Because the U.S. is so far slow to do any real regulation on CBD and other non-cannabis-derived cannabinoid products, there...Read more
In April of this year, researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences put out a study on the effects that high doses of the CBD drug Epidiolex had on the livers of mice, a.k.a. CBD’s hepatoxicity. Published in the journal Molecules, the study noted a high percentage of mice whose livers were very adversely affected, including a few who ultimately died. Despite the fact that the study was highly specific and quite limited in scope, a Forbes writer published a response to it in June claiming that it showed CBD “could be damaging to our livers in the same way as alcohol and other drugs” and that it potentially posed major health risks. Naturally, it put people on alert and brought up a lot of questions.
No alarm necessary
Many articles and experts in medicine and the CBD field have come out since the first Forbes piece’s publication refuting the claim (including a second Forbes article by a different writer), stating that CBD does not cause liver damage and it’s important to understand why as well as to unpack all the factors involved.
1. The maximal CBD dosage was more than maximal. The mice in the study were given the “allometrically scaled mouse equivalent doses of the maximum recommended human maintenance dose.” But they dosed 0.25% of the mice’s body weights, or about 615 mg/kg, as the maximal dosage, which is so much more than a human would ever normally take. Typical starting doses for people with anxiety, for instance, are usually around 0.5 mg/kg per day and the maximum recommended dose for Epidiolex for humans is only 20 mg/kg. The mice were given over 30x that amount! It’s no surprise, then, that there would be adverse effects.
2. We’re talking about mice, not humans. The physiologies of mice and humans are significantly different from each other and many more control factors would have to be set in a study to provide a clear comparison.
3. The CBD sample size was small. Only six mice were given the maximal dosage, which is far too small a test size to make significant conclusions that scale.
4. Epidiolex is a specific drug. Epidiolex is a CBD isolate specifically engineered for people with epilepsy, and therefore, made to counteract the physiological responses and reactions that occur during and around epileptic seizures. It is not made for bodies whose physiology is not affected by epilepsy, and the structure of Epidiolex is different from the structure of recreational CBD. So, we really can’t make too broad comparisons.
5. Past studies have found CBD to be helpful in treating liver damage. In doses not at a maximal level, CBD has been found by researchers to conversely help the cognitive function and neurological healing of mice that occurs as a result of liver failure. So evidently, it goes both ways.
But there are takeaways
Needless to say, the scope and methods of the University of Arkansas study should not make people worried about using CBD. Most other studies that focused on CBD’s use in treating other conditions have found ever-increasing benefits and limited to no adverse effects. However, what the study did do is highlight the importance of a few key things to keep in mind when using really any substance in the body, but especially one with gaining commercial popularity and minimal regulation like CBD.
1. High doses of any drug or foreign substance are not great for our bodies. Many people take some form of CBD every day, whether to help with pain and inflammation or a whole host of other conditions. Many people also take things like aspirin or ibuprofen every day to help with the same issues. But we know that too much aspirin or ibuprofen is not good for the body and can lead to other major health concerns, like internal bleeding. It follows, then, that too much CBD, like other everyday drugs, would also not be good for the body and could lead to health concerns. Too much of anything is toxic— moderation is key.
2. Limited regulation means lots of products with inadequate production, testing, and labeling. We’ve talked a lot on this blog about the importance of buying products with full testing analyses and correct labeling, and it’s not just because we like those companies better. It’s because it’s safer, smarter and better for everyone’s health all around. Because the regulation around CBD is still in the early phases, consumers have to regulate themselves. And while there are plenty of amazing CBD brands that have high standards for growing and production, there are also lots of brands that are taking advantage of a developing market and don’t produce products that are up to par. Always make sure to buy from companies with third-party lab testing.
All in all, research in the CBD arena is still in the early stages. The CBD study at the University of Arkansas just proved how far we have yet to go and how much there is to learn. Most studies out about CBD have found immense benefits, but we know that anything we put into our bodies must be produced with integrity and consumed in appropriate doses.
Check out our earlier post on how and where to buy the best CBD for your body here.