CBD has helped many people deal with pain, but can it help you manage your diabetes? Read on to learn about research on CBD and its potential benefits. Cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive component in cannabis, may help people with diabetes to manage blood sugar, reduce stress, and more. Metformin is an effective anti-diabetes medication, with a few mild potential side effects. CBD is also known for its ability to regulate our metabolism and blood sugar levels, but can you combine these two for a more efficient treatment?
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 glucose (blood sugar) 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.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. What is diabetes?
Blessing, Esther M. Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. Neurotherapeutics. Sept. 4, 2015. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909
By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.
CBD and Metformin: Which Is Better & Should You Take Both?
Cannabis compounds are more often prescribed by doctors to treat serious chronic conditions. Cannabinoids like CBD and THC have been highlighted as potent anti-inflammatory agents, neuroprotectants, painkillers, and antioxidants.
CBD can also regulate our blood sugar levels and help with metabolism on many levels, according to recent research. Not only does CBD promote fat-browning, but it can also curb cravings for high-calorie food and reduce stress levels, preventing people from eating compulsively.
But does CBD have a direct impact on diabetes? Can you take it as a diabetes treatment instead of conventional medications? Are CBD and metformin a good match?
Metformin is a common anti-diabetes medication that doctors prescribe to lower blood sugar levels in their patients. The idea of combining these two compounds is tempting, especially if your current treatment doesn’t bring satisfying results.
Let’s take a look at the current situation of CBD in treating diabetes — and how it interacts with meds such as metformin.
What is Metformin?
Metformin is an FDA-approved medicine commonly prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes. Doctors often recommend this drug on its own or prescribe it along with other diabetes medications to manage high blood sugar levels.
Metformin has proven to be an effective treatment for the majority of diabetes complications; it can also prevent diabetes in high-risk individuals. Despite some adverse reactions reported by individual patients, the benefits definitely outweigh the potential side effects.
What is CBD and How Does It Impact Glucose Levels?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, a phytocannabinoid present in the Cannabis sativa plant. Unlike THC, CBD is non-intoxicating, so it won’t get you high. However, it still has a plethora of therapeutic properties, some of which are related to CBD’s impact on our metabolism and blood glucose levels.
In a 2016 study conducted on diabetic mice, CBD treatment showed to be capable of lowering the chances of diabetes in the subjects. The research team administered a daily dose of 5 mg/kg CBD to the mice for ten weeks at least five times a week (1).
Another study, from 2018, has analyzed the mechanism of action of phytocannabinoids as anti-obesity and anti-diabetic compounds. The study highlighted CBD as the potential aid in the treatment of insulin resistance triggered by obesity and diabetes (2).
CBD and Metformin: Potential Interactions
Considering what we’ve said about Metformin and CBD so far, one could assume that it would be beneficial to combine them. However, no study has yet confirmed whether or not these products are compatible with one another.
CBD is metabolized by the same system of enzymes that breaks down active ingredients in medications. In past research, CBD has been highlighted as a potent inhibitor of cytochrome P450 enzymes. In other words, CBD can compromise the liver’s ability to process other drugs when taken along with them.
The above interaction could result in increased or decreased levels of active drug ingredients in the blood, causing problems associated with being subtherapeutic or, on the contrary, toxic.
CBD’s interaction with CYP450 can change the way it affects the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is the major regulatory network found in humans and animals that regulates the activity of other systems and organs, including the central nervous system.
Metformin has a few side effects on its own, so the more medication circulates in your bloodstream, the higher the risk you will experience adverse reactions. Although these side-effects are not severe, they may lead to a condition known as lactic acidosis. This disorder includes symptoms like muscle pain, dizziness, drowsiness, chills, and breathing difficulties.
Since there is no clear indication of whether using CBD and metformin is dangerous, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and consult your doctor about applying CBD in your routine before buying any CBD product.
A doctor experienced in treating people with cannabinoids should be able to point you in the right direction.
Can You Substitute Metformin with Another Antihyperglycemic to Take CBD Oil?
Insulin is another antihyperglycemic commonly used to lower high blood sugar to diabetics. Doctors often prescribe special injections to administer the compound intravenously.
In a 2010 study conducted on 62 participants with type 2 diabetes, scientists have found that a combination of THC and CBD can lower insulin resistance while increasing its potency in the body. These same patients weren’t treated with insulin and tolerated both CBD and THC well (3).
A study from 2018 shows that low-dose CBD can increase glucose uptake, decrease fat accumulation, and reverse insulin resistance in rats (4). This may be an indication of further clinical trials in humans. Despite being effective in rodents, CBD may not work the same in human subjects, so it’s necessary to test its efficacy on a broader scale.
Can You Replace Metformin with CBD?
Research has yet to prove whether or not CBD is a safe alternative to metformin use in diabetic humans. Most of the studies on CBD’s effect on diabetes were conducted on rodent models.
For example, one 2016 study on non-obese diabetic mice has shown that CBD can lower the risk of diabetes by altering the response in the immune system in rodents. The non-treated mice had an 86% probability of developing diabetes, while subjects that took CBD only had 30% (5).
The administration of CBD also significantly lowered plasma blood levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines, while also lowering the possibility of inflammatory liver damage — the underlying cause of type 1 diabetes.
Finally, a 2019 study on diabetic rats tested the therapeutic properties of CBD in both ischemic disease models and diabetes (6). The study revealed that CBD reduces neuropathic pain, improves memory performance, and reduces hippocampal levels of inflammation markers (6).
According to cannabis experts, CBD-rich products can be used to target the symptoms of diabetes. Since there are limited data on CBD’s efficacy in the human models of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, it’s always best to seek professional advice from a doctor before considering replacing metformin with CBD oil or edibles.
Drugs That Can Interact with Metformin
Metformin consists of positively charged molecules (cations) that can be processed by the same enzymes as similarly charged drugs for renal secretion through cation transporters found in the kidneys.
Cationic medications that can interact with metformin include quinidine, procainamide, trimethoprim, digoxin, and vancomycin. These drugs can be purchased over the counter for heartburn and may contribute to a case of metformin-associated lactic acidosis (MALA).
Here’s the list of other medications that can interact with metformin:
- Calcium channel blockers
- Estrogen and oral contraceptives
- Thyroid medications
Combining the aforementioned drugs with metformin may result in too-low blood sugar levels in the body. Patients need to monitor their glucose levels frequently to avoid sudden changes.
The following drugs can reduce the kidneys’ capacity to flush metformin from the blood and thus cause lactic acidosis:
We encourage you to consult a doctor to determine if these drug combinations are worth the risk. There may be a safer alternative that doesn’t entail the same risk of danger.
If you want to avoid increasing the risk of lactic acidosis when using metformin, it’s better to abstain from taking carbonic anhydrase inhibitors such as topiramate or acetazolamide.
Lactic acidosis may be detected early if patients taking CAIs together with metformin are monitored during their treatment.
Your doctor can also change the dosage or even suggest a safer, alternate medication to manage your blood glucose levels if metformin itself has too heavy side-effects on your health.
People changing immediate-release to extended-release metformin pills may experience fewer cases of diarrhea, as reported by a study in 2004.
Anemia and vitamin B-12 deficiency are also possible in people who have been taking metformin for at least a few months. Supplementing iron and vitamin B-12 may help prevent these problems if they occur in long-term metformin users.
What Experts Say About CBD and Metformin
Allan Frankel MD, an experienced physician and expert in GreenBridge Medicinal in Santa Monica, believes that CBD and metformin can be taken in tandem, but it requires proper care from your doctor. He also claims that patients can become able to ditch their type 2 diabetes medications thanks to using CBD.
“We have seen a substantial lowering of their [CBD patients] glucose levels in those with Type II Diabetes including several patients’ Hemoglobin A1C levels normalize so they are able to stop their Type II Diabetes medications, he said.”
However, CBD can cause blood glucose levels to drop too much due to their combined effects.
“The first time I saw this with a Diabetic, he called me after having some hypoglycemic episodes while taking CBD in addition to his Metformin, Frankel continues. “I told him to stop his Metformin and continue his CBD. His glucose levels normalized and he remained off Metformin.”
According to Frankel, CBD can also raise good cholesterol levels, while lowering bad cholesterol levels by stabilizing a patient’s blood sugar levels. He says he has seen patients ditching the statin once they have seen consistent improvements in their cholesterol levels.
On top of that, CBD — especially when combined with THC — can improve the side effects caused by poorly managed diabetes, including neuropathic pain.
“We have also seen improvements ranging from apparent stabilization of macular degeneration and help with neuropathic pain. Sometimes combined with THC, CBD is an avascular and renal protectant.”
To sum up, using CBD provides a multipronged approach for treating diabetes. It can be taken in tandem with metformin, but only under the observation of your doctor. Monitoring blood glucose levels is essential for avoiding unpleasant side-effects, such as hypoglycemia. On top of blood sugar management, CBD can balance cholesterol levels and speed up metabolism.
“I believe this is all happening on a number of metabolic levels, such as bringing the sensitivity of insulin back to normal,” Frankel concludes.
Final Thoughts on CBD and Metmorfin
Metformin is an FDA-approved prescription drug for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Patients take it on its own or with other prescription drugs with high sugar levels in the blood.
While metformin can effectively prevent diabetes in high-risk individuals, while also addressing most of its symptoms, it may cause a few adverse reactions. Fortunately, most users report that the benefits outweigh the potential side-effects.
People seeking natural treatments for diabetes often turn to CBD as their go-to supplement. CBD interacts with the human endocannabinoid system whose receptors are known to regulate blood sugar levels on top of many other metabolic functions.
Studies from animal models have demonstrated CBD’s efficacy in treating the symptoms of diabetes and managing the condition itself. While more human research is needed to confirm these findings, they are, at least to say, promising when it comes to contemporary diabetes treatments.
CBD and metformin can interact with one another because they are processed by the same system of enzymes. CBD is the inhibitor of these enzymes, meaning it can either increase or decrease the concentration of metformin in the bloodstream. This, in turn, can result in toxicity or subtherapeutic effects depending on the scenario.
As there’s no clear indication regarding the risk of taking CBD with metformin, it’s best to consult a physician who is experienced in complementary treatments. Medical advice from a professional will help you avoid potentially dangerous interactions and get the most out of your diabetes routine.
Do you take CBD and metformin together?
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- Lehmann, Christian et al. “Experimental cannabidiol treatment reduces early pancreatic inflammation in type 1 diabetes.” Clinical hemorheology and microcirculation vol. 64,4 (2016): 655-662. doi:10.3233/CH-168021
- Santiago, Amanda Nunes et al. “Effects of Cannabidiol on Diabetes Outcomes and Chronic Cerebral Hypoperfusion Comorbidities in Middle-Aged Rats.” Neurotoxicity research vol. 35,2 (2019): 463-474. doi:10.1007/s12640-018-9972-5
Aspiring political journalist & small-town stoner currently living in Los Angeles. My day job consists of studying the mental health effects of cannabis in my role as a mental health case manager at Kaiser Permanente. By night, I roll fat joints and do my best to debrief Weed News readers on the latest cannabis happenings.