CBD: Can it Really Damage Your Liver?

CBD: Can it Really Damage Your Liver?

This past summer, an interesting study came out in a scientific journal called Molecules.

Done by researchers at the University of Arkansas, the study was titled "Hepatotoxicity [liver toxicity] of a Cannabidiol-Rich Cannabis Extract in the Mouse Model." As you might imagine, the study's authors aimed to determine if and when (i.e, at what dose) CBD became harmful to mice. What they found seemed shocking... but more on that later.

Because first, it's worth stating that this study didn't rise to notoriety on its own.

Instead, a Forbes contributor took the chance to write an article entitled "Marijuana Study Finds CBD Can Cause Liver Damage"...about his interpretation of the study. According to him, its results clearly showed that " [CBD] could be damaging our livers in the same way as alcohol and other drugs." En route to other strong statements, this contributor asserted that there's no such thing as a cannabis expert - and therefore really no one qualified to refute his claims.

As you might imagine, things kind of took off from there. If CBD really does damage the liver - that's concerning! And just like that, people did get concerned...

But we're thankful to report that the Forbes report was mostly just clickbait.

Why? Basically, it took one flawed mouse study, didn't take into account mice-to-human dosing standards, and extrapolated a couple isolated statistics wildly. And that's not even all. The study also used (very) low-quality CBD sources to draw its (very) biased conclusions.

One Small Study, Many Large Problems

Before we get into the specifics, let's first take a glance at each of the mouse study's flaws:

  • Factual inaccuracies
  • Ultra-high CBD dosing
  • Lack of credible citations
  • Low-quality CBD sourcing

And these problems are just for starters. Interested in the details? If so, keep reading...

Factual Inaccuracies

While a study doesn't have to be perfect to be scientifically sound, glaring typos or factual errors may indicate a truly glaring problem.

In this case, the study's authors claimed that 75% of the study's mice died from CBD-induced liver toxicity. Here's the thing, though - only 6 mice were given this lethal dose! And 75% of 6 doesn't quite compute. If four mice had died, the true value would've been 66.7 percent... if five had died, it would've been 83.3 percent.

We'll get to why the passing of four or five mice doesn't actually tell us much about CBD later. Just know for now that this small error doesn't reflect well on the study's use of fact-checking. Making matters worse, the 4.5 mice claim was made in the study's abstract of all places!

Ultra-High CBD Dosing

At ProHealth we've talked before about how to optimize your CBD dosing. Normally we're advocates for CBD intake in the 10-100 mg/day range.

What test mice underwent was completely different. Their dosing ranged from 246 mg per kilogram of bodyweight... to 2,460 mg/kilo.

For us 150 pound humans, that'd equate to 16,772 - 167,727 milligrams of CBD per day. Just imagine drinking between 16 and 160 high-strength CBD bottles each and everyday... good thing those mice were funded by well-off financial backers!

At such high doses, CBD can indeed affect liver function. It may inhibit CP450 enzymes, in turn affecting how other drugs are absorbed into the bloodstream. That means people on high-blood-pressure or high-blood-sugar medications should be careful with high CBD dosing. But in any real-life scenario that's about the extent of it.

Lack of Credible Citations

While the mouse study claimed that "numerous reports have demonstrated neurological, cardiovascular and reproductive toxicities subsequent to CBD use," only one of the nine sources it gave as evidence had to do with humans - and even it didn't make mention of any CBD-induced toxicities.  

It's almost like the study's authors just wove together their narrative as best as they could, even in the face of scant evidence. Interestingly enough, even the study's publisher (Molecules) has been criticized in the past for approving scientifically-unsound papers.

Low-Quality CBD Sourcing

While the aforementioned flaws are pretty glaring, this one may be worse of all.

Instead of using ethanol or CO2 or even butane to produce their study's hemp extract, researchers chose to use a hexane-extracted product. Hexane is known (i.e, backed by real evidence) to be liver-toxic. Put two and two together, and it's easy to picture how test rodents may have fallen victim to their CBD extract's hexane component - not the CBD itself.  

If you shop at ProHealth CBD Store, hexane is nothing to fear. All of our full spectrum hemp oils are made with pure solvents like ethanol or CO2.

The Good News

Were you concerned about CBD's safety prior to reading this article? If so, hopefully you feel better now! And if not, let us reassure you: far from being hepatotoxic, CBD has demonstrated hepatoprotective qualities in the vast majority of available studies.

In fact, initial research shows CBD to be protective for many systems that make up the human body. It may be neuroprotective, immunoprotective, and cardioprotective. Even the mouse study's lead author recognized that! Speaking to Project CBD, she said that "most of our work is about the potential protective effects of CBD in the cardiovascular system."

Long story short, don't let a single 'bad' study scare you. Hemp extracts have been used since practically the beginning of recorded history - and there hasn't been a single recorded fatality to date.

At ProHealth CBD Store we remain confident that CBD will continue to work with your body, not against it, as you remain on a quest for better health.


Thomas WronaThomas Wrona is a cannabis consultant, health + wellness advisor, and former professional athlete. He enjoys writing about all things CBD, both here and at Wrona Inc.


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