Can CBD Cause Liver Damage?

Can CBD Cause Liver Damage?

September 24, 2019

In the summer of 2019, Forbes published an article titled: Marijuana Study Finds CBD Can Cause Liver Damage. Focusing on research from a journal called “Hepatotoxicity of a Cannabidiol-Rich Cannabis Extract in the Mouse Model,” the report was the source of panic and concern for consumers. Find out the truth about this ‘study’ with!


Rebutting Sketchy CBD Findings with Common Sense


For the study, researchers created their own CBD extract and used findings from GW’s Epidiolex clinical trials to give similar doses to mice and then observed the short-term effects. This is the first issue with the study’s premise: as many CBD companies have already found out, isolating cannabinoids is difficult and requires refined methods, which means that just any CBD oil won’t do. Supporting this assertion is the COA provided by scientists, which indicated residual hexane, a known hepatotoxin.


Further, the study’s author used this badly conceived study to claim CBD could be just as dangerous as alcohol or acetaminophen—both of which have safe daily recommended amounts that won’t harm the liver. Further, while alcohol’s abuse is well known and acetaminophen toxicity has replaced viral hepatitis as the most common cause of acute liver failure in the US, CBD has zero abuse potential because it is non-intoxicating, so its users have no incentive to approach similar levels. 


How Much CBD is Too Much?


For this study, researchers established that 20 milligrams per kilogram is the safe maximum daily dose of CBD for their subjects (mice) which can be calculated to 9 milligrams per pound. To put that into perspective, a 100-pound person would need to consume 900 milligrams a day to be considered a dose, meaning that most adults would have to take between one to two full grams of CBD every day. 


After determining their subjects’ dose, researchers tested the effects of giving the max dose in a day, and separately, as well as the effects of giving it for fourteen days in a row. The study was then performed again using triple the recommended safe daily CBD dose and then once more using 10 times the limit.


In the same-day phase of testing, all of the detrimental effects occurred at the 3x and 10x levels. It’s important to note that no negative effects were reported for the recommended safe maximum dose. At the two-week stage of the experiment, detrimental effects were noted only at the highest level. Additionally, the author writes of the findings in such a way that readers are left with the strong implication that CBD killed some of the mice—that simply isn’t the case. 


Per the findings of the study, mice who received the highest dosage group became so lethargic and anemic that the researchers decided to kill them on the third day. Mice who received the lower two levels of dosing exhibited no visible signs of toxicity throughout the two weeks of the experiment.


Just Because a Study is Published Doesn’t Mean its Findings Are Reliable


In consideration of the fact that a maximum recommended dose for CBD has already been determined, it should come as no surprise that amounts higher than that may cause health problems. With products ranging in doses as low as 5 mg/g of CBD,  those who typically use CBD can’t or won’t ever come close to the “maximum” dose utilized by this study. 


In another attempt to mislead readers, the study’s author goes on to highlight the warning on Epidiolex packaging that there is a risk for liver injury because 5-20% of patients in recent clinical trials merely experienced elevated liver enzymes, not liver damage per se. Further, the overwhelming majority of increases in enzymes were seen at the 20mg/kg dose and occurred in combination with Valproic acid, a known liver toxin. 


To support its ‘claims’ the published article cites three specific studies to support its case for elevated enzymes. This logic also has a huge hole in it as all three studies cited included subjects that were exposed to other medications. While the risk of elevated enzymes mostly applies to users who are also taking other medications, it isn’t severe, and the problem resolves itself for most. This truth gets conflated in the study’s findings, where the author goes on to state that all CBD users will develop a disease. This is patently FALSE. In fact, it is well known that CBD can interact with other drugs in the liver and practices are already in place to avoid or minimize negative reactions.


Final Thoughts on CBD Use and Liver Toxicity


While there is little scientific value in this study, one important takeaway for CBD consumers is moderation in all things, including CBD. As long as a reasonable amount of CBD is consumed, and it isn’t taken with other medications, you can minimize the chance of a negative reaction occurring. In fact, even the study’s author begrudgingly admits that there is research to support the many benefits of CBD. Learn more about the positive side effects of CBD with today!

Share Tweet