CBD and Diabetes
Last updated: March 2022
In a time where medications cost as much as rent or mortgage, and information is plentiful yet unreliable, there are countless remedies being marketed without much evidence to back. A very popular complementary medicine, gaining traction amongst most chronic illness patients is ‘CBD’. What is CBD, why is it gaining popularity and how does it come into play with diabetes? All very important questions and all will be answered in this article.
What is CBD?
CBD is an abbreviation for ‘cannabidiol’, a cannabinoid found in every species of cannabis. The highest potency of CBD is found in the species cannabis ‘Ruderalis’ also known as ‘hemp’. Other species of cannabis, ‘indica' and ‘sativa', have minimal amounts of CBD and higher amounts of other cannabinoids like ‘tetra hydra cannabinol’, or ‘THC'. When people think of the recreational cannabis, that makes them “high”, they are thinking of cannabis that is high in ‘THC’ content, not CBD.1
The important thing to know about CBD is that it is non-psychoactive. Meaning that it won’t get you intoxicated or “high”, like THC. However, it does have a physiological effect on the body as a strong anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant.1 It is for this reason that CBD has been a focus of new research in the treatment of chronic illnesses, especially those with inflammation being a symptom.
Why is CBD popular now?
In the 1930s, cannabis was put under federal prohibition, like alcohol in the ’20s. During this prohibition, it was heavily demonized and prosecuted, specifically for the psychoactive effects of THC. In recent decades, ‘medical marijuana’ has gained both popularity and credibility for its astounding success in managing chronic pain and psychological impairments, like epilepsy. It was then, that CBD became the highlighted compound of the plant and the focus of the research we see today.
In 2018, the FARM bill was passed, making the cultivation of cannabis on US soil federally-legal, once again. That is, given the plant has less than .03% THC by dry weight; specifically for the cultivation of CBD. It’s important to know that cannabis ruderalis (hemp) is one of the most profitable cash crops in history; growing fast and being an excellent raw material for the production of textiles, oils, and medicine. So, the FARM bill opened the lucrative market once again. This time, with an emphasis on marketing CBD as a miracle medicine. An important question: is CBD as miraculous as marketing teams portray it to be?
How does CBD affect diabetes?
CBD is one of the most researched, naturally occurring chemicals, for treatment of chronic illness. It has a lot of promise but a lot more research is needed, especially when it comes to diabetes. In early animal models, it has been observed that "CBD protects against the vascular damage caused by a high glucose environment, inflammation or the induction of type 2 diabetes...and reduces the vascular hyperpermeability associated with such environments.”2 So CBD might not be as effective at reducing your blood sugars as diet or medication. However, it might be beneficial in protecting against the complications associated with the inflammation caused by type 2 diabetes.
While CBD has not been linked to reducing blood glucose levels, it's use as complementary medicine is promising. Recent findings in a diabetic rat model could lead to "...proposing new adjunctive therapeutics to improve cardiovascular function in diabetes."3 The complications that come from diabetes that can be detrimental to a patient's health. Medication that protects the patient against cardiovascular complications is important and CBD seems to be a promising option. Unfortunately, there is still plenty to be learned.
Can one CBD be different from another CBD?
A confusing question, but the answer is yes. Not all CBD is created equal. Something that has been stumping researchers is why some CBD is more effective than others, and others are about as effective as a placebo. A recent meta-analysis of dosages in past CBD clinical trials found that depending on the targeted condition, source of CBD, and dosage; the effectiveness of CBD can be wildly different.4 There has been a suggestion that "full spectrum" CBD is what is most effective, meaning CBD that has other naturally-occurring cannabinoids with it. The issue with this is that it's difficult to regulate consistency among naturally derived CBD. So, from a pharmacological standpoint, prescribed CBD medication could be far away.
You will encounter CBD products in most health food stores, supermarkets, and even gas stations. It is likely that these products do contain CBD, however, they are not guaranteed to have the quality of CBD that is effective at managing inflammation. If you are interested in finding a CBD product that is reputable, safe, and effective your doctor is likely the best person to talk to.
The CBD take away
We are experiencing a new boom of CBD. Hemp has been long suppressed, mainly due to misunderstanding and misrepresentation, but now new research shows it has more promise than ever. As CBD gains popularity, research is confirming its ability to be diverse and effective medicine. However, marketing teams and new commodities are moving faster than research; many products are less effective than claimed.
For diabetics, CBD might be a great option at combating the complications of a high-glycemic system, but should not be a replacement for other managements. If you are interested in CBD as a compliment for your diabetes, contact your doctor. They are likely to have more research and information about what products are the highest quality and most effective.
Author's note: In June of 2018, Epidiolex was the first plant-derived CBD medication approved by the FDA and is the only FDA approved CBD medication to date. The medication is currently used for chronic seizure disorders, with significant success in reducing seizure frequency in clinical trials.5
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