Does CBD cause liver damage?
Both the FDA and non-FDA experts have in the past expressed some concern regarding the potential harmful effects from very large doses of CBD, and one of those concerns is if CBD damages the liver.
We know that the World Health Organization (as well as countless safety studies) have found no safety risks associated with CBD, so where do these concerns about liver damage come from?
And are they supported by the science?
Who Started the Rumor?
Back in 2019, a study from the University of Arkansas was released, and it started a whirlwind. The study asked does CBD cause liver damage, and ‘answered’ (yes, those quotation marks are intentional) it by looking at the potential hepatotoxicity (chemical-driven liver damage) of CBD oil, using mice as test subjects. That’s important – and a problem, but not nearly the only one (but we’ll get to that).
Then there’s the fact that, according to the study, 4.5 mice died from CBD.
Yes, the study notes that 75% of the mice died after receiving a dose much higher than would be recommend for humans. But only 6 mice received that does, and 75% of 6 is 4.5. Obviously there’s something wrong with that…
Then of course you have the dosage. The study dosages ranged from a “low” dose of 246 mg/kg up to a mega-dose of 2460 mg/kg CBD. The doses given to the mice were more than 100 times the recommended daily dose of the prescription-only high-CBD drug Epidiolex, which suggests a maximum daily intake of 20 mg per kg body weight.
Regardless of the flaws, Forbes picked up the study and ran with it. The article stated: “People that use CBD are at an elevated risk for liver toxicity.” And “[CBD] may actually be just as harmful to their livers” as “conventional pain relievers, like acetaminophen.”
And that whirlwind turned into a sh!tstorm, pardon our French.
Does CBD Cause Liver Damage?
Now, as mentioned, the study had major flaws. It tells us exactly nothing about realistic dosing in humans. All it says is that huge doses – again, more than any human would realistically take – are harmful for mice.
But still, the industry saw the repercussions as people picked up the Forbes story and kept it going. Thankfully, enough organizations picked it apart and showed the world why we can’t take it with even a grain of salt, but more was needed to prove it.
Well, now we have that more!
Researchers from ValidCare, a specialist researcher that studies supplements, headed up a study to test realistic doses in humans (not mice), to actually answer the question does CBD cause liver damage. And what did they find?
Well, we’re happy to report that no clinical evidence of liver toxicity was found.
According to ValidCare: “This study was commissioned and designed in response to the FDA’s requests, including the Agency’s March 5, 2020 report to Congress for science-based data, so FDA can confidently determine the appropriate regulatory path(s) for hemp derived CBD products. Preliminary findings show no evidence of liver disease in the 839 participants and no increase in the prevalence of elevated liver function tests when compared to a population with a similar incidence of medical conditions.“
Jeff Lombardo, one of the researchers, notes, “We observed slight, clinically insignificant elevations of liver function tests in less than 10% of consumers irrespective of age, product composition and form, and the amount consumed.”
And, importantly, the 3 participants who did show highly elevated liver enzymes were known to be taking prescription medications proven to elevate those enzymes, indicating a likely cause of the ALT jump in those subjects.
Does CBD Cause Liver Damage: Final Thoughts
Any reports of harmful side effects of CBD, no matter how inaccurate, do damage to the industry. Increased knowledge and destigmatization is crucial to help a greater number of people feel comfortable taking advantage of CBD and all it has to offer.
Despite initial concerns over CBD killing 4.5 mice, thanks to this new research we know that CBD isn’t something to worry about as far as liver hepatotoxicity. And that’s a very good thing.