Worried About CBD Hurting Your Liver? Here’s What the Experts Have to Say
The market for products containing cannabidiol (CBD) — the non-psychoactive, pain-relieving chemical in cannabis — has exploded in recent years, but the product is still relatively understudied.
That’s drawn scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulators as manufacturers make claims on their CBD products that aren’t necessarily backed by science.
Now, a recent mouse study has been making headlines for the findings that taking too much CBD might lead to liver damage in high enough quantities.
Should you be worried? We took a look at the study and talked to experts about what this mouse study can mean for human fans of CBD.
Citing a “lack of comprehensive toxicological studies devoted to CBD safety that are critical for further marketing of CBD and CBD-containing products,” researchers from the University of Arkansas investigated the effects of treatments of various doses of CBD on a group of 8-week-old mice.
While the mice largely tolerated the CBD, those given the highest doses — a human equivalent to 200 mg of CBD per kilogram of body weight of CBD — showed clear signs of liver toxicity, the researchers found.
In addition, repeated doses of a smaller amount of CBD — the human equivalent of around 50 mg of CBD per kilogram of body weight — also showed signs of liver swelling and damage.
“Although (a dose of) 200 mg of CBD per kilogram of body weight is not applicable to most real-life scenarios, it does provide critical information regarding the potential consequences of CBD overdose as well as for doses needed for further subchronic and chronic toxicity studies,” the authors, publishing in the journal Molecules, wrote.
That sounds potentially dangerous, but most experts say there’s no need to panic just yet.
While experts point out patients need to be informed about what they’re getting and what the risks can be, the amount of CBD the animals were exposed to is far higher than what most humans would take.
Dr. Diana Martins-Welch, attending physician in palliative medicine at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York, says even though CBD is ubiquitous, it does “not mean it is safe to take in high quantities, or that it is more effective at high doses.”
“Many people know that taking too much ibuprofen or Tylenol can have detrimental consequences. CBD is no different. Generally speaking, therapeutic CBD doses range from 0.5 mg/kg/day to 20 mg/kg per day,” Martins-Welch explained. “This study in mice used significantly higher doses of CBD than what is usually taken for therapeutic benefit in humans.”
She points out the study shows how — similar to other medications — people need to be careful if they consume high doses of CBD.
“Caution must also be taken when trying to translate the results of this animal study to humans,” Martins-Welch said. “Bottom line: Therapeutic-range CBD is generally safe. Toxicity at high doses is a concern, as is the case with most other medicines.”
Dr. Thinh Vo, director of quality and compliance at Koi CBD, a purveyor of lab-certified CBD products, says CBD users need to remember mice and people are pretty different.
“Mice and humans may share virtually the same genes, but we are different physiologically,” Vo told Healthline.
In addition, he said, “Extrapolation of this research shows no negative effects on a human at the recommended maximum daily dosage of 20 mg/kg.”
And even that is extreme, says Jason Cohen, founder of the CBD company Tesséra Naturals.
“A big caveat to this study is that the mice were given doses that were the human equivalent to the maximum recommended dose of the drug Epidiolex, which is a specific prescription drug meant to treat seizures,” he said.
“To put that in perspective, that would be over 1,300 mg of CBD per day for an adult weighing 150 pounds! This is much higher than the typical daily dose of casual CBD oil users. Most people stick to somewhere in the range of 10 to 80 mg per day, with slightly higher doses for insomnia, therapeutic effects, and flare-ups,” Cohen said.