The science behind CBD for diabetic neuropathy

The science behind CBD for diabetic neuropathy


Founder of the UK Cannabis Social Clubs, Greg is considered an expert on all things cannabis. Greg campaigned for the medical cannabis laws we now operate under appearing on the BBC, in The Times, Telegraph and has been published in the British Medical Journal.

Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that occurs when diabetes causes damage to the nervous system. The condition can affect a number of different nerves in the body, including in the feet, organs, and muscles. This damage can result in pain, tingling sensations, and numbness.

Recent studies have suggested that CBD may help to manage diabetic neuropathy. The cannabis-derived compound has been shown to significantly reduce the pain associated with the condition. Though more research is needed, early indications show that medical cannabis CBD can work with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to lessen pain, reduce inflammation, and improve blood flow.

What is diabetic neuropathy?

Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that occurs when nerves in the body are damaged by diabetes. It can result from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and most often impacts nerves in the feet and legs. Up to 51% of adults with diabetes will go on to develop neuropathy.

There are four main types of diabetic neuropathy. People with the condition can have just one, or any combination of the different types. These are:

Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when there’s damage to the peripheral nervous system. The main symptoms of this type of neuropathy are:

  • Numbness and tingling in the feet or hands
  • Burning, stabbing, or shooting pain in affected areas
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Muscle weakness, especially in the feet

Sensory neuropathy

Sensory neuropathy happens when the body’s sensory nerves become damaged. People with sensory neuropathy can have a reduced ability to sense pain or extreme temperatures. They can also feel pain from something that should not be painful, like a light touch. Some patients may experience unusual sensations like pins and needles, pricks, tingling, and numbness.

Autonomic neuropathy

Autonomic neuropathy occurs when there’s damage to the nerves that manage automatic bodily functions like blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, bowel and bladder movements, and digestion. Common symptoms of autonomic neuropathy include:

  • Dizziness and fainting when standing
  • Difficulty urinating or fully emptying the bladder
  • Difficulty digesting food
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to recognise low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) due to lack of physical warning signs
  • Difficulty regulating body temperature

Motor neuropathy

Motor neuropathy occurs when the motor nerves which control muscle movements become damaged. Symptoms of the condition generally present in the feet and legs and include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of control or coordination
  • Muscle twitching
  • Muscle paralysis

How CBD works to manage diabetic neuropathy

Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is a compound found in cannabis and hemp. When ingested, CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a vast network of chemical signals and cellular receptors that are densely packed throughout our brains and bodies.

The ECS plays a major part in regulating a number of vital bodily functions and responses. These include learning and memory, emotional processing, sleep, temperature control, pain control, inflammatory and immune responses, and appetite.

CBD is a type of molecule known as a cannabinoid (THC is another). Cannabinoids can stimulate the ECS and encourage many of its healing and regulatory properties. Research is still ongoing to find out exactly how CBD interacts with the ECS. However, evidence suggests that it does so by prolonging the life cycle of our own natural cannabinoids, allowing the ECS to absorb more of their beneficial effects. It has also been shown to have a weak binding affinity to both of the ECS receptors, and boosts serotonin production. 

The interaction between CBD and the ECS can produce potentially powerful pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory results for people with diabetic neuropathy. One study published in 2020 showed that the application of topical CBD oil provided significant relief to patients with peripheral neuropathy.

Another study found that patients who took capsules containing 20 mg of CBD three times daily for 28 days had significantly reduced levels of pain. It also found that participants enjoyed clinically significant improvements in sleep quality and anxiety.

CBD products for managing diabetic neuropathy

Studies have shown that both topical and oral CBD treatments can be effective in managing diabetic neuropathy. Topical CBD for diabetic neuropathy can be more suitable in situations when the pain is localised to a particular area, while oral CBD could produce better results when pain or feelings of discomfort are more widespread.

Combining CBD use with other neuropathy management techniques

Because diabetic neuropathy is a complex condition, it often needs a multifaceted approach to treatment. Talk to your doctor about medications that can mitigate your pain or discomfort. CBD products can be used as part of this treatment programme, alongside other alternative therapies like acupuncture.

CBD, and medical cannabis in general, should never be seen as a magic cure-all, no matter the health issue. 

Risks and side effects of CBD use for diabetic neuropathy

Studies researching the links between CBD and diabetic neuropathy have so far found no serious side effects of the treatment. Possible mild side effects could include drowsiness, changes in appetite, irritability, and nausea.


Though research into CBD treatment for diabetic neuropathy is still in its early stages, results are promising. With more studies due to take place in the coming years, it’s possible that CBD products will soon become an accepted method of management for the condition. And thanks to the sweeping changes that are currently underway globally regarding cannabis regulation, access to these products is becoming easier. 

If you’re thinking of trying CBD for your diabetic neuropathy, it’s important to ensure that the product you use is certified and sourced from a reliable source. You should also make sure that you factor in other therapeutic methods (in concert with medical advice) when creating your personal treatment plan, and always speak to your doctor before taking any new medications or supplements. 

Releaf understands the importance of medical cannabis in treating various medical conditions. With our tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, you can access the treatment you need without worrying about the stigma.

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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