The liver is an important part of the body. CBD has shown to be a promising solution in improving liver health although there is some evidence it can also be damaging to the liver. Read on to determine which side you are on.
We may not think about our liver very often, but it is a vital part of our bodies. Its main job is to filter blood from the digestive tract before passing it to the rest of the body. It also detoxifies chemicals, metabolizes drugs and makes proteins that are important for blood clotting and other functions.
Because the liver is so important, it’s crucial that we do what we can to keep it healthy. Staying away from toxins and eating right can be beneficial to liver health.
CBD has also been researched for its potential to improve liver health. While many studies show it can be beneficial, there is some evidence to contrary. Read on to determine which side you’re on.
Types of Liver Disease
It’s important to care for our livers, unfortunately, liver disease is something that occurs in many people. Causes for liver disease can be genetic or they can be brought on by lifestyle choices. Here are some examples of liver disease.
- Hepatitis: This is inflammation of the liver that can be caused by a virus or by heavy drinking, drugs, allergic reactions or obesity.
- Cirrhosis: This is a form of liver damage that can lead to permanent scarring which causes liver functioning to break down. It can also lead to Ascites which is a leaking of fluids into the belly, causing the belly to get distended and heavy.
- Liver Failure: This can occur due to infection, genetic diseases and excessive alcohol.
- Fatty Liver Disease: There are 2 forms of this disease, alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Non-alcoholic fatty liver is characterized by excess fat in your liver. Some cases are relatively harmless while other can lead to cirrhosis and liver damage. The alcoholic form of the disease occurs when the liver is no longer able to process your alcoholic intake. It can lead to hepatitis and cirrhosis.
- Gallstones: These occur when a gallstone gets stuck in the bile duct draining the liver and can lead to hepatitis or a bile duct infection.
- Hemochromatosis: This is a disease where the body deposits iron into the liver and throughout the body damaging the liver and causing other health problems.
CBD and the Liver
The reason CBD can be beneficial to the liver lies in the functioning of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a network of chemical compounds and CB receptors that exists throughout the body. They form a signaling system that works to maintain health and balance in nearly all metabolic processes including those within the liver.
Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids that exist naturally within the body. They combine with the CB receptors in our nervous system to ensure all signaling functions correctly. However, at times, this signaling breaks down. That’s where exo-cannabinoids like THC and CBD come in handy.
CBD and Cirrhosis
Research shows that cirrhotic human livers feature more CB2 receptors than healthy livers. This makes them therapeutic targets for liver disease. Endocannabinoids and exo-cannabinoids can work with these receptors to regulate the immune and nervous system and ensure proper functioning of the liver.
A 2005 study showed that cannabinoids can be beneficial to those suffering with liver diseases like cirrhosis and fibrosis. This is due to their ability to bring on vascular changes and modulate inflammation and neurological function.
Another 2011 animal study showed that CBD can kill off hepatic stellate cells which are responsible for the development of scar tissue in the liver which causes cirrhosis.
CBD and Liver Failure
Hepatic encephalopathy is a neuropsychiatric disorder caused by liver failure. A study was conducted to determine how CBD could help treat this disorder along with the liver failure that causes it.
During the study, mice were injected with a substance that induces liver failure. Mice were then treated with CBD. Results showed that not only did CBD restore neurological and cognitive functioning, it was able to restore normal liver functioning in the mice experiencing liver failure.
CBD and Hepatitis
In addition to its ability to treat cirrhosis and liver failure, CBD can also be useful in the treatment of hepatitis.
Hepatitis is more likely in obese individuals. CBD helps keep weight under control. One of the ways it does this is in its ability to work as an appetite suppressant.
Ghrelin is the hormone in our bodies that produces feelings of hunger. It is stimulated by CB1 receptors.
CBD works as a CB1 blocker, so it suppresses appetite. It also increases levels of the hormone leptin which creates sensations of satiety and feeling full.
CBD’s ability to help individuals maintain weight can reduce the risk of hepatitis.
It can also help people deal with side effects of hepatitis treatments.
Hepatitis is often treated by chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can cause nausea and vomiting that can be managed with CBD.
The dorsal vagal complex (DVC) in the brainstem is responsible for the regulation of nausea and vomiting. It also responsible for communication between signals in the blood (like chemotherapy) and nerve cells that initiate nausea.
The DVC and gastrointestinal tract have endocannabinoid receptors that have been shown to exhibit anti-nausea responses when activated by cannabis. Therefore, they reduce the occurrence of nausea in chemotherapy patients.
CBD and Fatty Liver Disease
Those who are obese and lead sedentary lifestyles are at higher risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. CBD’s ability to suppress appetite can aid with weight maintenance to reduce the risk.
Beyond that, researchers have found that those who use cannabis had a lower risk of fatty liver disease. The reduction of risk seemed to be even greater in those who used cannabis more often. Occasional users had a 15% lower risk while regular users had a 52% lower risk.
Another study found that the stimulation of the CB1 and CB2 receptors that CBD provokes can break down fat in the liver to help treat the disease.
However, it should be noted that cannabis can increase the risk of fatty liver disease in hepatitis C patients. More research is needed to determine why this is so.
CBD and the Treatment of Liver Disease Symptoms in General
There are certain symptoms that are common to almost everyone who is dealing with liver disease. These are pain, inflammation, anxiety and depression.
When CBD enters the body, it increases levels of serotonin to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression that may be brought on by illness.
CBD also works to target pain and inflammation.
Inflammation can be beneficial in producing a sort of fort in your body that helps localize toxins and infections.
But most diseases bring on chronic inflammation which increases the production of free radicals which can harm the healthy cells in our body. CBD contains antioxidants that can protect our body from free radicals.
It can also exert an immunosuppressive effect on microphages and microglial cells that increase inflammation. This may be due to its ability to activate glycine receptors in the body.
CBD’s ability to lower inflammation reduces pain to make symptoms of liver disease more tolerable.
Is CBD Bad for the Liver?
Based on what we have uncovered so far, it looks like CBD could be useful in the treatment of liver disease. But amidst these glowing reviews, contradictory evidence has arisen.
Timothy Welty of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Iowa found evidence that 10% of people using CBD had increases in liver enzymes which can be a possible indication of liver damage. In fact, of the 10%, 3% had to stop using CBD completely because their liver enzymes increased to dangerous levels.
So how could it be that CBD can help the liver and provide damaging effects? Here are some theories that show how the cannabinoid can cause such varying results.
CBD influences drug metabolism within the liver. It interacts with drug-metabolizing enzymes such as those in the cytochrome P450 family. The CYP3A4 enzyme is part of this family and it is also responsible for how CBD is metabolized.
Certain drugs can hinder CYP3A4 which can slow the breakdown of CBD and increase its physiological activity. On the other hand, other drugs will increase the levels of the enzyme to ensure a rapid CBD breakdown.
CBD can also have positive effects on liver enzymes. In the case of CYP1A1 for example, it boosts the rate of production allowing it to breakdown carcinogenic substances like benzopyrene.
So basically, CBD can be harmful to your liver depending on the medications you are taking. If you are using clobazam with CBD, for instance, the two medicines will break down in the liver and begin to compete against each other. The CBD will block the enzyme in the liver that breaks down clobazam which will lead to elevated clobazam levels and an increase in liver enzymes.
Another factor that might lead to an increase in liver enzymes is the quality of the CBD you are taking.
Before using CBD, be sure to talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking to avoid unwanted side effects. Once you have the green light, do some research so that you can feel confident you are purchasing CBD from a trusted retailer.
Our liver is such an important part of our bodies, we must do all we can to make sure it is functioning well. Research has shown that CBD may be valuable in reducing the risk of liver disease and reversing damage to the liver. Talk to your physician to determine if this is the right choice for improving your wellbeing.