According to Rory Batt MSc, who studies the connection between the endocannabinoid system, CBD and type 2 diabetes, CBD may help boost pancreatic health in humans as well. “CBD can also help to protect the pancreas from becoming destroyed by overactive immune cells. Effectively, this means someone may be able to keep producing insulin themselves for longer. However, unless they ultimately change their diet as well, they will inevitably end up with a pancreas that cannot produce insulin—but CBD could significantly extend the time until that happens.”
But how does it all work? CBD targets something called G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). Dr. Chin says these are some of the largest receptors in our bodies, playing a diverse role in bodily functions.
CBD is generally sold in the form of tinctures or oils, supplements, extracts, and gummies. It is also found in pain-relieving and calming gels, lotions, and bath salts. It’s not usually smoked.
How does CBD work?
Many people with chronic conditions like diabetes are turning to CBD because they believe that it can help restore balance and well-being — and there is an increasing amount of research to back it up.
As we learn more about the benefits of holistic wellness and alternative therapies, it becomes ever clearer that hemp products like CBD — scientifically known as cannabidiol — cannot be ignored. But what is CBD, and how can it possibly help people with chronic diseases like diabetes?
For a lot of people, CBD’s association with marijuana is enough to scare patients away from considering it. This can certainly cause anxiety if you are concerned about getting high, feeling cognitively impaired, or using an illegal product. CBD — as helpful as it’s shown to be — is still misunderstood. So, let’s dive into some of the facts around what CBD is and what it isn’t.
First things first: CBD is a natural compound that is extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant. Yes, this is the same plant that tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC, or marijuana) comes from — but CBD by itself is not marijuana and it cannot get you high.
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.
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."
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics: “The Flaws and Human Harms of Animal Experimentation.”
It can also interact with other medications like blood thinners. So it’s important to talk with your doctor before trying CBD.
The American Journal of Pathology: “The endocannabinoid system and plant-derived cannabinoids in diabetes and diabetic complications.”
Journal of Experimental Medicine: “Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors.”
Other studies of CBD in mice or rats found it:
Autoimmunity: “Cannabidiol lowers incidence of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice.”
The effects of CBD and THC (the chemical in cannabis that causes a high) are different. In one study, CBD didn’t improve blood sugar and lipid levels in people with type 2 diabetes, but a variation of THC did. CBD did lower insulin resistance and boost gut hormone levels.