Cannabinoids and Chronic Liver Diseases

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Aug 20;23(16):9423. doi: 10.3390/ijms23169423.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), alcohol-induced liver disease (ALD), and viral hepatitis are the main causes of morbidity and mortality related to chronic liver diseases (CLDs) worldwide. New therapeutic approaches to prevent or reverse these liver disorders are thus emerging. Although their etiologies differ, these CLDs all have in common a significant dysregulation of liver metabolism that is closely linked to the perturbation of the hepatic endocannabinoid system (eCBS) and inflammatory pathways. Therefore, targeting the hepatic eCBS might have promising therapeutic potential to overcome CLDs. Experimental models of CLDs and observational studies in humans suggest that cannabis and its derivatives may exert hepatoprotective effects against CLDs through diverse pathways. However, these promising therapeutic benefits are not yet fully validated, as the few completed clinical trials on phytocannabinoids, which are thought to hold the most promising therapeutic potential (cannabidiol or tetrahydrocannabivarin), remained inconclusive. Therefore, expanding research on less studied phytocannabinoids and their derivatives, with a focus on their mode of action on liver metabolism, might provide promising advances in the development of new and original therapeutics for the management of CLDs, such as NAFLD, ALD, or even hepatitis C-induced liver disorders.

Keywords: ALD; HCV; HIV; NAFLD; NASH; cannabidiol (CBD); cannabinoids; chronic liver diseases; endocannabinoid system; insulin resistance; steatosis; tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cannabidiol*
  • Cannabinoids* / pharmacology
  • Cannabinoids* / therapeutic use
  • Cannabis* / metabolism
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic* / drug therapy
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / drug therapy


  • Cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Cannabidiol