More than 23 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes; an unfortunate statistic that shows no signs of diminishing anytime soon. Yet, there are natural ways to treat and prevent diabetes in addition to proper diet and exercise.
Marijuana and Diabetes
Medical marijuana and diabetes have been on researchers’ radars for some time now, with results pointing to marijuana as being helpful for lowering blood sugar, treating peripheral neuropathy and relieving pain. And for those who don’t yet have diabetes, cannabis may be an effective weapon against developing the disease.
In addition, THC is a proven pain reliever, while CBD and THCV have been shown to have anti-diabetic properties.1
Types of Diabetes
Diabetes mellitus is usually discussed in terms of Type I and Type II diabetes. Some of the symptoms for both can include unusual fatigue, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, frequent infections, bruises and sores that are slow to heal, blurred vision, frequent urination and irritability.
In type I diabetes, the symptoms often come on quickly and are more severe than in type II patients. With type I, the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, leaving the patient with little to none. Glucose that should be transported to the cells instead builds up in the bloodstream. Researchers aren’t sure exactly what causes type 1 diabetes, but it is believed to be caused by genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Type I often appears anytime between early childhood and adolescence, although it can develop at any age.
People with type II diabetes may not show signs of the disease for a long time, and in fact may be in a stage called prediabetes, which can lead to type II diabetes. This type of diabetes is far more common than type I. Although it most often shows up in adults over 40, it can happen at any age. Excess weight is a risk factor for developing type II diabetes, although many diabetics are not overweight.2
Studies on Marijuana for Diabetes
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) gathered data from surveys taken between 2005 to 2010. The researchers looked at the relationship between regular marijuana use and measures of fasting glucose and insulin levels, insulin resistance, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference, and found that past and current cannabis use was associated with lower levels of these measurements.3
As was noted in a medical journal, researchers in the past studied the effects of cannabis on metabolism and calorie consumption, due to the plant’s well-known capacity to increase appetite. Despite this commonplace side effect, researchers were surprised to find that even though marijuana users tend to consume more calories than non-users, their rates of obesity are lower. Other research with mice showed that THC and CBD curbed both the severity and onset of diabetes. In another study done with obese rats given a cannabis extract, researchers found that the extract significantly protected the animals’ insulin-producing pancreatic cells.3
In a study done on neuropathic pain, researchers found that the neuropathic pain experienced by participants was significantly lessened after the patients vaped low doses of THC,4 while another study found that the less well-known cannabinoid, THCV, dramatically decreased plasma glucose in fasting patients.5
And in the area of prevention, scientific data gathered by National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions noted cannabis users were less likely to be stricken with diabetes, compared with non-users.6
Can CBD Help?
In a study of type I diabetes that was done with mice, researchers found that in the group of mice given CBD, type I diabetes was diagnosed in only 32 percent. In mice that were treated with an emulsifier, 86 percent developed type I diabetes, with the untreated group at 100 percent. Researchers concluded that perhaps CBD could be used to treat type I diabetes.7
There is also much anecdotal evidence that CBD is helpful in treating type II diabetes, but of course more research is needed, including human trials. In the meantime, CBD has shown itself to be safe for most people, and many people believe there’s no harm in trying it. Experimenting with CBD instead of THC-laden marijuana might be a necessity for the patient who wants to try it but lives in a state that has not yet legalized whole-plant medical marijuana for diabetes, or anything else. CBD is available as flower or oil that can be smoked or vaped, as a sublingual (under the tongue) spray or oil, in pill form, as an edible, or as a transdermal patch.
Trying Marijuana for Diabetes
As was referenced in one of the above studies done on neuropathic pain, patients who vaped THC only needed a small amount to ameliorate their symptoms. You may or may not need a higher dose to manage your diabetes, but any knowledgeable health care professional will instruct you to start low and go slowly. It’s always best if you can find a doctor or other practitioner who specializes in treating patients with cannabis. Even if there aren’t any in your area, many doctors will schedule Skype appointments. If you live in a state where you must have a medical card to purchase cannabis, your doctor can also help you obtain it. Be sure to check the laws in your state before you get started.
- National Diabetes Statistics Report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Diabetes. Mayo Clinic
- Marijuana in the Management of Diabetes. Natural Medicine Journal. Donald I. Abrams, MD, and Clint Werner
- Low Dose Vaporized Cannabis Significantly Improves Neuropathic Pain. The Journal of Pain: Official Journal of American Pain Society. Barth Wilsey, MD, Thomas D. Marcotte, PhD, Associate Professor, […], and Haylee Donaghe, Research Associate
- Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol and Tetrahydrocannabivarin on Glycemic and Lipid Parameters in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel Group Pilot Study. Diabetes Care. 2016
- The relationship between cannabis use and diabetes: Results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III. 2018. Drug and Alcohol Review
- Cannabidiol lowers incidence of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice. 2006. Autoimmunity