Diabetic neuropathy is a form of neuropathic pain. It results from chronic irregular blood glucose levels, and/or lack of sufficient circulation to the body’s extremities and organ systems.
When compromised in this manner, nerves throughout the body can become damaged. As a result, they then cease to communicate with the central nervous system in a normal way. As such, people suffering from diabetic neuropathy can experience sharp, shooting pains, dull numbing pains, or even complete numbness.
In this article, we discuss some of the common causes of diabetic neuropathy. We will also look at the population identities that are most at risk. Then finally, we’ll explore what (if any) potential benefits CBD oil has to offer in treating this increasingly common condition.
Diabetic Neuropathy: What Is It, and Who’s at Risk?
People with either Type I or Type II diabetes are most at risk of developing diabetic neuropathy. As we’ve mentioned, damage to the nerves comes from chronic irregularities in blood glucose levels.
This ultimately results in a lack of nourishment to the afflicted cells. When “malnourished,” these neurons become damaged, and their ability to communicate with the brain and spinal cord becomes subsequently compromised.
Moreover, consistently high blood glucose levels are also related to a weakening of the walls of small blood vessels. This weakening can compromise the vessel’s ability to deliver oxygen, sugar, and other nutrients to the nerve cells.
The Four Most Common Types of Neuropathic Pain Associated with Diabetic Neuropathy
(Patients may suffer from more than one type):
This is, by far, the most common form of diabetic neuropathy. It primarily affects the lower extremities (legs and feet). In later stages, however, it can affect the arms and hands as well. Symptoms can include sharp or dull pains, numbness, tingling sensations, and loss of muscle strength in the afflicted areas.
This is nerve damage that occurs in organ systems such as the heart, stomach, intestines, reproductive systems, and eyes. Naturally, nerve damage in any of these areas can cause severe side effects. These include blindness, increased heart rate, erratic blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, inability to control bladder and/or bowel movements, difficulty swallowing, and an inability to regulate body temperature.
This form of neuropathy is most common in people with Type II diabetes. It affects nerves in the thighs, hips, legs, and buttocks (typically on just one side of the body). Symptoms include atrophy of the leg and thigh muscles, abdominal swelling, and unexpected weight loss.
This is damage to a single nerve. This most commonly occurs in the foot, lower leg, chest/abdomen, and face, and causes extreme and sudden pain.
Risk Factors Associated with the Onset of Diabetic Neuropathy
Research has shown that all of the following may increase the likelihood of developing diabetes-induced nerve damage:
- Smoking and excessive alcohol intake: Smoking is known to cause arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which reduces blood flow to the legs and feet.
- Inadequate maintenance/control of blood sugar levels
- The length and severity of your diabetic condition: The longer you’ve had diabetes, the more likely you are to develop some form of diabetic neuropathy.
- Diabetes-induced kidney disease
CBD Oil for Diabetic Neuropathy: What We Know from the Scientific Research
To date, no clinical trials have been conducted on the effects of CBD oil for diabetic neuropathy. Therefore, we can’t make any definitive conclusions about how useful CBD (or other cannabis compounds) are for treating diabetic neuropathy. The evidence so far mainly stems from speculative research carried out mostly on animal models and/or cultured nerve cells.
The roles of CBD as a neuroprotectant and an analgesic (pain reliever) are very well known. The evidence for this has been well-documented in recent years. The U.S. government holds a patent on the compound. The patent centers around cannabidiol’s ability to protect nerve cells from damage and disease-induced degeneration.
Some researchers and physicians are speculating that high-grade CBD oil may be able to protect nerve cells from diabetes-induced neuropathy. Some are suggesting that CBD could perhaps even reverse the damage that has already begun.
So far, the small amount of completed research appears to support this hypothesis. Let’s take a look at a few of the most relevant studies carried out to date.
CBD Studies on Rodents
A 2012 publication in the Journal of Experimental Medicine shows that CBD suppresses both inflammatory and neuropathy-induced pain.
This study primarily observed the effects of CBD on nociceptive (pain) regulation in rat nerve cells. The researchers found that the active compound acted as an analgesic (pain reliever) for neuropathy-related pain.
Here is a statement released by the lead researchers:
“We report that systemic and intrathecal [spinal cord] administration of cannabidiol (CBD), a major non-psychoactive component of marijuana, and its modified derivatives significantly suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain without causing apparent analgesic tolerance in rodents.”
In other words, CBD significantly reduced neuropathy-related pain without establishing any serious form of tolerance to the active compound. Drug tolerance is one of the main problems in other neuropathy pain relievers like prescription opioids.
A 2008 study in Phytotherapy Research shows Cannabis sativa extracts to have analgesic effects on neuropathic pain in rat models.
This study aimed to identify some of the chemical/physiological mechanisms that are involved in the cannabinoid-based management of neuropathic pain. The study involved testing of a “rat model of neuropathic pain.”
The researchers found that cannabis extracts provided “better antinociceptive (pain-relieving) efficacy than [a] single cannabinoid given alone.” Therefore, the study demonstrated that the cannabis extract, which contained “multiple cannabinoids,” was more effective than a single cannabinoid.
While the study verified that active cannabinoids are an effective means to treat neuropathy-related pain, whole-plant extracts are better. Whole-plant extracts include CBD, terpenes, flavonoids, and other natural cannabis compounds. Together, they are more effective than CBD by itself. This has been verified in other studies as well. This phenomenon is known as the “entourage effect.”
Research on Therapeutic Value of CBD and its Role in Pain Management
A 2006 study in Current Neuropharmacology shows cannabinoid receptors have “therapeutic value” against neuropathic pains.
This study was a review of existing research on cannabis extracts (including THC and CBD). The researchers looked at their role in treating both acute and chronic pain, including neuropathic pain. They concluded that “cannabinoid receptor agonists have shown therapeutic value against inflammatory and neuropathic pains.” The researchers noted that they are “often refractory [unresponsive] to therapy.”
They also acknowledged that advanced, “double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials,” were needed. These types of studies would help to develop a clearer understanding of how exactly the physiological pathway works.
Finally, a 2008 publication in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management observes the role of CBD in managing “difficult to treat pain.”
This was another study that reviewed already-completed research. It zeroed in on some studies that incorporated randomized clinical trials for the effectiveness of cannabinoids on general pain management.
It concluded with the statement that:
“Numerous randomized clinical trials have demonstrated safety and efficacy for Sativex [an FDA approved cannabis-based medication] in central and peripheral neuropathic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer pain.”
Sativex is technically a synthetic cannabinoid. However, it should, in theory, employ many of the same therapeutic characteristics as “natural” cannabinoids, including THC and CBD oil.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Neuropathic Pain
As we already mentioned, there have not yet been any specific clinical trials carried out on CBD for diabetic neuropathy. Many studies show CBD’s ability to act as a neuroprotectant, and to help aid in neuropathy-related pain management. However, FDA approval and advanced clinical trials are needed before any definitive claims can be made.
Will CBD oil work for your diabetic neuropathy and help in the day-to-day management of your nerve-related pain? Well, we certainly cannot make any claims or guarantees that it will. It is, however, hard to ignore the fact that the 100% natural compound is a known neuroprotectant. This means it works to prevent damage and degeneration of nerve cells. Research also shows that CBD has analgesic (pain-relieving) properties, too.
If you are considering CBD oil for diabetic neuropathy, then you should discuss this with your medical professional beforehand. If you want to find out more about CBD oil for pain relief, then check out our review. This review contains the 25 best CBD oils for 2020 and includes high-quality CBD oil from reliable brands.