Cannabidiol (CBD) is the major non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid present in Cannabis sativa. In 2018, Congress designated certain C. sativa plant material as « hemp, » thus removing it from the DEA’s list of controlled substances. As a result, CBD-containing hemp extracts and other CBD products are now widely available and heavily marketed, yet their FDA regulatory status is still hotly debated. The goal of this study was to investigate the effects of a cannabidiol-rich cannabis extract (CRCE) on the gut microbiome and associated histomorphological and molecular changes in the mouse gut mucosa. Male C57BL6/J mice were gavaged with either 0, 61.5, 184.5, or 615 mg/kg/bw of CRCE in sesame oil for 2 weeks (Mon-Fri). Substantial CRCE-induced increases in the relative abundance of A. muciniphila, a bacterial species currently accepted as probiotic, was observed in fecal samples at all doses. This was paralleled by decreases in the relative abundance of other gut bacterial species. Coincident with the observed changes in gut ecology were multiple pro-inflammatory responses, including increased expression of cytokines and chemokines-Il1ß, Cxcl1, and Cxcl2 in the colon tissue. Furthermore, dramatic increases in the relative abundance of A. muciniphila significantly decreased expression of Muc2-a gene intimately associated with gut integrity. Taken together, these findings raise concerns about the safety of long-term CBD usage and underline the need for additional well-designed studies into its tolerability and efficacy.
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