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.
CBD for Type 2 Diabetes: What Are the Benefits and Risks?
The trendy complementary treatment is rising in popularity. Here’s what you need to know before you use CBD to manage type 2 diabetes.
CBD may help relieve symptoms that can contribute to high blood sugar in type 2 diabetes. Everyday Health
You probably don’t have to look farther than your local drugstore or beauty product supplier to know CBD has taken a starring role in everything from sparkling water and gummies to tincture oils and lotions. Some may even say that cannabidiol (CBD) — which, like THC, is a component of the cannabis plant, but doesn’t contain its psychoactive effects — is the “it” ingredient of our age.
You’ve probably also heard that CBD can help lessen stress, anxiety, and pain. “When people are in pain, they have a stress response, which causes an increase in cortisol and an increase in blood sugar,” says Veronica J. Brady, PhD, CDCES, a registered nurse and an assistant professor at the Cizik School of Nursing at the University of Texas in Houston. Relieving pain can help alleviate the stress response and improve blood sugar levels, as well as aid sleep, she says.
If you’re managing type 2 diabetes, it’s natural to be curious about whether CBD might help you manage those symptoms, too, to help stabilize your blood sugar. In fact, the prevalence of cannabis use increased by 340 percent among people with diabetes from 2005 to 2018, according to a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence in July 2020, which surveyed people on their use of cannabis (CBD or THC, in any form) in the previous 30 days.
But does it work for treating diabetes? Some healthcare professionals say CBD may have a role to play, but it’s important to understand that the only health condition CBD has proved effective for is epilepsy in kids. The jury is unfortunately still out, owing to the lack of comprehensive research on CBD and type 2 diabetes.
Still, in the aforementioned survey, 78 percent of people used cannabis that was not prescribed by a doctor. “Diabetes patients might still use cannabis for medical reasons, but not have a prescription,” says Omayma Alshaarawy, MBBS, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at Michigan State University in East Lansing, who led the study. Recreational use is another factor. She points to a separate study, published September 2019 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that found that more than 50 percent of people with medical conditions such as diabetes or cancer use cannabis recreationally.
How People With Type 2 Diabetes Are Using CBD
In Nevada, where Dr. Brady used to work as a certified diabetes educator, her patients with type 2 diabetes used CBD for nerve pain. She says patients would use CBD in a tincture or in oils that they rubbed on painful areas, including their feet. Patients could buy CBD at medical marijuana dispensaries, which would offer dosing instructions. “They worried about the impact on their blood sugars,” says Brady.
Ultimately, though, Brady says that her patients reported that CBD reduced their nerve pain and improved their blood sugar. She adds that those people who used CBD oils for nerve pain also reported sleeping better.
Heather Jackson, the founder and board president of Realm of Caring in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a nonprofit that focuses on cannabis research and education, senses an interest in CBD within the diabetes community. “In general, especially if they’re not well controlled, people are looking at cannabinoid therapy as an alternative, and usually as an adjunct option,” says Jackson. Callers have questions about CBD for neuropathy pain, joint pain, gastrointestinal issues, and occasionally blood glucose control, according to a spokesperson for Realm of Caring.
The organization receives thousands of inquiries about cannabis therapies a month. It keeps a registry of these callers, where they live, and their health conditions. Jackson says that people with type 2 diabetes are not a large percentage of the callers, but they currently have 540 people with diabetes in their database.
Jackson says that Realm of Caring does not offer medical advice, and it does not grow or sell cannabis. Instead, it offers education for clients and doctors about cannabis, based on its ever-growing registry of CBD users, their conditions, side effects, and administration regimen. “We are basically educating,” says Jackson. “We want you to talk to your doctor about the information you receive.”
Scientific Studies on CBD and Type 2 Diabetes, and Barriers to Research
Despite interest among people with type 2 diabetes, large, rigorous studies showing how CBD may affect type 2 diabetes are lacking, says Y. Tony Yang, MPH, a doctor of science in health policy and management and a professor at George Washington University School of Nursing in Washington, DC. Specifically absent are randomized controlled trials, which are the gold standard of medical research.
Early research suggests CBD and diabetes are indeed worth further study. For example, a small study published in October 2016 in Diabetes Care in the United Kingdom looked at 62 people with type 2 diabetes and found that CBD did not lower blood glucose. Participants were not on insulin, but some took other diabetes drugs. They were randomly assigned to five different treatment groups for 13 weeks: 100 milligrams (mg) of CBD twice daily; 5 mg of THCV (another chemical in cannabis) twice daily; 5 mg CBD and 5 mg THCV together twice daily; 100 mg CBD and 5 mg of THCV together twice daily; or placebo. In their paper, the authors reported that THCV (but not CBD) significantly improved blood glucose control.
Other CBD research is still evolving. Some CBD and diabetes studies have been done in rats, which leads to findings that don’t always apply to human health. Other studies have looked more generally at the body’s endocannabinoid system, which sends signals about pain, stress, sleep, and other important functions. Still other studies, including one published in the American Journal of Medicine, have looked at marijuana and diabetes, but not CBD specifically.
That there are so few studies of CBD in people with type 2 diabetes has to do with a lack of focus on CBD as an individual component. Historically, cannabinoids (a group of chemicals in the cannabis plant) have been lumped together, including CBD, THC, and more than 100 others. The 1970 U.S. Controlled Substances Act classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug with the highest restrictions. Currently, 33 states and the District of Columbia allow cannabis for medical use and 11 states allow cannabis for recreational use.
The 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from the controlled substances list, clearing the way for more production and research of CBD. Meanwhile, growers and manufacturers are better able to isolate CBD, mainly by cultivating industrial hemp that is high in CBD and very low in THC, says Jackson. So, perhaps in the coming years, more research on CBD and diabetes will emerge.
How the FDA Views and Regulates CBD for Disease Treatment
Yet, as evidenced by the July 2020 study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, people with type 2 diabetes aren’t waiting for further study to hop on the trend. Brady says her patients have been open about using CBD, particularly the younger patients. She says one of her older patients was initially uncomfortable about buying CBD in the same shop that sold marijuana but eventually gave in. Brady adds that many people associate CBD with smoking marijuana, despite their distinctly different effects on the body.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first CBD medication in 2018, for treating childhood epilepsy. Currently, there is no other FDA-approved CBD medication for diabetes or any other condition, according to the FDA. In December 2018, the FDA said it was unlawful under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to sell food or dietary supplements containing CBD. In April 2019, the FDA stated that it would be taking new steps to evaluate cannabis products, and it held a public hearing about cannabis products in May 2019.
“The FDA, for the time being, has focused its limited enforcement resources on removing CBD products that make claims of curing or treating disease, leaving many CBD products for sale,” wrote Pieter Cohen, MD, and Joshua Sharfstein, MD, in a July 2019 perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Cohen is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, and Dr. Sharfstein oversees the office of public health practice and training at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
Precautions for People With Diabetes Looking to Try CBD
For the CBD products already on the market, Jackson says it’s often difficult to know what’s inside. A study published November 2017 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that only 30 percent of CBD products were accurately labeled, with under- and over-labeling of CBD content, and some products containing unlisted chemicals such as THC.
Vaping liquids were the most commonly mislabeled CBD products in the study. The International Research Center on Cannabis and Health in New York City warns that consumers should not purchase vape products from unregulated and illicit markets. A small investigation by the Associated Press in 2019 showed that some CBD vapes had synthetic marijuana.
Jackson points out that CBD may affect certain cholesterol and blood pressure drugs, and a study published in June 2017 in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research detailed these interactions. Other side effects of CBD include tiredness, diarrhea, and changes in weight or appetite, the researchers write.
“What you put in your body is really important,” says Jackson, adding that’s especially true for people with major health conditions like diabetes. Jackson speaks from personal experience as a mom finding CBD treatments for her son’s epilepsy. She says consumers should ask manufacturers whether CBD products are free of mold, pesticides, and other toxins.
Realm of Caring, Jackson’s nonprofit, created a reference sheet for evaluating products and manufacturers. It also endorses products that adhere to standards such as those from the American Herbal Products Association and the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations.
“There is little known about cannabis health effects, especially among patients with chronic conditions. Research is growing, but still solid evidence evolves,” says Dr. Alshaarawy. For these reasons, she recommends that patients talk to their doctors so they can discuss the benefits and potential harms of cannabis and monitor their health accordingly.
How to Talk to Your Healthcare Provider About Using CBD for Type 2 Diabetes
Jackson and Brady advise people who are considering CBD for diabetes to ask their providers about the complementary therapy before adding it to their treatment plan. Brady says it’s difficult to find research about CBD and type 2 diabetes, even in her capacity as a diabetes educator. Still, in her experience, if people are looking for a natural way to manage pain, it’s worth a conversation with their healthcare provider. “It’s something that should be talked about, especially if they’re having significant amounts of pain, or really any pain at all associated with their diabetes,” says Brady.
“It’s a reasonable alternative,” says Brady. “As it gains in popularity, there needs to be some information out there about it.