriments of diabetes, and unless the disease is monitored closely on a daily basis, the average diabetic will have a lifespan between 10 and 15 years shorter than the average person’s.
Fortunately, conventional medications have gotten to the point where diabetics – if they keep track of their glucose levels rigorously and maintain an appropriate diet – can lead a rather normal lifestyle.
Since they can’t produce it on their own, most Type 1 diabetics are prescribed insulin either in the form of shots that they have to self-administer, or in the form of a pump which automatically monitors blood glucose and injects the hormone as needed.
While these forms of treatment are state of the art, they’re by no means 100% effective; even the most responsible of diabetics can find it difficult to avoid the dangerous consequences of irregular glucose levels.
| “Even state-of-the-art diabetes treatments are not 100% effective in maintaining healthy blood glucose. How might CBD compare to conventional treatment options?”
Not to mention, without top of the line health insurance, treatments like insulin pumps are far too expensive for the average individual to consider. Most, in fact, are resorted to pricking blood from their finger to monitor sugar levels, and self-administering insulin shots through hypodermic needles.
In the case of Type 2 diabetes, individuals who are able to get by without having to take insulin shots will most likely be prescribed a pharmaceutical drug like Metformin or Avandia, which aid in the ability to properly regulate glucose.
However, as is far too common with these kinds of prescription meds, a range of severe side effects is often produced, as is a monthly medical bill that can be as cumbersome as the side effects themselves.
This is why many diabetics in recent years have been more than willing to try alternative treatment options like CBD oil. Even if CBD can replace just one of their prescription medications – or even reduce the requisite doses – it’s generally more than worth it.
Not to mention, the general improvement in quality of life for some diabetics that have added CBD to their treatment regimen has been, to put it quite simply, pretty miraculous.
CBD Oil for Diabetes: What the Research has Shown
As we mentioned earlier, in the world of medicine, anecdotal evidence can only go so far. Regardless of the fact that many diabetics use CBD oil every day of their lives to help manage their condition, most physicians are wary to recommend it as a treatment because they can’t point to the exact physiological reasons as to why it’s beneficial.
Fortunately, along with its potential to help with cancer-related symptoms and nervous disorders, CBD for diabetes has been a pretty well-researched area of medical cannabis.
Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, a research scientist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, points to the fact that naturally-occurring CBD receptors occur throughout the human body – from the brain and nervous tissues to organs, endocrine glands, and immune cells.
And one of the organs where he’s found the receptors to be highly prevalent? The pancreas.
| “Naturally-occurring CBD receptors occur throughout the human body: in the brain, nervous system, and crucially for sufferers of diabetes – in the islet cells of the pancreas.”
In fact, endocannabinoid receptors (namely CB-1 receptors) have been found specifically in the organ’s islet cells – the exact location where insulin is produced. What’s more, it’s been suggested that the stimulus of these receptors in the islet cells may have links to insulin production.
Now, regardless of how intriguing the research is, we are by no means sitting here and saying that endocannabinoid receptors are directly responsible for the production of insulin, or that CBD is a cure for diabetes in any way shape or form. While it’s possible that the receptors may play a crucial role in the production of insulin, much more research needs to be done in order to pinpoint the physiological mechanisms and exact chemical pathways that are responsible for doing so.
We will say, though, that preliminary studies on CBD for diabetes have been so promising that it’s led to the American Journal of Medicine’s Dr. Joseph Alpert to call on the DEA and the National Institute of Health (NIH) for increased funding and collaboration on continued research.
Moreover, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has gone so far as to suggest that endocannabinoids may be “the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health,” based on their central role in regulating homeostasis, which is the body’s ability to maintain normative operating conditions in spite of harmful stimuli.
CBD for Diabetes: Can it Help Treat Underlying Symptoms?
What’s been even more concrete than research on CBD’s potential role in insulin production, though, has been research on the compound’s ability to help treat and prevent common medical conditions associated with diabetes.
One of the most prominent factors associated with the development of insulin resistance in Type 2 diabetes is chronic inflammation related to obesity. The excessive presence of fatty tissue in obese Type 2 diabetics drastically limits the efficiency of glucose metabolism, which in turn results in high levels of sugar building up in the bloodstream. The specific anti-inflammatory properties of CBD, however, have long been known to directly combat glucose metabolic disorders and improve overall metabolism.
| “It is possible that the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD may be able to provide side-effect free therapy for both Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes patients.”
Nerve damage is another condition commonly associated with diabetes. In many instances, diabetics will have limited sensation in their lower extremities, and in severe cases, amputations of the leg(s) are often necessary. This is due to a lack of sufficient blood flow, which eventually results in the breakdown of tissue and the increased risk for infection. CBD, in turn, is a federally patented neuroprotectant and has been shown to reduce infarcts (areas of dead tissue due to lack of blood flow) by up to 30%.
Likewise, there have been dozens of other publications that have shown great promise in the role of CBD as a treatment for diabetes, including studies on retinopathy (a disorder of the eyes) and diabetic cardiovascular dysfunction.
In short, the medical potential and therapeutic benefits of CBD oil for diabetes is nothing short of phenomenal; many diabetics use it every day to treat the disease and improve their overall quality of life, and thousands more will continue to do so in the future in light of increased research and improved information.
Lastly, on a side note, it’s important to point out that CBD oil will not get you high – unlike whole plant marijuana, it contains hardly any THC, which is the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive properties of the drug.
CBD Oil, Diabetes, and Harvard Health
In January 2018, Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Peter Grinspoon referenced a Healthline article that reviewed the potential for cannabis to decrease insulin resistance and improve blood sugar.
| “Harvard Health researchers have discovered that marijuana use may be able to decrease insulin resistance, and improve overall blood sugar levels.”
In the article, which was the first of its kind to “investigate the relationship between marijuana, glucose, and insulin resistance,” it was pointed out that cannabis use can directly help regulate blood sugar levels, waist size, and body mass index — three factors that are crucial to both the prevention and control of Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes.
The study, which reviewed data from 4,657 patients over a 5-year period, determined a “significant link between the regular use of marijuana and better blood sugar control,” and also noted that consistent cannabis users displayed:
- A 16% reduction in fasting insulin levels
- A 17% decrease in insulin resistance levels
- Increased levels of HDL-C
- Smaller overall waist circumference (an implication of reduced instances of obesity)
| “Researchers concluded that a ‘significant link’ exists between the regular use of cannabis and better blood sugar levels.”
Final Thoughts on CBD, Diabetes, and Future Treatment Options
CBD oils can range in terms of their overall concentrations of the active cannabinoid; in other words, not all tinctures are the same, and different dosages will likely be required depending on the specific oil that you end up using (although the proper dosage should always be labeled on the bottle).
Likewise, CBD oil is no guaranteed solution for all diabetics; while some patients have found it highly therapeutic, it will ultimately be more effective for some individuals than it is for others. As is always the case, it’s important to do your own research, and if possible, speak with a professional about some possible tinctures that may be appropriate for you and your specific condition.
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