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What Happens To The Liver When You Eat Edibles?

  • By Team AVISA
  • May 20, 2024

Unlike smoking, where effects hit quickly, edibles introduce a sneakier, slower, and more potent kind of high.

But what exactly makes edibles so potent, and how does the liver play a key role in this?

The Liver’s Role In Metabolizing THC

The liver is designed to metabolize substances like THC to make them safer for your body to process and use.

As soon as THC from those edibles hits your bloodstream, it heads straight to your liver, where it goes through a process called “first-pass metabolism.” In this phase, liver enzymes, such as CYP2C9 and CYP3A4 from the cytochrome P450 group, spring into action.

They convert THC into a more potent metabolite called 11-hydroxy-THC,  and 11-hydroxy-THC is much more bioavailable, meaning it can easily cross the blood-brain barrier. This conversion is why edibles produce a stronger and longer-lasting high than what you’d experience with smokable forms of THC.

Smoking or vaping cannabis sends THC directly to your bloodstream via the lungs, producing effects that peak quickly within seconds to minutes and fade fast.

This method skips the liver’s initial breakdown that edibles undergo, allowing for immediate relief. THC enters the brain in higher concentrations before being metabolized by the liver, similar to how it’s processed from edibles, but only after circulating in the bloodstream.

Are Cannabis Edibles Bad For Your Liver?

According to a 2023 review, there’s no direct link between cannabis use and clinical liver injury.

In fact, some researchers have critiqued earlier studies that labeled cannabis as harmful to the liver, noting that these studies looked back at old data without considering other possible causes of liver damage.

Other research suggests that cannabis might actually be beneficial for liver-related diseases like chronic liver disease (CLD), nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and alcohol-induced liver disease (ALD).

Studies are showing that compounds in cannabis, such as 11-hydroxy-THC, could be helping to shield the liver from damage by interacting with various biological pathways.

Even the American College of Gastroenterology has found evidence that supports this idea. They pointed out that cannabis use in obese patients seemed to lower the risk of NAFLD, concluding cannabis helped protect liver cells and reduce inflammation.

Although many reviews suggest that cannabis may not harm the liver and could even protect it, more well-controlled studies are needed to understand the impact of cannabis use on liver health fully.

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