CBD & Diabetes
CBD—short for cannabidiol, a part of cannabis (marijuana)—has gotten a lot of attention lately. With changes in the legal status of cannabis, CBD has gone from a criminalized substance to being called a miracle drug. You can find CBD oil supplements, as well as foods, drinks, and lotions in stores and pharmacies across the U.S. and worldwide. However, research on the effects of CBD on the body is still limited and so far no CBD products have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
What to Know
Along with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is the major element of cannabis. But CBD does not cause the “high” that many feel from using cannabis. For decades, CBD was considered inactive, but last year, the FDA approved it under the brand name Epidiolex for a rare form of childhood epilepsy (at a much higher dose than is available in supplements). Researchers are in the very early stages of exploring other potential uses for CBD, including relieving anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, and inflammation.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding CBD oil and diabetes. There is no noticeable effect on blood sugar (blood glucose) or insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Researchers continue to study the effects of CBD on diabetes in animal studies.
Although CBD is well tolerated by most people, there are side effects. It can suppress immune responses, raise eye pressure (which may worsen glaucoma), and increase blood levels of certain medications, such as the blood thinner Coumadin, which can lead to serious bleeding. Talk to your doctor if you’re thinking of trying CBD.
Find Out More
CBD sits in a gray area. While used as a medicine, it’s also a natural compound. Many effective medications are derived from compounds found in nature, but a lot of work goes into identifying the specific, active compound and determining what dose is safe and effective. Researchers aren’t close to that yet with CBD oil.
Its status as a supplement makes things tricky, too. Because CBD is not regulated by the FDA, creators of these supplements often make claims about its effectiveness based on little—or no—evidence. It’s hard to know what you’re getting. The amount of CBD in any product varies widely. The FDA has warned that in some products, lab tests have shown no CBD at all. Under the FDA’s Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, manufacturers of dietary supplements and dietary ingredients are banned from marketing products that are tainted or misbranded.
Although many claims continue to be made about CBD oil, there is little evidence of any benefit. It’s certainly not an alternative to traditional diabetes management. The safety of CBD is also unknown—it may have dangerous side effects that we won’t know about unless further research is done. But there is a great deal of interest in CBD research, so we should learn a lot more in the coming years about what exactly CBD can and can’t do. In the meantime, it’s best practice pursue optimal health and diabetes management with treatments that have evidence to show they are safe and effective.
CBD for Diabetes
Kelly Burch is a freelance journalist who has covered health topics for more than 10 years. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.
Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Meredith Bull, ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor with a private practice in Los Angeles. She helped co-author the first integrative geriatrics textbook, “Integrative Geriatric Medicine.”
Nearly 10% of Americans have diabetes, and although lifestyle changes and medication generally help stabilize blood sugar levels, many Americans are considering the use of cannabidiol (CBD) as another option.
In fact, some research shows CBD might help control blood sugar, reduce stress and anxiety, and boost cardiovascular health, all of which are important for people with diabetes. Other studies indicate that CBD could possibly help prevent diabetes.
However, it has only been legal for scientists to conduct human trials with CBD since 2015, so the research is preliminary and there’s a lot still to be learned. Here’s what we know—and don’t know—about CBD and diabetes.
Tinnakorn Jorruang / EyeEm / Getty Images
What Is CBD?
CBD is the nonpsychoactive chemical compound in cannabis.
The Benefits of CBD for Diabetics
CBD can have a therapeutic effect on the brain without causing hallucinations or the psychoactivite effects that most people associate with the “high” from cannabis. Because of this, CBD has a lot of potential for therapeutic uses.
But before the scientific and medical communities can make definitive statements about the health benefits of CBD, they need more thorough and long-term research about the compound and how it affects the body and brain.
That said, there are indications that CBD has health benefits. For example:
- The endocannabinoid system, which regulates food intake and energy use, is often overactive in people who are overweight or who have type 2 diabetes.
- CBD acts on receptors in the endocannabinoid system, which is the root of many of its possible therapeutic applications.
Obesity and Insulin Resistance
Type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, is closely linked with being overweight.
CBD and Weight Gain
CBD shows some promise in fighting weight gain and insulin resistance, both of which can increase the risk for diabetes.
A 2020 medical review found that CBD has the potential to affect a number of factors that contribute to the development of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. These include the potential to reduce inflammation and alter glucose metabolism.
In turn, that can reduce the symptoms of:
- Insulin resistance
- Type 2 diabetes
Blood Sugar Control
When combined with a THC-based compound (the chief intoxicant in cannabis), CBD helped people with type 2 diabetes better control their blood sugar levels, according to a 2016 study that looked at blood sugar levels when fasting.
The study found that CBD alone:
- Decreased resistin: A hormone that can contribute to insulin resistance
- Increased glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide: A hormone that prompts the release of insulin
This indicates that CBD could help with some of the hormonal imbalances that contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Nerve damage, known as diabetic neuropathy, is a common complication from diabetes. Symptoms can include pain and burning sensations, especially in the hands and feet.
An animal study on rats found that CBD can increase the development of nerves and nervous tissue, possibly alleviating nerve pain.
Although the effect CBD has on nerve pain hasn’t been studied in humans, rodent studies are considered an important indicator of what might be found in human studies.
Anxiety and Stress Management
For some people with diabetes, managing the illness causes stress and anxiety. In turn, stress and anxiety can worsen the symptoms of diabetes.
Stress and Diabetes
When the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released, they prompt the body to release glucagon, which can cause your blood sugar levels to rise.
Managing anxiety and stress can have a positive impact on the physical symptoms of diabetes.
Research shows that CBD can help relieve the symptoms of anxiety. People who struggle to control their blood sugar levels due to the hormonal effects of stress and anxiety might be helped by CBD.
Other Conditions Related to Diabetes
Many people with diabetes have other health conditions as well, and CBD may help control the symptoms of those conditions. These include:
- Insomnia: CBD has been demonstrated to help treat insomnia, which is experienced by as many as half of the people with type 2 diabetes. Improving your sleep can help control your blood sugar levels, reducing the risk for complications from diabetes.
- Chronic pain and inflammation: CBD has been shown to effectively treat chronic pain and reduce inflammation, both of which can reduce the quality of life for people with diabetes and accompanying conditions.
- Blood pressure: CBD can reduce blood pressure and, in turn, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, which people with diabetes are at increased risk for.
Forms of Cannabidiol
CBD is available in many forms. If you’re considering taking CBD to help with your diabetes, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about what dosage and strength might be beneficial.
Some common forms of CBD are:
- CBD oil: CBD oil is a popular form of CBD. It mixes CBD extract into an oil like coconut oil, forming what’s known as a tincture. The tincture can be taken orally or applied to the body. Be sure that you know what concentration your CBD tincture is, and whether it’s safe to be taken orally.
- Edibles: Like cannabis, CBD can be infused into edible products, including chocolate, gummy candy, and other candies and foods.
- Capsules and sprays: CBD can also be taken as a pill or an oral spray that is given under the tongue.
The form of CBD that you use will affect how quickly the substance enters your bloodstream.
How Quickly Does CBD Enter the Bloodstream?
Inhaled CBD enters the blood fastest, while edibles take longer to get into your system. It’s not clear how much CBD from topical products like creams and lotions gets into your bloodstream.
Side Effects of CBD
Because there is limited research on CBD, scientists don’t fully understand the side effects of the compound. However, it’s believed that using CBD can cause:
Research has found that, most often, the compound is generally well-tolerated.
CBD and Diarrhea
CBD can cause diarrhea, which many people with diabetes already struggle with. This is why it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider about whether CBD might make the condition worse and what you can do if it does.
Finally, CBD can have interactions with over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs. It’s important not to underestimate the risk of CBD, especially if you’re taking other medications or supplements.
Interactions and Warnings
There are a few important things to consider when taking CBD.
CBD Is Not Regulated by the FDA
Because CBD is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is not a thorough understanding of its benefits and risks, which is information that would come from FDA testing and approval.
Some things to consider include:
- Dosage: Recommendations widely range and depend on the condition that you’re using CBD to treat.
- Quality: Since CBD is not regulated, there’s no oversight of the quality and potency of the product. If you’re considering taking CBD, talk to your healthcare provider about where and how to obtain high-quality CBD products.
Even though it is a “natural” product, CBD can still interact with other medications. In fact, research indicates that cannabis-derived products, including CBD, can interact with 139 medication, and can be dangerous for people on 57 medications, including:
: Taking CBD along with this medication that is used to treat diabetes can increase the risk for diarrhea. : Taking CBD with this blood thinner can increase the amount of medication in your bloodstream, undermining the dosage that your healthcare provider has prescribed.
- OTC medications including Benedryl: This medication and CBD can cause drowsiness, so taking the medications together can amplify the effect. and other medications that are processed in the liver: Taking CBD could increase liver enzymes. Talk with your healthcare provider before taking CBD. Make sure you’re not taking it with other medications that stress the liver.
What to Look For
Since CBD is not regulated by the FDA, it can take some legwork to find a reputable source for CBD.
Remember that products advertised online aren’t always listed accurately.
One study found that only about one-third of CBD products sold online were labeled correctly and that more than 20% of the CBD products contained THC as well.
Legal THC Levels in CBD
If a CBD product contains more than 0.3% THC, it is illegal under federal law.
If you live in a state that has cannabis dispensaries, it may be worth buying CBD products in person. The people who work at dispensaries are generally knowledgeable about the effects of CBD and can guide you to a product that does not contain the psychoactive ingredient THC.
If you must order your CBD online, choose an American-made product, which offers a bit of peace of mind about manufacturing and production.
When selecting a CBD product, you’ll have to choose between:
- Full-spectrum: Contains mostly CBD, but also all the other chemical compounds found in cannabis, including THC
- Broad-spectrum: Contains some other cannabis compounds, but no THC
- Isolates: Contains only CBD
Do THC Levels in CBD Show Up on Drug Tests?
If you need to be drug-tested for work or other reasons, the THC present in full-spectrum CBD can show on a drug test.
Talk to your healthcare provider and be sure that you thoroughly understand the laws in your state, as well as policies from your employer when it comes to consuming even low levels of THC.
A Word From Verywell
Living with diabetes can be difficult, and it’s natural to want to seek out any and all treatment options that can make your life a bit more comfortable and healthful.
While CBD could potentially have promise in controlling blood sugar levels and may even help prevent diabetes, the research is preliminary. Healthcare providers don’t fully understand the benefits or the drawbacks of CBD for most conditions, including diabetes.
If you’re considering using CBD and are diabetic, you should have an open and honest conversation with your healthcare provider. Your practitioner should be able to help weigh the benefits and risks of CBD and guide you on how to find high-quality CBD if you choose to take it.