The medical literature has very few citations in regard to any direct effect of cannabis on blood sugar levels. These citations are sometimes contradictory. Despite the lack of research, a large body of anecdotal evidence is building amongst diabetic sufferers that medical cannabis may help stabilize blood sugar. One suggested method that may be responsible is the reduction in catecholamines and/or stress related hormones (glucocorticoids) that is caused by cannabis.
Many cannabinoids act primarily to inhibit prostaglandins and COX-2, while providing powerful anti-oxidant properties to salvage free radicals, and inhibit macrophage and TNF. All of this means that cannabis is an excellent anti-inflammatory that lacks the side effects of steroids (which diabetics have to avoid), the NSAIDS, and the COX-2 inhibitors like Vioxx. This anti-inflammatory action may help quell some of the arterial inflammation common in diabetes.
Cannabis is also neuroprotective. It is believed that much of neuropathy comes from the inflammation of nerves caused by glycoproteins in the blood that deposit in peripheral tissues and trigger an immune response. Cannabis helps protect the nerve covering (myelin sheath) from inflammatory attack. Cannabis also lessens the pain of neuropathy by activating receptors in the body and brain. Some components of cannabis (perhaps cannibidiol) act as anti-spasmodic agents similar to the far more toxic anti-convulsants like Neurontin. This action of cannabis helps relieve diabetic muscle cramps and GI upset.
Two other major actions of cannabis can benefit the diabetic. The first is helping to keep blood vessels open and improving circulation. Cannabis is a vasodilator and works well to improve blood flow. The second action is how cannabis can reduce blood pressure over time. While cannabis is not generally thought to be an anti-hypertensive and is no replacement for ACE inhibitors, it does contribute to lower blood pressure which is vital in diabetes management.
Finally, cannabis used in food products not only provides long lasting blood levels of key cannabinoids but, in addition, cannabis butter and oil substitute triple bonded fatty acids for the saturated fats normally contained in these essential cooking products. This substitution will benefit cardiac and arterial health in general.
Most diabetics learn very early that maintenance of good blood sugar is most easily achieved when patients or their caregivers cook as opposed to eating fast food or prepared foods. Cooking not only provides superior nutrition necessary to treat diabetes but also is a form of physical therapy for diabetic hands that suffer from neuropathy. Of course, diabetics should take caution with any flames or hot objects.
Cannabis may also be used to make topical creams (mixed with aloe vera and/or emu oil) that can be applied directly to hands and feet affected by neuropathic pain and tingling.
Night time can be particularly difficult for diabetics. A syndrome known as “restless leg syndrome” (RLS) is common. Cannabis helps still RLS which is otherwise treated with quinine and/or muscle relaxants like Flexaril. For night time it is recommended that patients use a vaporizer or smoked cannabis to aid in falling asleep. If night time hypoglycemia is a problem then a cannabis cookie can be very helpful. Cannabis cookies are great treatment so long as portion control is exercised.