Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound from the cannabis plant. It is increasingly popular to use due to its potential health benefits. While some people may have concerns about potential liver damage, more research is necessary to determine how CBD may impact the liver.

CBD refers to one of the many cannabinoid compounds present in the cannabis plant. While research is ongoing, growing evidence suggests that CBD may interact with the endocannabinoid system and possess many different health benefits.

Unlike delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is another well-known cannabinoid, CBD lacks the psychoactive effects that many people may associate with the characteristic high of cannabis.

However, as the liver metabolizes CBD, researchers are investigating whether this cannabinoid may cause potential liver damage or affect the function of this vital organ.

In this article, we discuss the potential side effects of CBD oil on the liver, and how to use CBD safely.

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3 percent THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3 percent THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

Image of CBD oil bottles.Share on Pinterest
Iryna Veklich/Getty Images

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CBD could potentially cause liver damage. During its review of cannabidiol (Epidiolex), a drug containing CBD to help treat seizures, the FDA noted that higher doses of CBD that a person takes without medical supervision could lead to liver injury. As the FDA does not currently approve CBD products, it may be difficult to gauge how they may impact the liver.

Research notes that people generally tolerate CBD well and it has a good safety profile. However, CBD may alter the effects of other drugs due to how the cannabinoid may interact with the liver and its ability to metabolize drugs. As such, higher doses of CBD may affect the liver and could lead to the medication not working, or an increased risk of side effects.

A 2020 research review highlighted that more research into the dosage of CBD and its effect on the liver is necessary. It concluded that there is a low risk of liver damage at the high doses used in pharmaceutical CBD products and a much lower risk of liver damage at the low doses commonly found in dietary supplements and food products. Similarly, a 2021 study also suggested that self-medication of CBD is unlikely to affect liver function.

To help maintain liver health, it may be advisable for people to consider the following guidelines:

  • eating a balanced diet
  • exercising regularly
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • receiving vaccinations for conditions such as hepatitis
  • refraining from alcohol use or drinking only in moderation
  • avoiding illegal drugs and toxins

Learn more about foods and supplements that may help protect the liver.

In addition to potential liver injury and interactions affecting how other drugs may work, CBD may cause some people to experience other side effects. According to the FDA, other possible side effects of CBD may include:

  • gastrointestinal problems, which may include diarrhea or a loss of appetite
  • changes in alertness, which may present as drowsiness or sleepiness
  • differences in mood, which may result in irritability or agitation

Learn more about the possible side effects of CBD oil.

There are a variety of ways that a person can use CBD oil.

Depending on the intended purpose, there are different methods a person can use to administer a CBD oil product. For example, to treat joint pain, a person may consider using a topical CBD-infused oil and applying it to the affected joint. Alternatively, for treating anxiety, a person can place a drop of CBD oil under their tongue or add a drop to food or drink.

When using a CBD oil product, it is advisable to follow the instructions on the label. In regard to dosage, it is important to consider factors such as a person’s body weight and the concentration of the product. Research is still ongoing to better understand effective doses of these products.

Learn more about CBD dosage.

If deciding to use CBD products, it is important for a person to ensure they get them from a reputable source and discuss CBD usage with their doctor to check that it will not affect any other medications a person currently takes.

CBD products are growing increasingly popular, and more research is still necessary to understand CBD’s effect on the human body.

While higher doses may potentially affect the liver, using the lower doses common to CBD-containing dietary supplement and food products is unlikely to cause serious harm. If a person is considering using CBD, it is advisable that they purchase CBD products from a reputable source and discuss taking them with a healthcare professional.