Evidence based

CBD for Kidney Disease: Current Research & Understanding

CBD may provide support for kidney disease through its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and analgesic benefits. Here’s how you can get started using CBD oil today.

Article By
Justin Cooke , posted 1 month ago

Kidney disease is the ninth most common cause of death in the United States.

According to research conducted by the American Kidney Fund, roughly 10% of the American public are believed to suffer from chronic kidney disease.

One common and debilitating symptom of kidney disease is pain, both physical and emotional — about 50% of CKD patients will experience pain, 82% of reported pain is moderate-severe in intensity [6]. 

Doctors often prescribe acetaminophen and opiate pain-killers as a treatment for the pain. Ironically, these drugs are excreted by the kidneys — but kidney disease can cause a buildup of these metabolites and lead to further damage.

Enter CBD.

This compound from the cannabis plant offers effective pain relief without causing further damage to the kidneys. There’s evidence that CBD can repair kidney damage and slow the progression of kidney disease [7].

In this article, we’ll explore how to use CBD as a supplement for chronic kidney disease, how to use it, and when you should avoid it.

Let’s get straight into it.

  • MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY

    Abraham Benavides, M.D.,Medical Doctor

    Updated on November 05, 2019

  • Table of Contents

Summary: Using CBD for Kidney Disease

Cannabis could be a useful aid in managing certain symptoms of kidney disease — which often includes chronic pain, nausea, emesis, anorexia, itching, insomnia, and an overall lack of well-being

There’s evidence that CBD and other related cannabinoids can support the health of the kidneys during both acute and chronic kidney disease in mice — though this has yet to be confirmed with research on humans.

One of the main advantages of using CBD over other pain medications is that it doesn’t cause any additional damage to the kidneys.

Other pain medications — such as acetaminophen or opiate medications — are metabolized by the liver and eliminated through the kidneys. These drugs have been shown to cause damage to the sensitive cells making up the kidneys, which can lead to a worsening of the condition.

CBD is also metabolized by the liver but has been proven not to cause additional damage to the kidneys — making it a non-toxic option for managing kidney-related pain.

The Benefits of CBD for Kidney Disease:

  1. Potentially reduces pain associated with common side-effects of kidney disease
  2. May slow the progression of kidney disease
  3. Studies suggest it may lower inflammation of the kidneys
  4. Could help protect the kidneys from oxidative damage

What is Kidney Disease?

The kidneys are responsible for filtering compounds out of our bloodstream. They continuously filter water and compounds out of the blood — they decide how much of these filtered compounds they should put back into the bloodstream.

The entire process is designed to maintain a balance in the blood. Everything from blood pH to blood pressure relies on healthy kidney function to remain within the optimal range. The kidneys are also involved in maintaining homeostasis through the release of hormones such as erythropoietin, calcitriol, and renin.

Kidney disease can be acute or chronic (>3 months), and comes in progressive stages depending on the cause. Kidney injury can result in a loss of normal kidney structure and/or functions, such as filtration.

Any problems with the kidney can quickly cause widespread issues throughout the body. Toxic compounds may build up in the bloodstream, blood pH can become altered (which can be fatal), and blood pressure may begin to rise out of control.

The Potential Consequences of Kidney Disease

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Hyperkalemia
  • Uremia
  • Anemia
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Acidosis
  • Hypercalcemia
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Skin disorders
  • Lowered immune function
  • Sexual debility
  • Neurological disorders
  • Death

Diagnosing Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is diagnosed through numerous tests and scans, along with consideration of family history, and presenting symptoms.

The hallmark sign of reduced kidney function is something called estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). This metric refers to the amount of fluid that can pass through the kidneys. If the eGFR number is low, it means the kidneys aren’t functioning at their full capacity.

Interpreting eGFR With Kidney Disease

  • Above 90 eGFR — optimal kidney function
  • Between 60 and 89 eGFR — mild kidney dysfunction
  • Between 30 and 59 eGFR — moderate kidney dysfunction
  • Between 15 and 29 eGFR — severe kidney dysfunction
  • Anything less than 15 eGFR — kidney failure

Other Signs of Kidney Failure

  • Low urate levels
  • Low creatinine levels
  • Low urea: creatinine ratio
  • High urinary calcium
  • Low urinary phosphate

Symptoms of Kidney Disease

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sleep problems
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle cramps
  • Swelling of feet and ankles
  • Chronic pain
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in the face, wrists, or abdomen
  • Foamy urine
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Burning sensation on urination
  • Urinary frequency
  • Mid back pain
  • Hypertension
  • Itchiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor concentration
  • Darkened skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • Uremic frost
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Osteodystrophy
  • Lowered Immune Function

Causes of Kidney Disease

The kidneys play an essential role in regulating blood pressure and filtering waste materials out of the bloodstream. As a filter, the kidneys are incredibly precise — filtering out compounds on a microscopic level. The functional unit that does the filtration is called a nephron.

There are around 1 million nephrons in each kidney, working in overtime to pull compounds out of the blood as it passes through the kidneys. In a single day, the kidneys filter around 180 liters of blood.

The nephrons in the kidneys are very sensitive and are easily damaged in the presence of toxic compounds in the blood.

For example, one of the two most common causes of kidney disease is diabetes. High blood sugar levels involved with diabetes can damage tissues all around the body — including the sensitive nephrons of the kidneys. Hypertension is the other most common cause of kidney disease — by reducing the blood supply to, and the autoregulatory sensitivity of, the kidney.

As nephrons become damaged, it increases the strain on remaining nephrons, further increasing the chances of becoming damaged.

Common Causes of Kidney Disease

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Lupus
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Iatrogenic damage
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Excessive use of NSAID medications
  • Use of nephrotoxic medications or compounds

What are the Conventional Treatment Options for Kidney Disease?

The goal of kidney disease treatment is preventing the progression of the disease to the end-stage. This can be slowed or prevented by treating underlying conditions like diabetes or HIV, and also controlling blood pressure with several medications.

As kidney damage progresses, patients may need to go through regular dialysis treatments to provide artificial filtering of the blood. Kidney transplants are also used for advanced kidney disease[, and provide the best long-term outcomes.

  1. Opiates — to manage pain
  2. Anti-hypertensives — to control high blood pressure and prevent further vascular damage
  3. Diuretics — to lower blood pressure and prevent fluid overload

Guide to Using CBD for Kidney Disease

Although no clinical studies investigating the specific role of CBD and other cannabinoids in the kidneys exist — there is evidence that CBD may be able to protect the kidneys from damage or slow the progression of kidney disease in animal models [1].

The endocannabinoid system is abundant throughout the body. Nearly every organ in the body has either CB1 or CB2 receptors — many even have both.

The kidneys have both of these receptors, suggesting the endocannabinoid system plays a role in the function of this important tissue. Precisely what this function involves is still under dispute.

It’s believed that the endocannabinoid receptors are involved with managing damage to the organ, more than they are a specific function. This is also how the endocannabinoid system functions in the liver. The endocannabinoid system doesn’t appear to become active until there’s damage in the organ itself.

It’s thought that the endocannabinoid system plays a supportive — even defensive — role in this organ when the disease starts to develop.

What Does the Research Say?

One study gave mice a toxic dose of cisplatin (a compound known to cause irreversible kidney damage), and CBD to test whether it would protect the kidneys from damage or not. Three days after treatment researchers noted that mice given CBD had significantly less inflammation, tissue death, and reduced function in the kidneys [1].

Kidney disease is a severe disease so any potential treatment options should be discussed with a medical doctor. This condition can quickly lead to serious consequences.

With that said, many people with kidney disease are turning to CBD as an adjunctive treatment option along with other medications and diet/lifestyle modifications.

Finding the right dose of CBD can be a challenge, as the compound affects everybody differently.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much research highlighting the effective dose of CBD for kidney disease — most of the research done up to this point has been investigating the safety of using CBD with kidney disease (which is positive) and animal testing to explore how it works.

We can use dosage information from similar conditions, such as liver or cardiovascular disease which involve similar mechanisms of action. Usually, these conditions require higher doses of CBD to produce effects.

Therefore, it’s likely that the dose of CBD should be on the higher end of the spectrum to be useful for kidney disease.

Whenever using CBD (or any supplement for that matter) for the first time, it’s essential that you start with a small dose, and build up gradually over time once you know how it affects you individually.

We recommend starting at the low-strength dose and build up slowly over time to the medium or high-strength doses.

Calculating CBD Dosage Strengths By Weight

Unit of MeasureLow StrengthMedium StrengthHigh Strength
Imperial (pounds)1 mg every 10 lbs3 mg every 10 lbs6 mg every 10 lbs
Metric (kilograms)1 mg every 4.5 kg3 mg every 4.5 kg6 mg every 4.5 kg

Using this information, you can calculate what a low dose, medium dose, or high dose of CBD may look like.

To simplify this for you, we’ve included a dosing chart based on weight and desired strengths.

Daily Doses of CBD by Weight and Strength (in mg)

Weight (lbs)Low StrengthMedium StrengthHigh Strength

100 lbs

10 mg

30 mg

60 mg

125 lbs

13 mg

38 mg

75 mg

150 lbs

15 mg

45 mg

90 mg

175 lbs

17 mg

52 mg

105 mg

200 lbs

20 mg

60 mg

120 mg

225 lbs

22 mg

67 mg

135 mg

250 lbs

25 mg

75 mg

150 mg

Final Verdict: CBD for Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is a serious, life-threatening disease involving a loss of function in the kidneys.

Due to the critical role the kidneys play in regulating homeostasis and filtering toxic metabolic byproducts from the bloodstream, kidney failure can quickly result in significant side-effects or death.

Although CBD has been shown to be safe with kidney disease, and may even provide beneficial effects on the progression of the disease, it’s important to consult with your doctor before using CBD or any supplement.

Do not stop taking your prescribed medication unless your doctor tells you to stop.

There is evidence that CBD can be used to manage pain involved with kidney disease, as well as the possibility of offering direct protective actions to the kidneys themselves.

More research is needed to determine the ideal dose for this condition. However, preliminary studies suggest that higher doses are necessary for this condition.


References

  1. Pan, H., Mukhopadhyay, P., Rajesh, M., Patel, V., Mukhopadhyay, B., Gao, B., … & Pacher, P. (2009). Cannabidiol attenuates cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity by decreasing oxidative/nitrosative stress, inflammation, and cell death. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 328(3), 708-714.
  2. Go, A. S., Chertow, G. M., Fan, D., McCulloch, C. E., & Hsu, C. Y. (2004). Chronic kidney disease and the risks of death, cardiovascular events, and hospitalization. New England Journal of Medicine, 351(13), 1296-1305.
  3. Coresh, J., Selvin, E., Stevens, L. A., Manzi, J., Kusek, J. W., Eggers, P., … & Levey, A. S. (2007). Prevalence of chronic kidney disease in the United States. Jama, 298(17), 2038-2047.
  4. Hampson, A. J., Grimaldi, M., Axelrod, J., & Wink, D. (1998). Cannabidiol and (−) Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 95(14), 8268-8273.
  5. El-Remessy, A. B., Al-Shabrawey, M., Khalifa, Y., Tsai, N. T., Caldwell, R. B., & Liou, G. I. (2006). Neuroprotective and blood-retinal barrier-preserving effects of cannabidiol in experimental diabetes. The American journal of pathology, 168(1), 235-244.
  6. Davison, S., & Davison, J. (2011). Is There a Legitimate Role for the Therapeutic Use of Cannabinoids for Symptom Management in Chronic Kidney Disease? Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 41(4), 768–778. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2010.06.016
  7. Shi, M., McMillan, K. L., Wu, J., Gillings, N., Flores, B., Moe, O. W., & Hu, M. C. (2018). Cisplatin nephrotoxicity as a model of chronic kidney disease. Laboratory investigation; a journal of technical methods and pathology, 98(8), 1105–1121. doi:10.1038/s41374-018-0063-2

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