When Epidiolex, the first cannabis-based medicine approved by the US Food & Drug Administration, hit pharmacies last year, many people safely assumed that cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, won’t do any harm to the liver. However, if you look closely at the label on Epidiolex, you will encounter a few lines talking about its potential harm to the liver.
Many scientists now believe that CBD could damage the liver just like alcohol and other drugs. According to a study by a group of researchers at the University of Arkansas, people who consume CBD are at a higher risk for liver toxicity.
The findings, which were published earlier this year in the journal Molecules, suggest that although people may be using CBD in place of other pain relievers like acetaminophen, the compound may actually be just as harmful to their liver.
For the study, the researchers administered various doses of CBD — technically defined as “the allometrically scaled mouse equivalent doses (MED) of the maximum recommended human maintenance dose of CBD in EPIDIOLEX (20 mg/kg).” — to lab mice.
The researchers were shocked to see that the mice given higher doses of CBD showed signs of liver damage within 24 hours. Furthermore, 75% of these animals in the sub-acute phase had either died or were on the brink of death within a few days.
If higher doses of CBD can kill mice, it’s high time that human beings began looking at the long-term effects of the cannabinoid, especially when even the official drug (Epidiolex) comes with big fat warnings.
Some reports suggest that during the clinical trials of Epidiolex, 5% to 20% of the patients developed elevated liver enzymes, thus forcing a few of them to withdraw.
The latest study also deduced that CBD has the potential for herbal and drug interactions. “CBD differentially regulated over 50 genes, most of which were linked to oxidative stress responses, drug metabolizing enzymes, and lipid metabolism pathways” the study found.