Cannabidiol, known as CBD oil, is often regarded as a cure-all health product. CBD oil, which comes from cannabis, is used by people who believe it can do everything from helping with chronic pain to dealing with symptoms of epilepsy.
Selling CBD oil has become big business, but as a relatively new trend in the natural and alternative health world, there’s still a lot of research that needs to be done on its efficacy and potential health risks.
Recently, a study came out that indicated CBD could be potentially harmful to the liver.
What Is CBD?
Before delving into the study linking CBD to potential liver damage, it’s important to understand what CBD oil is.
Cannabidiol is a cannabinoid that’s not psychoactive. It’s extracted from the hemp of a cannabis plant and it doesn’t make you feel high like marijuana, because it contains little if any THC. Many products are infused with CBD oil including tinctures, edible products, capsules and topical creams.
In December of last year, a farm bill passed that made the industrial hemp industry legal and by 2022 it’s anticipated that CBD sales in the United States will soar to $22 billion.
The concept of CBD having positive health effects isn’t without merit. For example, in the summer of 2018, a company called GW Pharmaceuticals received approval for a drug called Epidolex, which is a CBD-based oral medication used to help with the treatment of two forms of epilepsy with onset in childhood. That marked the first time the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a drug that was from cannabis.
There have also been several studies showing positive links between the use of CBD and improvements in conditions like chronic pain and glaucoma.
CBD has become particularly relevant amid the opioid epidemic, where there is a push to move away from dangerous and possibly deadly pharmaceuticals.
What Did the Research Say?
While there are a lot of promising findings relating to the use of CBD, it’s not all good news. Researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences did a study looking at possible liver damage in mice linked to CBD. The research, published in the Molecules Journal, showed that people using CBD might be at higher risk for liver toxicity.
Researchers used all guidelines and safety recommendations for the Epidiolex drug to conduct their study. Mice that were administered high levels of CDB showed liver damage symptoms within 24 hours and 75% of those animals died or were close to death within a few days.
The study was shocking. It was the first of its kind to show the potential for liver toxicity with CBD, particularly liver damage on-par with other medications.
Journalists found that liver damage is a potential side effect named on the packaging of Epidiolex. The packaging states that patients’ liver enzymes need to be monitored while they’re on the medication and in the drug’s clinical trials, anywhere from 5% to 20% of patients showed elevated enzyme levels.
CBD advocates say the study is misleading. They point out that the study was on mice, which isn’t indicative of the possible effects of CBD on the human liver. They also say that people aren’t ingesting 0.25% of their body weight in CBD, as was the case with the animal study.
Researchers are urging caution, however. There is a lot of research that needs to be done to determine the safety of CBD oil on its own, as well as in combination with other herbs and medications.
Adams, Mike. “Marijuana Study Finds CBD Can Cause Liver Damage.” Forbes, June 18, 2019. Accessed July 16, 2019.
Somerset, Sara Brittany. “Can CBD Cause Liver Damage?” Forbes, July 11, 2019. Accessed July 16, 2019.
Williams, Sean. “Is CBD Bad For Your Liver? The Shocking Findings of 1 New Study.” The Motley Fool, June 22, 2019. Accessed July 16, 2019.