Is CBD really toxic to the liver? - Hoo Raa

CBD 101

Is CBD really toxic to the liver?

Don't believe the hype

All hail CBD as an all-natural alternative for a wide variety of conditions ranging from epilepsy to anxiety. Right now, CBD products continue to flood the health and wellness space throughout the US. As this goes on, companies are marketing this naturally occurring compound as a safe, non-toxic remedy with no adverse, long-term side effects. 

Cue the gulp moment then, because an alarming Forbes article published in 2019 made sensational claims that CBD “could be damaging our livers the same way as alcohol and other drugs.” The article written by Mike Adams was based on a study of CBD and liver toxicity that was conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock. 

First off, you need to know that the study has been widely debunked by multiple scientific communities since 2019. Yet, like a persistent wasp attack, the unsupported liver toxicity claim continues to pop up from time to time throughout news media outlets and from pro-cannabis prohibition guys. But we’re here to put your mind at ease about CBD safety. Here’s your closer look at how these claims were debunked in 2019 and the current literature available on CBD and liver toxicity. 

The Significant Flaws Discovered In the CBD Liver Toxicity Study

cbd liver study

If you fancy reading it in full, check out the study in Molecules, a journal published by the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute. This shows how the preclinical study has exaggerations and problematic statements showcasing its many flaws. Our BFFs over at Project CBD did a wonderful job analyzing this study and explaining the unreasonable experiment design as well as false claims. If you want a snippet of that, here’s why the Little Rock study is flawed and doesn’t have evidentiary support for CBD and liver toxicity:


  • An impossible claim made in the abstract: The abstract states that with the chronic administration of CBD, “75% of mice gavaged with 615mg/kg developed a moribund condition.” However, there were only 6 animals that received this dose– 75% of six equals 4.5. So, tell us, how did 4.5 mice die from CBD
  • Experiment design dosage flaw: The scientists force-fed a reportedly low single dose of CBD of 246 mg/kg up to a mega-dose of 2460mg/kg of CBD. That means that the scientists gave the mice about 2.5 grams of CBD for every kilogram of body weight. The maximum human dose recommended for CBD isolate Epidiolex is 20mg/kg which FYI, is over a hundred times less than what this study experimented with.
  • CBD extraction: The CBD used in this experiment had been extracted using a hexane solvent from cannabis that was supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This is not good, since hexane is a neurotoxin.
  • Poor study citations: The scientists disregarded all positive CBD studies by only citing in vitro research, claiming that “numerous reports have demonstrated neurological, cardiovascular and reproductive toxicities after CBD use.” However, eight of the nine sources they cited were animal studies. The only citation based on human research upon review did not show any toxicity whatsoever. They also omitted facts from other study citations in their quest to support their claim.  
  • Peer review turnaround time: The turnaround from submission to acceptance of the study in the scientific journal Molecules was 18 days which is super quick for a peer-reviewed article. The citations were viewed on the same day that Molecules accepted the article. This means that a revisited draft was submitted and accepted on the same day! We ask, how was a proper peer review actually performed at this time? 
  • Another similar flawed article was published: The same journal published a second flawed study about a month later regarding CBD liver toxicity. Yet again, the researchers also used a CBD that was extracted with harmful hexane. In this study, the mice were administered high doses of CBD and also injected with 400mg/kg of acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is already widely known to significantly stress the liver on its own. This equals a significant flaw in the study design.

The Existing Science On CBD and Liver Toxicity

cbd liver toxicity debunked

If we head to existing literature, it does showcase that high doses of CBD (as in, around 20-50mg/kg) can cause issues with the liver under certain circumstances. Clinical trials from Epidiolex have shown that CBD can inhibit drug-metabolizing enzymes (similarly to grapefruit), but this is usually when taking hundreds or thousands of milligrams of CBD per day, which you’ll agree, is kind of unlikely. 

In other news, an elevation in liver enzymes has been reported when combining CBD with certain drugs like valproate. While liver stress can be caused by CBD’s interactions with other drugs, it is temporary and resolved when people either stop taking CBD or reduce their dosage while on other medication.       

Also, let’s be clear – liver stress and liver damage are two very different things. Elevated enzymes indicate stress that could cause damage if continued. However, there are no reports or existing studies that show any lasting damage or harm when CBD or the medication is stopped.  

Did you know? Some people get the therapeutic effect when using CBD in a comprehensive treatment plan, others decide to transition from their pharmaceuticals to only CBD, or vice versa. In a survey from Brightfield Group and HelloMD, 42% of people using CBD stopped using traditional medicine. This one is on you, but whatever you decide to do, be smart and do it under the guidance of your healthcare professional.  

CBD Safety and Research

cbd safety research

This one is about baby steps, as CBD science is still widely in its infancy. We know significant strides in research are needed before any conclusive claims can be made. On the other hand, what we do know is there is no known risk of liver toxicity with CBD. 

If you’re currently taking medication, it is crucial to speak to your doctor before trying CBD. While CBD may be safely taken with certain medications, it is important to it under doctor supervision. Monitoring your liver enzymes while taking CBD with medication is a good preventative measure that you’ll want to discuss with your healthcare provider. For more information regarding CBD drug interactions and safety just contact us!

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