EducationHow medical cannabis may ease the symptoms of diabetes type 2 

How medical cannabis may ease the symptoms of diabetes type 2 

8 min read

Sam North

How medical cannabis may ease the symptoms of diabetes type 2 
Type 2 diabetes is the most commonly occurring form of the disease. Unlike type 1 diabetes, which results in sufferers being unable to produce insulin, type 2 diabetes causes the body to respond abnormally to insulin, ensuing in insulin resistance. People with type 2 diabetes will see the level of sugar (glucose) in their blood become too high, which, if left unmanaged, can result in serious, long-term health issues.


In most cases, type 2 diabetes is managed with a mix of lifestyle changes and oral medication. Sometimes people with the disease will eventually require insulin injections. By exercising more, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and reducing stress, people with type 2 diabetes can often live healthy, active lives.

One new, complementary treatment option that may help with the reduction of type 2 diabetes symptoms is medical cannabis. Studies have shown strong links between taking medical cannabis, and other cannabis-derived products, and improved type 2 diabetes management. Though more research is needed to confirm this link, there’s a growing body of evidence showing that cannabis very well may help with the symptoms of type 2 diabetes and improve the quality of life for people living with the condition.

The science behind cannabis and type 2 diabetes

Native to Central or South Asia, cannabis sativa L. has been used for recreational, therapeutic, and ritualistic purposes for thousands of years. However, due to the legal standing of the plant globally over the past century or so, very little research has been carried out into its potential therapeutic or medicinal uses, including possible treatments for diabetes.

Cannabis contains around 113 known phytocannabinoids, as well as a huge range of secondary compounds. Two of the most abundant cannabinoids produced by the vast majority of cannabis strains are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabinoids are molecules that interact with our endocannabinoid system (ECS), a vast network of receptors and signalling chemicals that are spread all over the body. Only discovered in the late 1980s, medical researchers now believe that the ECS plays the role of “master regulator”, maintaining homeostasis and balance throughout the body.

The ECS regulates and controls many of our most important bodily functions. It’s responsible for areas as diverse as learning and memory, emotional processing, sleep, temperature control, pain control, inflammatory and immune responses and eating. Our bodies produce their own cannabinoids to stimulate the ECS. Because cannabinoids like THC and CBD also stimulate the ECS, they can help to promote its healing effects and keep the system balanced.

What are the potential benefits of cannabis for diabetes type 2?

Both THC and CBD can have a significant effect on the ECS. This, in turn, means that they may have an impact on a number of diseases and chronic conditions, including diabetes. 

Studies have indicated that people suffering from type 2 diabetes who use CBD may fix an endocannabinoid imbalance that makes it harder for them to lose weight. This is critical as obesity can make the symptoms of the disease a lot more severe and accelerate the progression of the condition.

There is also some evidence that CBD may help to reduce insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the main mechanism that causes the disease to progress, so reducing it may help people with type 2 diabetes live healthier lives for longer. What’s more, a 2012 study published in BMJ Open found people who taken cannabis had 58% less chance of developing diabetes in the first place.

A 2016 study found that CBD and another cannabinoid known as tetrahydrocannabivarin, or THCV, decreased blood glucose levels and increased insulin production in people with type 2 diabetes. THCV in particular significantly decreased fasting plasma glucose. This could indicate a possible new therapeutic agent for glycaemic control.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, there are no clinical studies looking at the impact of THC on sufferers of diabetes type 2. There is at least one large-scale study being conducted out of the University of California, San Diego in collaboration with the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, but we are still awaiting the results. 

The role of cannabis in managing diabetes type 2 symptoms

So, how can cannabis help manage diabetes type 2 symptoms? Though research is still ongoing, evidence suggests that cannabis may be effective in managing many of the most uncomfortable and serious secondary symptoms of the disease. The American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC) claims that research shows cannabis can:

  • Stabilise blood sugars
  • Reduce the arterial inflammation common in diabetes through anti-inflammatory action
  • Reduce the pain of neuropathy by activating receptors in the brain and body
  • Relieve muscle cramps and the pain of gastrointestinal disorders
  • Keep blood vessels open and improve circulation
  • Contribute to lowering blood pressure
  • Improve sleep

However, it’s important to note that while many of these claims are supported by anecdotal evidence, more clinical research is needed into cannabis diabetes benefits to confirm the findings.

Diet and lifestyle changes in conjunction with cannabis use for diabetes type 2

Lifestyle is incredibly important when it comes to managing type 2 diabetes. Exercise helps to make the body more sensitive to insulin. Doing regular exercise can actually reduce the demand for insulin in the body and help reverse type 2 diabetes. A study published in 2015 showed that, after six months of improved diet and exercise, 67% of participants were able to achieve partial remission of their type 2 diabetes.

Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is also indispensable for people with type 2 diabetes. As well as controlling weight, a balanced diet full of fruit, veg, and whole foods can help prevent blood sugar spiking and give people with diabetes the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Some recent studies have shown that CBD can act as an appetite suppressant and aid weight loss. Taking a CBD-based supplement could therefore help people with type 2 diabetes to implement these important lifestyle changes.

Risks and side effects of cannabis use for diabetes type 2

Smoking medical cannabis is not recommended for anyone with type 2 diabetes. Smoking can aggravate the condition, worsen symptoms, and harm long-term outlooks for people with the condition.

However, taking good quality supplements that contain CBD has very few side effects. Some people who take CBD may feel a little drowsy or irritated. Some may also experience nausea, dry mouth and changes in appetite.

You can minimise possible side effects by taking supplements that clearly state their CBD content on the label. This will help you to control the dosage and find the level of CBD that’s most beneficial for you.

The true plethora of medicinal cannabis administration methods in the current day makes smoking medical cannabis unnecessary, especially with the rise of vaporising technology. 

The legal and regulatory status of cannabis for diabetes type 2

Cannabis is illegal for recreational use in the UK, while medical cannabis is still extremely restricted and only prescribed for certain conditions. At the moment, it’s not available for people with type 2 diabetes. However, people living with type 2 diabetes can gain some of the diabetes benefits of cannabis by taking supplements derived from the plant, like CBD oil.

In the future, it’s possible that cannabis will be made available for people with type 2 diabetes. So, if you think you could benefit from taking medical cannabis, talk to your doctor about your options.


Recent research shows real potential for treating the symptoms of type 2 diabetes with cannabis and cannabis-derived products. From suppressing the appetite and boosting blood flow to increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin, cannabis could help people living with type 2 diabetes manage their condition and live healthier lives.

At the moment, scientists around the world are looking closely at the way cannabis interacts with the body and affects its functions. With some of this research focused on possible treatments for type 2 diabetes, it may only be a matter of time before we have a cannabis-based medication for this chronic health condition.

Don't let the stigma surrounding medical cannabis prevent you from getting a suitable treatment. Releaf provides tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, all based on your medical cannabis prescription.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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