Marijuana Study Finds CBD Can Cause Liver Damage
Hemp oil, Hand holding bottle of Cannabis oil against Marijuana plant, CBD oil pipette. . [+] alternative remedy or medication,medicine concept
There is no denying that cannabidiol, more commonly referred to as CBD, is rapidly becoming more popular in the United States than sliced bread. It is a hot trend that got started several years ago after Dr. Sanja Gupta showed the nation in his documentary ‘Weed 2’ just how this non-intoxicating component of the cannabis plant was preventing epileptic children from having seizures.
Since then, CBD, a substance often touted as being safer than popping pills, has become highly revered as an alternative treatment for a variety of common ailments from anxiety to chronic pain. But a new study suggests that CBD may spawn its fair share of health issues. Specifically, scientists have learned that this substance could be damaging our livers in the same way as alcohol and other drugs.
Researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences recently rolled up their sleeves to investigate CBD hepatotoxicity in mice. What they found was while this cannabis derivative is gaining significant recognition as of late in the world of wellness, people that use CBD are at an elevated risk for liver toxicity.
The findings, which were published earlier this year in the journal Molecules, suggest that while people may be using CBD as a safer alternative to conventional pain relievers, like acetaminophen, the compound may actually be just as harmful to their livers.
It is the methods used in this study that makes it most interesting.
First, researchers utilized all of the dosage and safety recommendations from a CBD-based drug known as Epidiolex. If this name sounds familiar, it should. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it as a treatment for certain kinds of childhood epilepsy. It was a development that marked the first time in history that a cannabis-based medicine was approved for nationwide distribution in the United States.
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Researchers then spent some time examining mice under the influence of various doses of CBD. Some of the animals received lower doses, while others were given more. The dosage is said to have been “the allometrically scaled mouse equivalent doses (MED) of the maximum recommended human maintenance dose of CBD in EPIDIOLEX (20 mg/kg).”
Shockingly, researchers discovered that the mice given higher doses of CBD showed signs of liver damage within 24 hours. To that end, 75 percent of these animals in the sub-acute phase had either died or were on the verge of death within a few days.
Regardless of your feelings on this particular study, it is hard to argue with dead mice – even if you are an all-knowing marijuana expert.
The photo of liver is on the man’s body against gray background, Liver disease or Hepatitis, Concept . [+] with body problem and male anatomy
Liver toxicity is an adverse reaction to various substances. Alcohol, drugs and even some natural supplements can all take their toll on liver function – even in healthy individuals. But this is the first study of its kind indicating that CBD might be just as detrimental to the human liver as other chemicals.
But come to find out, there has been evidence of CBD’s havoc wreaking ways on the liver for some time.
Lead study author Igor Koturbash, PhD, recently told the health site Nutra Ingredients USA that the risk of liver damage from CBD is a nasty side effect printed in black and white on GW Pharma’s Epidiolex packaging.
“If you look at the Epidolex label,” he said, “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% to 20% of the patients developed elevated liver enzymes and some patients were withdrawn from the trials,” he added.
In other words, anyone taking CBD regularly and in higher doses might unwittingly find themselves on the road to liver disease.
Previous studies have also suggested that certain components of the cannabis plant may be harmful to the liver. Although one study found that marijuana may actually help prevent liver damage in people with alcoholism, in some cases it worsened the condition.
“Patients with hepatitis C who used cannabis had way more liver scarring than those who didn’t and more progression of their liver disease. Something in the cannabis could actually be increasing fatty liver disease,” Dr. Hardeep Singh, gastroenterologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, told Healthline.
But wait, it gets worse.
The latest study also finds that CBD has the potential for herbal and drug interactions. “CBD differentially regulated more than 50 genes, many of which were linked to oxidative stress responses, lipid metabolism pathways and drug metabolizing enzymes,” the study reads.
However, Dr. Koturbash was quick to point out that the CBD products coming to market may not pose this particular risk. What he is sure of, however, is that more research is needed on CBD to evaluate its overall safety.
As it stands, none of the CBD products being sold in grocery stores and malls all over the nation have received FDA approval. And the only CBD-based medicine that has been approved, Epidiolex, is apparently stamped with a big, fat warning of potential liver damage.
Although CBD is often revered as a miracle drug, a new study finds that it could be causing liver damage.
Does CBD Cause Liver Damage?
Dec. 17 2019, Published 2:35 p.m. ET
Excuse the cliché, but unless you live under a rock, there is almost no avoiding CBD lately. The stuff is everywhere — from gas stations pedaling vapes to kiosks in the mall pushing CBD-infused lotions, it’s almost impossible to ignore how popular the cannabidiol industry has gotten recently. This is largely in part to last year’s passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the production of hemp and therefore, the production of CBD as well.
But despite the seemingly overnight increase in popularity of CBD, much still remains unknown about the phytocannabinoid and most importantly, its long-term effects. In the short-term, CBD has been heralded as a miracle catch-all treatment for most physical (and even sometimes emotional or mental) ailments. But despite the benefits of CBD, a recent study found a correlation between CBD hepatoxicity and liver damage in mice. It begs the question — does CBD cause liver damage and if so, do its benefits outweigh its potential negative side effects?
What Is CBD?
CBD is the moniker for cannabidiol, a phytocannabinoid discovered in 1940. Cannabidiol is derived from the cannabis plant, making up about 40 percent of the cannabis plant’s extract. So, why is a plant so popular?
CBD is one of the many compounds that make up the cannabis plant — aka marijuana — but this compound cannot get you high. Tetrahydrocannabinol — or THC — is the chemical compound in cannabis that causes psychoactive effects. Despite its inability to cause a high, CBD has still been making headlines for its potential healing properties as more and more people turn to it to help treat symptoms of anxiety, pain, movement disorders, and cognitive function. It also comes in many forms — oil, tincture, cream, vape, edible, and pill.
According to Medical News Today, CBD oil is commonly used in treating chronic pain, epilepsy, Huntington’s disease, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, and a myriad of sleep disorders. Studies have noted its ability to help mitigate pain associated with cancer, as well as its use as an anti-cancer drug. A review published in Neurotherapeutics found a link between the reduction of anxiety-related behaviors in people with anxiety disorders and CBD. It also found CBD could potentially reduce symptoms for people with related anxiety disorders including general anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
Now, if CBD is derived from the cannabis plant — a substance that is not legalized in all 50 states — then is CBD also illegal? Quite the contrary. CBD-derived products that contain less than 0.3 percent THC are federally legal. Some states, however, may have local-level laws in place that declare marijuana-derived CBD products illegal. If you’re wondering where your state stands on CBD, you can brush up on your state medical marijuana laws (which may also contain restrictions on marijuana-derived CBD products) here.
Are CBD and Hemp the Same Thing?
It’s actually a complicated answer. In short, CBD is derived from hemp, so there are a few key differences. According to CStore Decisions, “Hemp is a strain of the ‘cannabis sativa’ plant species.” Hemp has a lower concentration of THC, which is why it doesn’t provide the psychological high that marijuana does. While it may have lower quantities of THC, hemp actually contains higher concentrations of cannabidiol — also known as CBD.
Hemp is also a multi-faceted substance, as it can be used as a material; clothing, biofuel, rope, insulation, textiles — you name it, and you can make it out of hemp. Hemp even grows quickly and sustainably, making it the ideal option for a plastic alternative. “Plastic” made from hemp is often referred to as “bioplastic.” If you’re wondering why the plastic industry hasn’t been completely taken over by the healthier, more sustainable option of bioplastic, you can thank the plastic lobbyists for that. (At least, this far.) That’s not to say that it won’t eventually. According to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fred, whose speech was picked up by Politifact, “What most people don’t understand is that hemp has 25,000 to 35,000 known usages. That means it is going to be something that is going to replace plastics, and Styrofoam, and concrete.”
You may have also heard of hemp seeds, which can be eaten raw, used for baking, added to beverages like smoothies, or made into an oil. They’re totally edible and are more and more being made into an oil to make use of hemp in the beauty industry. (Think CBD face masks, serums, shampoo, conditioner, body lotions, soap, etc.)
Much like hemp, CBD also can’t get you high. CBD is actually derived from hemp and is a chemical compound called “cannabinoids” originally found in the cannabis plant. The key difference in hemp versus CBD is that CBD is made by extracting the oil and diluting it with a carrier oil. Carrier oils could be coconut, hemp seed oil, avocado, almond, etc.
Are CBD Oils FDA-Approved?
Because the 2018 Farm Bill was recently placed, not much regulation is currently in place for the manufacture and sales of CBD or hemp. Both were previously considered “controlled substances” and since the Farm Bill legalized them, subsequent regulation laws have had a hard time keeping up.
As it stands, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug called Epidiolex. According to FDA, “The FDA has approved Epidiolex, which contains a purified form of the drug substance CBD, for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome in patients two years of age or older.” It’s worth noting that in order to gain approval from the FDA, the drug would have had to go through controlled clinical trial testing and a review process.
The FDA adds, “There are no other FDA-approved drug products that contain CBD. We are aware that some firms are marketing CBD products to treat diseases or for other therapeutic uses, and we have issued several warning letters to such firms.”
The FDA also states that “under the FD&C Act, any product intended to have a therapeutic or medical use, and any product (other than a food) that is intended to affect the structure or function of the body of humans or animals, is a drug. Drugs must generally either receive premarket approval by FDA… or conform to a ‘monograph’ for a particular drug category.”
Can CBD Cause Liver Damage?
Despite studies showing the advantages of CBD treatment for certain issues, a recent study from the University of Arkansas for Medical Science found “that CBD may be damaging to our livers in the same way that alcohol and other drugs are,” according to Lab Roots.
The study involved the aforementioned Epidiolex — the FDA’s only approved CBD drug. Researchers found mice treated with the epilepsy drug were at an increased risk for liver toxicity, despite using the recommended dosage and adhering to safety recommendations on Epidiolex’s label. According to Lab Roots, “When examining the mice with various doses of CBD in their system, it appeared that mice that had consumed the higher doses of CBD showed signs of liver damage in as short as 24 hours.” Those mice died or “were near death” within days.
It’s also worth noting that the label on Epidiolex explicitly states that liver damage could be a side effect of taking this epilepsy medication. According to an interview with Dr. Igor Koturbash, Ph.D., the Epidiolex label “clearly states a warning for liver injury. It states that 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.”
How Does CBD Affect Your Liver?
According to information amassed from clinical trials (on humans) and also the June 2019 study done by researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science, high doses of CBD can adversely affect the liver. In fact, in clinical trials, anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent of patients involved in the clinical trial experienced elevated liver enzymes. While it’s stated on the label that patients’ liver enzymes should be monitored while taking Epidiolex, the effects on the mice who received high concentrations of CBD are a cause for concern for many people.
Per the Mayo Clinic, elevated liver enzymes are an indicator of damage to liver cells or alternatively, inflammation. While temporarily elevated levels aren’t life-threatening, levels that do not even out could cause a health issue. This is because inflamed or injured cells leak those liver enzymes into the bloodstream. The most commonly elevated enzymes found in the liver include Alanine transaminase (ALT), Aspartate transaminase (AST), Alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and Gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT). According to Medical News Today, if the liver is very seriously damaged, it could ultimately result in liver failure in some cases.
CBD has a lot of benefits — but it could also cause some problems, like liver damage.