CBD Liver Study [Inside Scoop]

CBD Liver Study: Misleading

A recent study from the University of Arkansas, is claiming that, like alcohol, CBD can cause liver damage. As you can imagine, this is causing quite the buzz, prompting headlines from respected websites, such as Forbes, who released this article: "Marijuana Study Finds CBD Can Cause Liver Damage". The researchers findings come from dosing mice with extremely high levels of CBD, only to have some of them die within 24 hours.

Before we dive into this further, let's just remember three things:

  1. There have been zero cannabis-related overdoses to date.
  2. No one has ever overdosed on CBD.
  3. Creating fear in the public surrounding anything 'cannabis' is not a new concept.

Let's take a look at this study.

"Hepatotoxicity of a Cannabidiol-Rich Cannabis Extract in the Mouse Model," is the title to the study that was published in the journal Molecules earlier this year. As the study suggests, 8-week old mice were used to examine CBD toxicity of the liver based on varying doses. The study included both acute (all at once) and sub-acute (over a period of time) phases.

The researchers based their study off of a GW Pharmaceuticals CBD-based drug, which is the first and only FDA-approved drug that is derived from cannabis.

This CBD-drug is a manufactured patented mix of compounds that include cannabis-derived CBD-isolate. The development of the drug was created for children with seizure disorders who were not responding to available medications.

How did they calculate the dosages?

The researchers used "allometrically scaled mouse model equivalent doses of CBD" on the mice. In other words, the doses were supposedly proportional to the FDA's CBD drug "maximum recommended human dose" of 20 mg/kg.

The first problem here is that if the researchers were basing the maximum human dose at 20 mg/kg, then simple math would tell us that the dose for the mice would be much, much smaller.

Instead, in the acute phase, the 8-week old mice were given doses of up to 2,460 mg/kg at one time. (This amount is 123 times the maximum human recommended dose.) The mice at the highest doses of CBD showed increased liver-to-body weight (LBW) and elevated ALT and AST, which are serious enzyme markers for liver damage.

In the sub acute phase, the 8-week old mice were given up to 615 mg/kg for 10 days. The mice with the highest doses of CBD were experiencing liver damage in less than a day. And within a few days, 75% of the mice were either dying or dead.

Are we really surprised? 8-week old mice died after being given 30x the recommend human dosage amount.

Liver Enzymes and CBD

CBD and the Liver

It's no secret that one of the only known "side effects" of CBD is tied to the liver. A family of liver enzymes (CYP450) is responsible for metabolizing certain compounds that pass through the liver, including many common medications.

At sufficient doses (a few hundred milligrams), CBD inhibits (temporarily deactivates) these enzymes, thereby altering the process in which the liver processes these medications. 

In addition to temporarily deactivating medications, the liver enzymes, ALT and AST, have been shown to reach elevated levels when combining certain medications with CBD. This elevation can be a marker for liver stress as well as potential liver damage. Clinical trials for the FDA's CBD drug revealed that elevated liver enzymes are one of the drug's most common side effects.

Dr. Igor Koturbash, the lead researcher in the Arkansas study, knew about side effects as he told Nutra Ingredients USA, "If you look at the label, it clearly states a warning for liver injury. It states you have to monitor the liver enzyme levels of the patients. In clinical trials, 5 percent to 20 percent of the patients developed elevated liver enzymes, and some patients were withdrawn from the trials."

This is precisely the reason that the FDA's CBD drug has a maximum recommended dose of 20 mg/kg per day for humans with healthy livers

CBD and Liver Enzymes

Is Liver Toxicity From CBD Real?

Ingesting extremely high amounts of anything has potential to cause adverse effects. The liver is responsible for breaking down pretty much anything that passes through the body. If we treat it poorly, it is sure to react poorly. This includes irresponsible amounts of CBD.

Dr. Pal Pacher, a senior investigator for the National Institutes of Health, who also researches CBD is quoted in an email to CBDSnapshot.com, "Just for a moment, think about this - the most commonly used over-the-counter analgesic, paracetamol/acetaminophen/Tylenol, at ten times exceeding the recommended dose would induce liver toxicity in lots of people, in some even liver failure. exceeding the normal dose would induce liver failure in most human subjects."

"Another analogy," Pacher adds, "most conventional antiepileptic drugs would very likely kill you even at doses 20 to 50 times above their recommended dose.... This paper is a perfect illustration why very rigorous quality control and regulation would be required with all cannabis-based medicines."

Pacher also told CBDSnapshot.com that another issue, not spoken about in any of the recent shock-inspiring articles, was the fact that the Arkansas study's CBD-rich concentrate included 1.69 percent THC. "They used cannabidiol-rich extract, which contains THC, which is known to promote liver injury through activation of cannabinoid one receptors in the liver," he says. "Given the extremely high doses used, the amount of THC in their extract is biologically quite significant."

Is there cause for concern?

This isn't the first time that a study with questionable methods aims at making a claim that CBD is toxic. It surely will not be the last. Just like prescription drugs, alcohol, food, herbs, and water, too much of anything can be harmful to your health.

A few things can be taken away from this study: First, there is no legitimate reason in which any human (or animal for that matter) should take 100 times the recommended dose of anything. A dose of over 2,400 mg of CBD into an eight-week-old mouse should be deemed animal cruelty.

Second, we will see plenty more studies on CBD and its effects for years to come.

And third, until regulations are put into place where quality standards, testing, drug interaction information and across-the-board dosing recommendations exist for the CBD market, we are sure to be inundated with questionable studies, safety debates and more melodramatic anti-cannabis propaganda.

At Ananda Hemp, we take our responsibility to our customers very seriously. We strive for complete transparency and safety with all of our products. We offer third party testing to show exactly what is in each batch of our hemp extracts. Our recommended starting dose is between 10-15 mg. From here, we suggest slowly titrating up until the desired result is met. For more information on CBD and dosage, please look here.

To your health and happiness, always!