Liver damage and CBD oil
What is CBD oil?
Cannabidiol oil is extracted from the hemp plant, which is in the same family as marijuana. Unlike THC in marijuana, CBD does not cause a “high” or chemical dependence. CBD that is extracted from the hemp plant is legal, but individual states have laws to regulate it.
Because CBD oil is not considered a drug, it can be a common additive in many products. This includes e-cigarettes (vape oil), lotions and various herbal supplements. It has also been shown to relieve symptoms of different disorders like epilepsy, anxiety and multiple sclerosis.
How does it impact the liver?
The few studies performed on how CBD affects the liver are not clear.
In one study, 10% of the subjects developed high liver enzymes—they had to stop using CBD for this reason. Other research suggests that CBD can improve liver function.
As determined by the studies done on Epidiolex®, CBD is metabolized by the liver. People with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) are encouraged to limit over-the-counter (OTC) medications to avoid stressing the liver.
How much CBD is too much?
To further complicate the question, products with CBD oil may not give the exact amount listed on the package. Depending on the brand, the consumer may be using much more or less than they think. This is especially true of OTC supplements and e-cigarettes.
Now that CBD oil is appearing in different products, anyone with liver damage needs to be alert to this. A doctor or specialist should be consulted before adding it to the diet.
The Mouse Study Results on CBD and Liver Damage
Researchers from the University of Arkansas set out to investigate the effects of CBD on the livers of 8 week old mice. The mice tolerated the CBD just fine for the most part, but when given extremely high doses, the results showed signs of liver toxicity.
The researchers repeated the treatment with smaller doses of CBD and found that there were still signs of swelling and damage to the liver.
The study concluded that “CBD exhibited clear signs of hepatotoxicity, possibly of a cholestatic nature. The involvement of numerous pathways associated with lipid and xenobiotic metabolism raises serious concerns about potential drug interactions as well as the safety of CBD.”
The bottom line outcome from the study is that taking too much CBD might lead to liver damage in high enough quantities.
Should You Worry About CBD and Liver Damage?
While the FDA has yet to implement any regulations around CBD and other hemp derived products, more and more people are relying on CBD than ever before as part of their health and wellness regimen. It’s no secret that CBD oil is making a huge impact on many peoples’ lives.
Like any health product though, you should be aware of potential adverse side effects and possible dangers of ingesting anything new into your body. That being said, there are many other medications and herbal supplements that may also cause liver damage in high quantities. So you need to be aware of the proper dosage for any health product you are taking to understand how much is too much.
Many experts have weighed in on the mouse study and its flaws. The main problem with this study is that the initial dose chosen for the investigation was equivalent to 20 mgs of CBD per kg of body weight, which is analogous to those used in clinical trials for the FDA-approved CBD epilepsy drug, Epidiolex. This dose would be equal to a 150 pound human taking over 1300 mgs of CBD!
To put that into perspective, the typical dose of CBD oil users is somewhere in the range of 10 to 80 mgs per day, with slightly higher doses for therapeutic issues or “flare-ups”. As we can see, this study does not mimic the typical usage patterns of most CBD consumers.
The study itself states that their dosages “is not applicable to most real-life scenarios”, but goes on to say that “it does provide critical information regarding the potential consequences of CBD overdose.”
The report further states that “No measurable toxicological responses associated with liver injury were observed in mice gavaged with CBD at 184.5 mg/kg (MED of 15 mg/kg CBD) or lower” and also says that “no significant changes in any of these parameters were observed at lower CBD doses.”
To use another example, we would never expect anyone to suggest taking 100x, 50x or even 20x the recommended dose of Ibuprofen, or any other over-the-counter medication. Most people would scoff at any study that would use those levels to look for potential liver damage.
So Are There Any Dangerous Side Effects of CBD?
While you should not be concerned with liver damage for using CBD, that does not necessarily mean that there are no adverse side effects or dangers when consuming CBD. As stated above, the WHO regards CBD as generally safe and well tolerated by humans, but there are some precautions one should take, just like with any other health product.
Again, dosage is the main determining factor for any side effects of CBD, and while most people report no side effects whatsoever, some who have taken higher doses have reported minor issues such as diarrhea, changes in appetite, fatigue, dry mouth, nausea and vomiting.
One point of concern that some may need to be cognizant of is that CBD may interact with certain prescription medications. Our liver has a group of enzymes called cytochrome P450, which breaks down specific drugs into smaller bits to allow our cells to absorb them better and eliminate them properly. Even though the effects have been shown to be minimal, CBD can inhibit the CYP450 system’s ability to metabolize certain pharmaceutical drugs.