Over the last few years, CBD has enjoyed a massive spike in popularity. According to New Frontier Data, nearly ⅕ of Americans have now tried CBD, and the analytics firm Market Research Future recently published a report indicating that the CBD market is expected to grow by 125.58% per year until at least 2026.
With ever-greater quantities of CBD on the market and a rapidly growing percentage of the consumer base using this non-intoxicating cannabinoid, it’s natural to be curious about the safety of CBD. Due to various extenuating circumstances, however, research into CBD safety in humans is still in its infancy, and it might be quite some time before we have definitive answers on this subject.
Regardless of our lack of knowledge, speculation on the potential health benefits and risks of cannabidiol spreads like wildfire. Recently, for instance, a study was released indicating that CBD could be harmful to your liver.
Almost at once, thousands of voices on the internet and elsewhere started claiming that CBD is a dangerous substance you should never use. As usual, however, the truth is more complicated than the rumors, and in this guide, we’ll help you understand all the nitty-gritty details and answer the question on everybody’s minds: Is CBD bad for your liver?
CBD: there’s a lot we don’t know
Before we delve into the details surrounding the study in question and provide the truth on this subject, it’s worth exploring the reasons that it’s so hard to provide definitive data on the health risks and benefits of CBD in the first place. There are three main reasons that solid science on CBD is so lacking and speculation on this cannabinoid tends to run wild:
1. Lack of historical studies
Scientists have known about CBD for nearly 80 years, but based on the scientific data currently available, you’d think that this cannabinoid was just discovered circa 2010. That’s because, until around a decade ago, the federal government viewed “cannabidiol” as being essentially synonymous with “marijuana.”
Even though we’ve known that CBD is non-intoxicating for decades, the misguided global efforts associated with the “war on drugs” brought into being a new age of superstition and remarkably unscientific thinking. Just because CBD was from the same plant as THC, the argument went, this cannabinoid was marijuana even though it doesn’t have intoxicating effects.
As any lab or clinical researcher knows, it’s very hard to acquire data on a topic that’s considered taboo by both law enforcement entities and society at large. Though cannabis researchers remained incredibly interested in CBD and its potential beneficial qualities, they were almost entirely prevented from researching this cannabinoid until the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill.
2. Ongoing regulatory hurdles
This piece of legislation redefined Cannabis sativa containing less than 0.3% THC as “industrial hemp,” leading to the development of a much more relaxed and rewarding research environment surrounding CBD. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill four years later, research into CBD became even easier since this legislation firmly separated CBD from the DEA’s definition of marijuana, but it’s still hard to conduct large-scale clinical studies into this cannabinoid.
That’s because, despite now knowing what cannabidiol “isn’t,” We still don’t know exactly what this cannabinoid “is” from a legal and regulatory perspective. Is CBD a supplement, a drug, or something else entirely? No one really knows because critical federal agencies such as the FDA have yet to provide official rulings on how CBD should be viewed and regulated.
3. CBD “gag orders”
As a result, CBD researchers are still unsure whether the substance they’re researching is a harmless supplement or an illegal drug, and consumer sentiment toward CBD remains mixed due to the lack of definitive regulatory action by the federal government. While research into CBD has certainly increased in pace over the last few years, clinical studies remain rare, and studies performed on animals will never provide the fidelity of data that can be derived from research performed on human subjects.
To make things even more complicated, the sharing of information regarding CBD has also been curtailed by the unresolved regulatory environment this cannabinoid inhabits. Sellers of CBD, such as Secret Nature, are prevented from making claims regarding the potential health benefits of CBD, which in itself is not that unusual within the supplement industry.
What’s different about CBD, however, is that manufacturers of this substance appear to be prevented from even intimating that CBD may be useful for certain purposes. No matter how vague, indirect, or open-to-interpretation a claim may be, prominent legal minds within the cannabis sphere advise brands that claim of any kind may invite legal action from the FDA.
The result is that CBD consumers are prevented from gaining the knowledge they need to make informed decisions, and CBD producers are prevented from sharing applicable data with consumers. With the details surrounding this situation in mind, it’s easy to understand why there’s such controversy regarding whether CBD may be harmful to your liver.
CBD drug interactions and liver enzymes
With that out of the way, let’s start examining what we do know and can say about how CBD affects your liver. To separate fact from fiction on this subject, we’ll first need to take a look at how CBD interacts with your liver in general before we explore any potentially harmful interactions.
Like many drugs, supplements, and other substances, CBD metabolizes into your system using enzymes within the P450 family, which are produced by your liver. CBD is metabolized primarily by an enzyme called CYP3A4, and it’s been demonstrated that CBD can inhibit or disable this enzyme at high doses.
Unfortunately, CBD isn’t the only substance metabolized by CYP3A4. Nearly 60% of prescription drugs on the market also rely on this enzyme for proper metabolism, meaning that CBD disabling CYP3A4 can lead to serious drug interactions.
If CBD, for instance, makes it hard for your digestive system to metabolize your cholesterol medication, the compounds in your prescription drug could accumulate in your fatty tissues and cause liver damage. Keep in mind, however, that this type of potential liver damage isn’t caused directly by CBD but by its interaction with other drugs.
How does CBD affect your liver?
Now that you have a basic idea of how CBD interacts with your liver, it’s easier to understand why there might be concern regarding CBD and liver toxicity. Like any new substance that’s gaining popularity on the consumer market, it’s essential that we do our due diligence as a society and investigate CBD to the fullest. Thanks to the factors we listed earlier, however, the capacity for such research is unreasonably diminished, causing consumers to jump on any evidence on CBD’s potential health risks and benefits that they might come across.
One such tantalizing tidbit made its appearance in mid-2019. In a study conducted on mice, doses of CBD compared to the highest recommended dose of Epidiolex (the lone CBD-based drug yet approved by the FDA) caused an increase in liver enzymes. But wait, didn’t we just learn that CBD inhibits the activity of enzymes in your liver? Yes, that’s true, but heightened levels of enzymes can be an indicator of liver damage.
Let’s take a moment to put all of this into perspective. A single laboratory study conducted on mice (not humans) indicated that inadvisably high doses of CBD can cause increases in liver enzymes, which might be (but is not necessarily) a sign of liver damage. That’s certainly some compelling evidence that we should look at thoroughly. That’s not, however, how this story was reported.
Dozens of news publications ran headlines indicating that “CBD causes liver damage” and cautioned consumers not to use this cannabinoid. Buried somewhere in the last few paragraphs might be a mention that this study was conducted on animals and that its results had not been corroborated with further research.
CBD is currently a hot topic, and publishers wasted no time capitalizing on this newest chapter in the cannabidiol saga. As a result, many consumers may have been dissuaded from using CBD prematurely, and we got no closer to truly understanding the details surrounding CBD and the potential benefits and risks of this cannabinoid.
Why CBD quality matters
In the end, we still don’t know whether CBD can cause liver damage. Further studies need to be conducted, preferably on human beings, that use a wide variety of doses instead of only the maximum allowed dose. We also need to make certain that the heightened liver enzymes noted in the study in question were actually caused by liver damage and not some other factor.
While we wait, there are certain ways that we can make sure our experiences with CBD remain safe and beneficial. Regardless of the potential liver-harming or even liver-boosting effects of CBD, we can protect ourselves from danger by only using CBD products that take quality seriously.
Research indicates that chemical pesticides can cause serious liver damage that can even lead to liver cancer. Many hemp producers don’t use pesticides on their plants, which is a good first step.
Hemp that is grown outdoors, however, can be exposed to pesticides used in neighboring agricultural operations. That’s why choosing CBD products made with indoor-grown hemp is the safest option.
Many chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and other agricultural chemicals contain heavy metals that seep into the soil. Over time, heavy metals can accumulate in your liver and cause fatty liver disease or even liver-related autoimmune problems.
In addition to liver damage, heavy metals are also neurotoxic and can cause degenerative nervous system conditions. The best way to avoid heavy metals in CBD is to use cannabidiol products derived from indoor-grown hemp.
You shouldn’t have to guess when it comes to heavy metal or pesticide exposure that could hurt your liver. Ethical CBD companies provide third-party lab reports proving that their products don’t contain any contaminants. Always look for lab testing when you buy CBD products.
Trustworthy hemp companies will be straightforward about their hemp sources and the manufacturing processes they use. The more information that a CBD brand provides about their methods, the better, and remember that you can always contact the manufacturer of a product you’re considering if you still have questions.
CBD and your liver: the bottom line
In the end, is CBD bad for your liver or not? We simply don’t have enough data to tell. While one animal study showed that CBD might cause symptoms that can sometimes be indicative of liver damage, other studies have provided findings that stand in stark opposition to this position. More research needs to be done, and the curtain of secrecy caused by ineffective regulation needs to be pulled back from the CBD industry on the whole.We invite you to think about this subject deeply, and if you have any insights you’d like to share, don’t hesitate to contact us. Secret Nature remains fully committed to protecting your safety as you enjoy everything that CBD has to offer, and regardless of what the future may bring, we will remain as honest, transparent, and informative as possible as we bring you the latest on CBD and how this cannabinoid may affect your health.