Can CBD Cause Liver Damage?

Part 4 of our CBD Beyond The Hype series

Yesterday we ran across a Forbes article with a very concerning headline Marijuana Study Finds CBD Can Cause Liver Damage.  We were particularly interested in this story because we haven’t seen a study that said anything overly concerning about the safety of CBD. In fact, The World Health Organization has expressed very little concern about the safety of CBD. We discussed this in our Part 2 blog a few weeks ago.  

What Did The Article Conclude?

“Researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science 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.”

How Does Dosage in the Study Compare to Industry Norms?

The article then compared this study to the maximum dosage for Epidiolex (FDA approved drug for epilepsy) which is 20 mg/kg of weight. This dosage is very misleading on its own because this maximum dosage is already very extreme compared to industry norms. If you weigh 150 pounds, the maximum daily dosage of Epidiolex would be 1,360 mg.  This is almost four bottles in one day of what is expected to be a monthly supply of CBD from most manufacturers. 17 mg is a daily dose for a 500 mg bottle of CBD.  

How Much CBD Caused This Extreme Result?

This was a study with mice, and the dosages that I am disclosing are the human doses not the MED or “mice equivalent”. The article went on to say that the mice that were given higher doses of CBD “had either died or were on the verge of death within a few days.” I looked at the study and found that “high doses” were not based on the maximum daily dosage of 20mg/kg of weight like Epidiolex, they were far greater.  

How High Were The Doses?

So how high were “higher doses”? 100 mg/kg? 150 mg/kg? 300 mg/kg? The highest dose in the study was actually 2,460 mg/kg. Given our prior example of the 150 pound person, this would equate to 167,280 mg of CBD. That is 334 bottles of 500 mg/bottle CBD.  

Did The Study Offer Any Conclusions on Safe Dosage?

What is even more egregious about the article is that the study did state that liver toxicity was not shown at what would be considered extremely high dosage. Of course, this was not included in the article.  

“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”.

This is a massive dose of CBD and not even remotely equivalent to normal dosages of ~17 mg to ~30 mg that is being recommended by most manufacturers.

To be fair, Epidiolex does have a warning for elevated liver enzymes. The FDA approved the drug despite 5%-20% of patients seeing elevated liver enzymes. The recommended daily dosage for Epidiolex is 5 mg/kg per day.  Using our 150 pound person equivalent, that is 340 mg per day which is a very large dose.

There is no question that additional studies will be helpful in educating consumers about CBD, unfortunately this is not one of them. Water can kill you if you ingest more than 1 liter per hour, hyponatremia.  

This article reminds me why we title our blog “Beyond The Hype”. This article is not only misleading, it is grossly misleading and should not have been published with its intended alarm.