Diabetic neuropathy is a form of neuropathic pain. It results from damage done to nerves due to chronically elevated blood glucose levels. Consistently high blood glucose levels are also related to a weakening of the walls of small blood vessels. This weakening can compromise the vessel’s ability to deliver oxygen, sugar, and other vital nutrients to nerve cells.
When compromised in this manner, nerves cease to communicate with the central nervous system in a normal way. As such, people suffering from diabetic neuropathy can experience sharp shooting pains, dull numbing pains, or even complete numbness.
In this article, we discuss some of the common causes of diabetic neuropathy. We will also look at the populations that are most at risk. Finally, we’ll explore what (if any) potential benefits CBD oil has to offer in terms of helping with this condition.
The Four Most Common Types of Neuropathic Pain Associated with Diabetic Neuropathy
The following are four common types of pain associated with diabetic neuropathy. However, patients may suffer from more than one type.
This is the most common form of diabetic neuropathy. It primarily affects the lower extremities (legs and feet). In later stages, however, it can affect the arms and hands as well. Symptoms can include sharp or dull pains, numbness, tingling sensations, and loss of muscle strength in the afflicted areas.
This is nerve damage that occurs in organ systems such as the heart, stomach, intestines, reproductive systems, and eyes. Naturally, nerve damage in any of these areas can cause severe side effects. These include:
- Increased heart rate
- Erratic blood pressure
- Erectile dysfunction
- Inability to control bladder and/or bowel movements
- Difficulty swallowing
- An inability to regulate body temperature
This form of neuropathy is most common in people with Type II diabetes. It affects nerves in the thighs, hips, legs, and buttocks (typically on just one side of the body). Symptoms include atrophy of the leg and thigh muscles, abdominal swelling, and unexpected weight loss.
This is damage to a single nerve. This most commonly occurs in the foot, lower leg, chest/abdomen, and face, and causes extreme and sudden pain.
Risk Factors Associated with the Onset of Diabetic Neuropathy
Research has shown that all of the following may increase the likelihood of developing diabetes-induced nerve damage:
- Smoking: Smoking is known to cause arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which reduces blood flow to the legs and feet.
- Inadequate maintenance/control of blood sugar levels
- The length and severity of a patient’s condition: The longer a patient has had diabetes, the more likely they are to develop some form of diabetic neuropathy.
- Elevated Body Mass Index (BMI)
CBD Oil for Diabetic Neuropathy: What We Know from the Scientific Research
To date, no clinical trials have been conducted on the effects of CBD oil for diabetic neuropathy. Therefore, we can’t make any definitive conclusions about how useful CBD or other cannabis compounds are for treating diabetic neuropathy. The evidence so far mainly stems from speculative research carried out on animal models and/or cultured nerve cells.
That said, the roles of CBD as a neuroprotectant and an analgesic (pain reliever) are well known and well-documented. In fact, the U.S. government holds a patent on cannabinoids for their “application as neuroprotectants … for example, in limiting neurological damage [or] in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.” The patent identifies cannabidiol specifically, as it is “particularly advantageous to use because [it avoids] toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses…”
For these reasons, some speculate that high-grade CBD oil may protect nerve cells from diabetes-induced neuropathy. Others even suggest that CBD could reverse neuropathic damage that has already begun.
Of course, this is only speculation at present; advanced research and data would need to be collected to confirm or deny the assumption. Let’s take a look at a few of the most relevant studies carried out to date.
Relevant CBD Studies
The following cannabinoid and CBD-based studies are relevant to the topic of diabetes-related neuropathic pain. Remember, however, that there is a difference between initial research and advanced clinical trials.
2012 publication in the Journal of Experimental Medicine suggests CBD suppresses inflammatory and neuropathy-induced pain
This study primarily observed the effects of CBD on nociceptive (pain) regulation in rat nerve cells. The researchers found that the active compound acted as an analgesic (pain reliever) for neuropathy-related pain.
Here is a statement released by the lead researchers:
“We report that systemic and intrathecal [spinal cord] administration of cannabidiol (CBD), a major non-psychoactive component of marijuana, and its modified derivatives significantly suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain without causing apparent analgesic tolerance in rodents.”
Based on this statement, it appears that CBD significantly reduces neuropathy-related pain without establishing any serious form of tolerance to the active compound. Drug tolerance is one of the main problems in other neuropathy pain relievers like prescription opioids.
2008 study in Phytotherapy Research shows analgesic effects of Cannabis sativa extract on neuropathic pain in rodent models
This study aimed to identify some of the chemical/physiological mechanisms involved in the cannabinoid-based management of neuropathic pain. The study involved testing of a “rat model of neuropathic pain.”
Researchers found that cannabis extracts provided “better antinociceptive (pain-relieving) efficacy than [a] single cannabinoid given alone.” Therefore, the study demonstrated that the cannabis extract, which contained “multiple cannabinoids,” was more effective than a single cannabinoid.
While the study verified that active cannabinoids are an effective means of addressing neuropathy-related pain, whole-plant extracts are better. Whole-plant extracts include CBD, terpenes, flavonoids, and other natural cannabis compounds. Together, they are more effective than CBD by itself. This has been verified in other studies as well. This phenomenon is known as the entourage effect.
Research on the Therapeutic Value of CBD and its Role in Pain Management
A 2006 study in Current Neuropharmacology suggests that cannabinoid receptors have therapeutic value against neuropathic pain. The study offered a review of existing research on cannabis extracts (including THC and CBD) and their role in treating both acute and chronic pain (including neuropathic pain).
The authors of the study concluded that “cannabinoid receptor agonists have shown therapeutic value against inflammatory and neuropathic pains.” Researchers also noted that these agonists are “often refractory [unresponsive] to therapy.”
Furthermore, the study acknowledged that advanced, “double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials,” were needed to develop a clearer understanding of how exactly the physiological pathway works.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Neuropathic Pain
As we already mentioned, there have not yet been any specific clinical trials carried out on CBD for diabetic neuropathy. There are studies suggesting that CBD can act as a neuroprotectant, and also aid in neuropathy-related pain management. However, FDA-approval and advanced clinical trials would be needed before any definitive claims can be made.
So, will CBD oil work for diabetic neuropathy, and can it help in the day-to-day management of nerve-related pain? While there is no direct clinical evidence on the matter, it is difficult to ignore the fact that CBD is a known neuroprotectant, meaning it can prevent the damage and degeneration of nerve cells. Research also suggests that CBD has nerve-related analgesic (pain-relieving) properties.
For those considering CBD oil for diabetic neuropathy, it’s essential to discuss this with a doctor or medical professional.
Readers may find the following review helpful for more information regarding the use of CBD oil for pain relief. It focuses on the 10 best CBD oils on the market and includes high-quality CBD oil from several reliable brands.