Many Americans use marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. Studies are ongoing to provide the science behind the healing potential of this plant. Recently, a study published in the Canadian Liver Journal shares promising findings about the treatment of liver disease with cannabis titled “Cannabis and the Liver: Things you wanted to know but were afraid to ask.”
The study shows that for specific diseases of the liver, especially chronic hepatitis C virus (CV) and fatty liver disease, cannabis may provide some benefits to patients.
In chronic hepatitis C virus, according to this study “… cannabis use improved HCV virology outcome in the era of interferon and ribavirin by bettering patient adherence to the anti-viral treatment.”* The study also cited evidence from a separate study showing “… In September 2018, a retrospective cohort study reported a lower percentage of HCV-related cirrhosis and lower total health costs among cannabis users compared with nonusers.”* While yet another study cited showed that there was no negative impact of cannabis smoking on liver fibrosis in a subpopulation of HCV with HIV co-infection.*
In one study, scientists found a 15 percent lower chance of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in those not using marijuana and a 52 percent lower chance in those using marijuana.
Another study looked at how marijuana affected the development of liver disease in those who drank alcohol. That study linked alcohol and cannabis use with a lower chance of developing liver disease compared to those who did not use marijuana.
The studies on cannabis and liver disease focused on how weed and its components can help with slowing or preventing liver problems rather than treating individual symptoms. Additionally, with liver disease, most people do not experience symptoms until they have cirrhotic livers, which is too late to regain full functioning.
If you are considering cannabis for your liver condition, please talk to your primary doctor first. Marijuana, though natural, may still interact with other treatments you’re using. Don’t stop any medications your doctor has prescribed, whether traditional or alternative, unless you’ve been given medical clearance to do so. Using marijuana for liver disease needs to be done under the supervision of a physician who also knows any other medications you’re taking.
Ishida JH, Peters MG, Jin C, et al. Influence of cannabis use on severity of hepatitis C disease. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008;6(1):69–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2007.10.021. Medline: 18166478 Google Scholar
Adejumo AC, Adegbala OM, Adejumo KL, Bukong TN. Reduced incidence and better liver disease outcomes among chronic HCV infected patients who consume cannabis. Can J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018;2018:Article ID 9430953 [9 p.]. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/9430953. Medline: 30345261 Google Scholar
Brunet L, Moodie EE, Rollet K, et al; Canadian Co-infection Cohort Investigators. Marijuana smoking does not accelerate progression of liver disease in HIV-hepatitis C coinfection: a longitudinal cohort analysis. Clin Infect Dis. 2013;57(5):663–70. Epub 2013 Jun 28. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/cit378. Medline: 23811492 Google Scholar
Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease – https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0176416
Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29341392/