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.
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.
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).
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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
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.
Scientific Studies on CBD and Type 2 Diabetes, and Barriers to Research
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.