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Medical Marijuana and Diabetes: What you need to know

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  • Medical Marijuana and Diabetes: What you need to know

    Despite the ever-growing body of information about marijuana and the health conditions it helps to treat, there is very little scientific data about whether or not the drug offers any benefit to the treatment of diabetes. Within the diabetic population, however, there is a significant amount of anecdotal information suggesting that the use of cannabis might help stabilize blood sugar. This may be because it helps to reduce catecholamines and/or the hormones that cause stress: glucocorticoids.
    According to the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis, cannabinoids, "…act primarily to inhibit prostaglandins and COX-2, while providing powerful anti-oxidant properties to salvage free radicals, and inhibit macrophage and TNF."
    In plain English, this means that marijuana works well as an anti-inflammatory treatment without the side effects of steroids. The latter is important, because diabetics are supposed to avoid steroids. As well, many NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs - things like Tylenol and Aleve) cause liver or kidney issues, which cannabis does not. Since diabetics are prone to arterial inflammation, this property of cannabinoids is of great interest.
    Cannabis has another trait that is helpful to diabetics, though: it is neuroprotective. This means that it helps protect the nerve covering (myelin sheath) from inflammatory attack believed to be caused by glycoproteins in the blood, and reduces the pain associated with this condition, called neuropathy, by activating receptors throughout the brain and body. It's also thought that the anti-spasmodic elements of marijuana - likely cannibidiol - help relieve the muscle cramps and GI upset that many diabetics suffer.
    While marijuana is not believed to offer anti-hypertension aid, it is a vasodilator and helps promote blood flow, and reduce blood pressure. As well, when cannabis is added to food products it improves the levels of key cannabinoids in the bloodstream, and provides (in the form of cannabis butter and oil) a triple-bonded fatty acid in place of the saturated fats normally contained in these products. This is a benefit to arterial and cardiac health for anyone using edible forms of the plant.
    Cooking with cannabis can be extremely beneficial for diabetics, also, because it's far easier to maintain good blood sugar levels when cooking at home instead of eating prepared foods, but cannabis can also be mixed with aloe or emu oil to form a topical cream or salve that will help the neuropathic pain and tingling patients often experience, while smoking or nebulizing marijuana at bedtime can reduce the need for muscle relaxants to ease restless leg syndrome.
    Finally, if overnight hypoglycemia is an issue the patient can nibble a cannabis cookie before bed or first thing in the morning - it's perfectly safe, as long as portion control is exercised.