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Are Edibles Bad for Your Liver? (2024)

March 18, 2024

There is no currently sufficient scientific evidence to suggest that edibles are bad for your liver. While the cannabinoids like CBD and THC in edibles do need to be processed and metabolized by the liver just like any chemical substance or compound, there is no direct link between edibles and liver damage. Rather, it is recommended to consume edibles like other medications or substances in moderation and according to the listed dosage, to watch for drug interactions, and to purchase properly packaged and labeled edibles from a licensed retailer.

Marijuana edibles are food and beverage products that have been infused with cannabis concentrate or cannabis flowers. They are available in a variety of forms ranging from bakery products and chocolates to colas and cooking oils and can be an easy, discreet, and delicious way to consume your medical or recreational marijuana. Edibles have to be digested just like food, so their effects have a delayed onset and produce stronger, extended-release results that can last up to 8 hours or more.

At Freedom Road, a licensed full-service cannabis grow house and retailer with locations in Trinidad, Colorado, and Oklahoma City, we take great pride in offering edibles of exceptional quality. Every edible product we carry meets our exacting standards for taste, consistency, and potency, undergoing stringent testing to ensure accurate dosing and meticulously labeled to help you experience the safest, most reliable results possible.

Edibles and Your Liver

Unlike smoking or vaping, which send cannabinoids directly into your bloodstream via the lungs for almost immediate effects, cannabis edibles have to be processed by the digestive system–mainly the stomach and liver–before entering the bloodstream.  

The liver’s job is to metabolize and detoxify various drugs and substances to make them safer for your body to process and use. It does this with the help of proteins called liver enzymes, or hepatic enzymes. When a substance–such as CBD or THC–enters the liver, it’s broken down by a family of enzymes called cytochrome P450 and converted into metabolites. Metabolites are essentially smaller pieces of the substance that are better absorbed by the cells in the body so they can then be properly eliminated.

When you consume an edible and it enters your digestive system, liver enzymes, such as CYP2C9 and CYP3A4 from the cytochrome P450 group, convert the cannabinoids into metabolites. In what’s called first-pass metabolism, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is converted into 11-hydroxy-THC, a metabolite that is more potent and more bioavailable, which means it can cross the blood-brain barrier more easily. This conversion is the reason why edibles produce stronger, longer-lasting effects than smoking that peak at around 120 minutes after ingestion.

Edibles and Elevated Liver Enzymes

Some studies have shown that consuming edibles can result in an increase in liver enzymes for some individuals, since the liver is working harder to process the cannabinoids in the edibles than it would those from smoking, and elevated liver enzymes can be an indication of inflammation, damage, or other health issues. However, there is no substantial scientific evidence that links edibles to acute liver injury, cirrhosis, or liver failure, nor are there any indications that cannabis use more generally worsens pre-existing liver conditions like fatty liver disease. Moreover, consuming edibles has different effects on different people, and factors like metabolism, genetics, and the amount consumed play a big role in whether or not a person experiences this increase in enzymes. 

It is important to be mindful of potential side effects and drug interactions when consuming edibles, since high doses of CBD may inhibit the CYP450 enzyme’s ability to metabolize certain pharmaceutical drugs. By competing with the liver enzymes ability to break down medications, CBD may increase the level of medications like blood thinners, anti-epileptics, and immunosuppressants in your blood in an effect similar to that caused by grapefruit and similar medications. In addition, people who consume high doses of CBD may present abnormalities in liver-related blood tests similar to those caused by nonprescription drugs like acetaminophen.

Monitoring liver enzymes is an important and effective way to ensure your liver is functioning properly and to make sure they remain within a healthy range. If you consume edibles regularly, be sure to let your doctor know so they can check your liver enzyme levels periodically and determine the underlying cause if they are elevated.

Edibles and Liver Health

While there is no direct link between edibles and liver damage, there is no doubt that edibles interact with the liver in a very specific way. Cannabinoid receptors like CB1 and CB2 in the liver are activated by THC and CBD, potentially affecting fat accumulation, fibrosis, and liver regeneration processes, and high sugar intake (such as from overconsumption of edibles) can lead to a buildup of fat in the liver. However, when consumed properly and responsibly in appropriate doses, edibles may actually be beneficial to your liver health.

For example, there is additional research that suggests that cannabis edibles may actually be beneficial for liver-related diseases like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), alcohol-induced liver disease, and chronic liver disease, arguing that compounds like 11-hydroxy-THC could help shield the liver from damage by interacting with various biological pathways. In fact, a study by the American College of Gastroenterology concluded that cannabis use may help protect liver cells and reduce inflammation by lowering the risk of NAFLD in obese patients.

6 Ways to Consume Edibles Responsibly and Avoid Harming Your Liver

Overconsumption of any substance can overwhelm the liver, potentially leading to long-term damage, so edibles should be treated just like any other substance, such as medication or alcohol, and enjoyed responsibly for the best and safest experience possible.

Here are 6 ways to enjoy your edibles responsibly and reduce your risk of causing damage to your liver. 

1. Monitor the dosage and frequency. 

With edibles, it’s important to go low and slow. The amount of cannabinoids in edibles varies by product, so it’s important to check the dosing labels. Gummies, capsules, and tinctures are easier for regulating dosage amounts than something you need to break up, like a chocolate bar or cookie, and larger edible products typically should not be consumed in their entirety at one time, such as an entire chocolate bar or beverage.

Also, consider how frequently you’re consuming them; not only can overindulgence raise your tolerance, but it may also put additional stress on your liver. As with any substance or medication, moderation is key.

2. Be cognizant of other ingredients. 

It may not be the cannabis in your edibles that poses a risk so much as it is the added fat, sugar, preservatives, and salt, especially if you already have liver disease. Be mindful of how these other ingredients may have an indirect impact on your liver and your general health.

3. Talk to your doctor. 

If you’re considering taking edibles, consult with your doctor first. They can help you identify possible drug interactions, give you specific guidance regarding your unique health situation, and help you monitor critical health data like liver enzyme levels.

4. Don’t crossfade. 

Crossfading is combining alcohol and cannabis. Because they both need to be processed by the liver, using them together puts double the strain on your liver.

5. Maintain good liver health. 

You can help keep your liver healthy and functioning properly by also maintaining good overall health. This means eating a healthy diet low in salt, unhealthy fats, and sugar; limiting alcohol intake; taking medications properly and as directed; and getting regular exercise.

6. Be an educated consumer.

Know how edibles work. The liver metabolizes the cannabinoids of an edible into a stronger form, producing heightened effects with stronger intensity, so edibles generally produce more potent, longer-lasting, and more evenly distributed effects than other forms of cannabis. Look for precise dosing and labeling so you know exactly how much you are ingesting and adjust the dosage incrementally for different effects. Purchase your products from a licensed retailer like Freedom Road who is committed to thorough and transparent testing, packaging, and labeling that ensures safety, consistency, potency, and reliability.

Here are a few other ways to help you enjoy your marijuana edibles safely and responsibly.

Get Expert Edible Help from the Pros at Freedom Road

The experienced and knowledgeable professionals at Freedom Road can help you navigate the science and safety of edibles and your body so you can discover the right recreation or relief you’re searching for with reliable and predictable results. All of our edible products meet or exceed exacting standards in dosing, consistency, and potency, and they are meticulously tested, labeled, and packaged to protect your health and safety.

No matter where you are on your edible journey, Freedom Road can help make sure you find the perfect product made with the right strain and formulated with the appropriate dosage for your needs. Visit any of our Colorado or Oklahoma locations and see the difference exceptional quality can make in your edible experience.