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Is CBD Bad For Your Liver?

Bryan McAllister

By Bryan McAllister

August 23, 2022

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Is CBD harmful to your liver? A quick Google search shows headlines proclaiming both “yes” and “no” with equal conviction, meaning those looking for a solid answer might be left swiftly confused.

At the time of this article’s publishing, current evidence points to CBD not being harmful to the human liver in the proper dosages; in fact, CBD might even help repair damage done by substance abuse such as alcoholism. But does that make CBD completely safe? And why are there those who are worried about CBD’s potential effects on the liver?

As usual, the quest for finding answers to these questions deserves a deeper dive. Let’s take a look at the latest information, studies and facts below.

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Can CBD Be Harmful To The Liver?

This is the big question, and depending on where you look, you’re likely to find some conflicting answers.

To start, most questions revolving around CBD intake and the human liver stem from a

performed by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, aimed at determining overall toxicity rates in mice given large amounts of CBD.

In this study (performed on a group of eight-week-old mice), subjects were given variable amounts of CBD, with those receiving the highest dosages showing signs of liver toxicity including swelling and cell damage. Additionally, those mice given smaller-but-repeated doses of CBD showed similar signs of liver damage.

However, our key phrase for this conversation is “highest dosages.” In the study, mice were given up to the human equivalent of up to 200mg of CBD per kilogram of body weight; in other words, for a 150lb human, this would have been over 1,300 micrograms of CBD, IE: a lot. Given that your average CBD supplement rarely strays beyond even 1,500mg of CBD per container, to reach this level of toxicity in a human would take significant effort (which we absolutely do not recommend testing).

There is also the issue of animal vs. human testing. While laboratory mice work well as a test subject the comparison from animal to human is never perfect, even in species considered our

. Competing (albeit ) studies also show that, when taken orally, routine CBD administration does not damage the liver — and other studies might even prove the opposite.

Our resident medical expert,

, agrees that recommended dosages don’t cause toxicity in healthy adults. “Many studies have looked at this. In healthy adults, at doses usually recommended, CBD doesn’t cause toxicity,” Dr. Bone shared. “There are a few studies and case reports of people using exceedingly high doses of CBD, which resulted in elevated liver enzymes, but these were in mice when given doses of up to 2460mg/kg. The recommended dose in humans is generally 1-10mg/kg.”

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Does CBD Help Damaged Livers?

A

from 2021, produced in part by Sun Yat-sen University, of Guangzhou, China, showed that liver damage resulting through a high-cholesterol diet and alcohol abuse could be prevented by intake of CBD. The eight-week study offered a CBD treatment regiment to a group of mice that had been induced with a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet.

As per the study, the induction of CBD into the mice prevented liver steatosis and oxidative stress, likely through the inhibition of inflammation; an oft-reported benefit of CBD. As inflammation plays a large role in the formation of liver damage, treatment with CBD could provide life-saving benefits for those with alcohol or cholesterol related issues.

Studies have

CBD as having effective results in the treatment of Hepatitis C (a known cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer), inhibiting viral replication rates by nearly 90 percent — likewise, the anti-metastatic properties of CBD (and THC alike) may work to prevent tumor growth in the liver, as been a proven inducer of apoptosis in human cells, IE: terminating cells reprogrammed by cancer.

“A study published in 2019 pointed to CBD as helping to decrease manifestations of liver disease in mice that had induced liver failure,” Dr. Bone stated. “Another article pointed to CBD as effective in reducing liver changes in some alcohol-related liver disease.”

Of course, as with the first study linked above, the caveat of animal testing applies. And, unfortunately, not all CBD products are produced to equal standards, possibly causing issues of their own.

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Is CBD Always Safe To Take?

While no conclusive studies have proven that CBD is harmful to take in sensible amounts, it can be important to remember that the CBD supplement market is largely unregulated, which can lead to health-effecting issues of its own.

As we discuss in our article “

“, current manufacturing standards on CBD (and indeed all cannabis-related subjects) is a largely unregulated and unchecked field. CBD products cross-contaminated with other cannabinoids has occurred, as well as cannabis concentrates tainted with .

Particularly important to the discussion at hand, multiple reports of CBD supplements having incorrect dosage amounts listed on the product have been noted by

, meaning these thresholds of toxicity could become easier to accidentally reach.

Though a well-manufactured and thoroughly tested cannabis product should be safe to take (within reason, of course), making sure you know what you’re getting is important as a consumer.

, proper method of consumption, and publicly available testing records are all smart measures to take when purchasing CBD supplements or any fashion of cannabis goods; to make sure you’re well-versed on proper labeling and how to ensure your cannabinoids come from a trusted source, make sure to check out our guide to reading cannabis labels.

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There’s also the issue of potential interactions between CBD and other pharmaceutical drugs. In the same study from the University of Alabama discussed above, the study also highlights the issue of CBD inhibiting certain enzymes in the body, used to break down other drugs and make them available to the system.

Though

, and this study again tested incredibly high rates of CBD dosages in animal subjects, being aware of potential pharmacological interactions can be important for those taking specific medications, and are a reason we always recommend speaking to your health care professional before beginning treatment with any cannabis product.

Assuming the product you’re taking is safe, accurate and regulated, Dr. Bone shares her personal experience as a physician regarding the safety of CBD. “Overwhelmingly, the data submitted to the FDA on CBD shows that it is very safe and effective,” Dr. Bone explained. “Because it is metabolized through in the liver, there are drug-drug interactions that can happen, but these are not common.”

Dr. Bone concluded, “In my practice of six years, I have never seen a single case of CBD (or medical marijuana for that matter) causing serious medical harm.”

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Wrapping Up

As we like to note in other articles, research into cannabinoids — CBD and otherwise — is still in its early stages, and can often be filled with sensationalized information that doesn’t reflect the reality of taking cannabis products as a medical treatment. Though the headline “CBD Causes Liver Damaging” is an attention-grabbing one, the caveats and details that follow tend to take the major concern away from this particular study.

Though CBD taken in incredibly high doses might potentially lead to liver damage in humans, studies show instead that moderate doses of CBD can offer the exact opposite, potentially giving potent medical aid to those facing liver disease due to toxic consumption habits such as alcoholism. And while there are many unknowns still with the effects of cannabinoid usage, most evidence seems to point to safe, well-regulated consumption as carrying low risks of damage to the human body.

No matter how or what you choose to consume and why, we hope you stay healthy and safe!

Bryan McAllister

About The Author

Bryan McAllister

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
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