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Simply put, there is no single definitive answer to whether cannabis is harmful to your liver, as the research is still in its early stages and what exists is contradictory.
Some clinical studies have found no significant difference in liver function among those with higher levels of cannabis use. In contrast, other studies showed that CBD use puts users at an elevated risk for liver toxicity. Some research suggests that medical cannabis and CBD may be of particular use for hepatitis C and other types of liver disease.
This article covers the complexity surrounding cannabis and liver function, what we know so far, its potential health benefits and risks, and what to keep in mind when considering liver health regarding cannabis use.
How Cannabis Interacts with the Liver
The liver’s primary role in the body involves detoxification, synthesizing proteins, and creating the enzymes involved in digestion. The endocannabinoid system (ECS), too, plays a significant role in digestion, meaning cannabinoids can act upon the receptors found in the liver. No evidence suggests that cannabis use negatively impacts liver function in normal-functioning individuals.
This is a different and more complex story for those with liver disease, depending on the type. For some, increased cannabinoid receptors in the liver offer the boosted pain relief and reduced inflammation that cannabis can provide, specifically in alcoholic liver disease. Other research studies are currently investigating the ECS as a new therapeutic target in treating some types of liver disease and liver fibrosis.
However, chronic cannabis use may cause abnormal liver enzyme production and hepatic dysfunction for other types. Cannabis, particularly CBD, limits the production and uptake of metabolizing enzymes such as CYP450 (which manages fecal and urinary excretions) and other essential liver enzymes involved in immune function and detox processes.
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Benefits of Cannabis for Liver Health
Ongoing research is needed, but a handful of studies have pointed to cannabis as a potential treatment and remedy for various liver conditions and their symptoms.
A recent study examining cannabis’ effect on those with a history of alcohol misuse found that while alcohol increases liver fibrosis, those who used cannabis had a significantly reduced risk of alcoholic liver disease. In this study, the heaviest cannabis consumers showed the most benefits.
CBD is also a known antioxidant, which points to a potential for preventing and reducing oxidative stress and abnormal retention of fats in the liver, allowing it to function more healthily longer.
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Potential Risks and Side Effects
Researchers have also discovered evidence of several risks involved with cannabis use in those with pre-existing liver conditions.
One study found that patients with hepatitis C who used cannabis had more liver scarring and further disease progression than those who didn’t. However, another study refuted this data, showing that hepatitis C patients had lower levels of scarring and lower overall health costs than non-users.
Further, CBD can negatively interact with other medications because of how it works in the liver. CBD prevents metabolic enzymes from breaking down medicine in the body, making the effects of certain medications like warfarin, heart medications, and immune-modulating drugs last longer and more potent than desired doses.
As cannabis is a complex medicine, some substances in the plant can be beneficial for the liver, while others could be more dangerous, depending on each person. Be sure to consult with a healthcare professional to understand how cannabis may impact your liver in the context of your unique health situation.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, cannabis is generally safe for the human body when the person has healthy liver function. Still, those with specific prescriptions or pre-existing conditions should exercise caution and follow the emerging research when considering cannabis use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does weed mess up your liver?
There’s no clear answer as to whether medical marijuana use can compromise liver function, though a pre-existing condition can make things more complicated. While some studies have found that cannabis use worsens elements of existing fatty liver disease, others found that cannabis actually improved and protected liver function in others. Overall, more research is needed.
Is smoking marijuana safe when you have liver problems?
Research has presented conflicting evidence regarding whether smoking marijuana is safe when you have pre-existing liver issues. Always consult your doctor to determine how cannabis use fits your current healthcare regimen.
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