Friday April 1, 2022
By Paul Barach
Many cannabis consumers take edibles as a non-pharmaceutical way to help them sleep. So many, that brands like 1906 Edibles market their best-selling Midnight Drops specifically as a sleep aid. That’s why New York-based filmmaker, singer, and actor Meryl Jones Williams took them occasionally for about six months. However, on March 6th, she woke up feeling nauseous and winded with abdominal pain. A week later, the symptoms hadn’t gone away. When she arrived at urgent care, she was immediately sent to the ER with acute jaundice, where things further deteriorated.
In a recent Instagram post, Meryl stated “After a week in the hospital, various tests, and nearly experiencing liver failure with an otherwise healthy liver — it was discovered I suffered an herbal drug induced liver injury from the Chinese herb corydalis…” which is the key ingredient in Midnight Drops.
Meryl would soon find she wasn’t alone.
Evidence of Liver Damage from 1906 Edible’s Midnight Drops
After doing some digging, Meryl and her partner “were horrified to find multiple stories of what happened to me happening to others.”
Scattered among customer reviews of Midnight Drops on various marijuana websites such as Weedmaps, Weedhacker and Iheartjane were warnings such as “After spending tons on blood tests and ultrasounds to discover the extent of my liver damage, doctors came to the conclusion that it was from corydalis in midnights” and “I spent the night in the Emergency Room…This product almost killed me.”
“I spent the night in the Emergency Room…This product almost killed me.” - From an Iheartjane verified purchase review
On a recent Reddit post, the user wrote [sic] “I’ve been taking 1 1906 midnight almost every night and recently discovered liver damage. My doctors weren’t sure of the cause, until I mentioned I took midnights.” The user goes on to mention a friend suffering a similar issue from the same edible, ending with “Not saying this will cause it for everyone, but i felt like i should warn others!”
Corydalis and Liver Damage
According to the Midnight Drops product page, corydalis ”helps you fall asleep because of its sedative properties, and it helps you stay asleep because it targets body pain and tension, including acute, inflammatory, and neuropathic pain.” In an note below, they also mention “Corydalis may cause serious health problems in rare cases and should be taken in consultation with a physician.”
This warning is not currently listed on their packaging (and not everyone has the financial resources to consult with a physician when trying a new edible.) The “serious health problems” mentioned are liver damage due to THP toxicity, along with nausea and fatigue.
We reached out to Katie Stem, a nationally certified and state-licensed Chinese herbalist, as well as the founder of Peak Extracts edibles in Portland, Oregon to get her insights.
“First off,” she remarked “if they’re using a Chinese herb, they should have a Chinese herbalist on staff. [Second] Corydalis has a reputation in China as like Chinese Advil. I use it all the time for pain,” but it’s not typically used for sedation. She also pointed to the 100mg of Corydalis per pill as “a pretty hefty dose…” that shouldn’t be used in isolation. “A lot of Chinese herbs help mitigate each other's side effects. Corydalis would always be taken with licorice root, which would help with the liver.”
Katie also questioned the herb’s sourcing. “You can't buy the good Chinese herbs in the US unless you have a license… it would have been processed in a certain way from a certain part of China and certified by the GMP [Good Manufacturing Practices, an Australian based international regulatory body]…so, immediate red flags.”
“Long story short, herbs like Corydalis should be given with a prescription and monitored by a licensed practitioner. So,  is already super far afield…You dose corydalis low. But it looks like to get the sedative and hypnotic part, you have to dose it high, which is a terrible idea.
Comments from 1906 CEO Peter Barsoom
1906 Edible’s website states that “Our goal is to make cannabis a trusted, normal part of daily wellness…and offer the most healthful format of cannabis available.” Their low-dosed products are billed as having fast-acting, targeted effects thanks to, “six different thoughtful formulations of super-powerful plant medicines.”
When asked if 1906 did any research on corydalis, CEO Peter Barsoom responded that his company conducted extensive research on all the herbs used in their products. “We have a team of botanists, pharmacologists, regulatory and compliance experts and countless others who've rigorously developed and tested our products…we would never include a substance of any sort that isn't as effective and isn't approved by the FDA as a dietary supplement.”
(It should be noted that dietary supplements are exempt from FDA regulation, which means they can go to market with whatever claims a company wishes to make on their websites or labels.)
1906 Edibles sources their powdered Corydalis from two nutraceutical suppliers, but Peter wasn’t positive if they were GMP certified.
Peter has been aware of the dangers of corydalis in Midnight Drops for the past five years, saying that he’s been contacted by “less than 10” consumers with similar issues over that time. On each occasion, 1906 Edible’s adverse event investigation team follows “...the [same] protocols that you would expect in other regulated health care industries.”
As to the question of why his product continues to give a small percentage of his customers liver damage, Peter points out that the “overwhelming majority of 1906 consumers experienced no negative reaction” and that “Thousands of people are using Midnight every single day, and that has saved their life…Midnight is the only thing that gives them a good night of sleep.”
Peter concluded that “Every dietary supplement has unfortunate, rare cases where somebody can have an adverse reaction,” but that 1906 is continually testing their products and reworking their formulations to ensure customer safety.
Currently, 1906 Edibles has no plans to pull their most recent formulations of Midnight Drops off the shelves. Instead, “within the next two weeks, all products and inventory in every market is going to have [a] warning applied to it” and 1906 is “actively working on enhancements to Midnight Drops immediately to improve efficacy and safety.”
It’s unclear why, if 1906 has been aware of liver damage occurring in a small percentage of their consumers for the past five years, and are constantly reworking their formula, they have not yet discovered a safe formulation or already placed a warning label on their products.
Peter claims that in every case of liver damage they’ve become aware of they’ve responded immediately with direct contact and in every case “...there's been a full recovery.”
At this time, Meryl still hasn’t fully recovered. Her liver lab results are still at dangerous levels, but “…are trending in the right direction due to not taking the pill any longer…” When asked if she had any final thoughts, she replied “Myself and others could have died. I would like the company to stop selling this product. Corydalis is a known liver toxin and shouldn’t be marketed the way they are marketing it.”
The Wrap Up
With the FDA’s anemic regulation of dietary supplements, it’s sadly up to consumers to pay attention and spread the word about the risks of certain products. While corydalis doesn’t appear to cause liver damage in a majority of consumers, until companies like 1906 Edibles find a tested, safer source of Corydalis, maybe find another edible to get some sleep.
Have you had any experience with 1906 Midnight Drops? Share your stories in the comments below.