German Kava Ban Repealed!

Posted by on Jun 25, 2014 in Kava News | 0 comments

Aloha, dear readers! It is with a joyously singing heart that I write to you all today with news that the ban on kava kava in Germany has officially been lifted by the country’s highest administrative court! In a story that appeared in Islands Business on June 12th, 2014, it seems that the German Federal Administrative Court has finally recognized that kava kava is a very safe medicine when used appropriately!! Basically, the court stated that groundless fears were simply not enough to justify banning people’s access to this wonderful root: in explaining its decision to overturn the kava ban emplaced in Germany in 2002, the members of the court said that kava does not carry enough risk to outweigh its medicinal benefits, and further stated that the 2002 kava ban was “unlawful and inappropriate” [1].

This is music to my ears! Though I still find it somewhat absurd that it took a high federal court to affirm what we in the kava community have known about kava for decades, and indigenous South Pacific Islanders have known for centuries, I am still heartened that this decision may prove to be a renaissance for the global kava market. Not only was it an injustice to deny the global community a safe medicine that has been proven effective for anxiety by more scientific studies than have been done for any other herbal supplement, but many small farmers in South Pacific regions also depend on kava exports to support themselves. The kava bans of the mid-2000s in the EU and Australia have been devastating for the economies of Vanuatu, Tonga and elsewhere; maybe now these countries can finally get back on their feet! The Tongan chamber of commerce has already expressed hope that the lifting of the ban will improve the economic picture for the outer islands, which is mostly home to small family farmers. In the words of vice president of the chamber of commerce Paula Taumoepeau, “kava, all growers in Tonga know how to grow it, and grow it well” [2].

Chair of the Kava Executive Council Tagaloa Eddie Wilson is hopeful that all the positive and in-depth research on kava, its pharmacology, and the best methods of growing and typing different strains will help farmers and vendors determine a set of quality standards for growing, harvesting, storing and processing kava: “the next step now is to actually put in place a set of quality assurances, processes so that whoever exports kava will have to comply with some very strict quality standards” [3].

I couldn’t agree more! On the farm, we’ve always strived to use only the best organic growing methods when raising our kava, and have always avoided the use of pesticides and harsh chemical fertilizers. I am encouraged to see that the rest of the kava export market may soon follow suit and actually create standards to define the best practices that honest kava growers have always followed. For instance, Vanuatu’s laws already forbid exporting so-called “ignoble” kava strains that are too low in kavalactones, or have chemotypes that may produce less consistent effects compared to noble kava varieties.

Quality standards for kava raw material are also essential for restoring people’s faith in the kava market. After all, it is now commonly thought that the improper inclusion of stems and leaves—which my people never use in traditional kava preparations by the way!—may have been responsible for cases of liver damage recorded in the mid-2000s. Prominent kava researchers Vincent Lebot and Rolf Teschke have also fingered mold contamination as a possible factor. Their hypothesis is that kava roots stored in improper conditions, with too much moisture and damp, could have been infected with mold which then produced aflatoxins which can be injurious to the liver [4].

Luckily, these kinds of issues with the storage, growing and preparation of kava are easily fixed once indentified, and I call on the kava vendors and farmers of the world to do all they can to implement the best practices for their kava crops. In other words, today there is no excuse for not ensuring that the kava sold on the world market is the purest, safest, and strongest it can be!

Aloha no,



1. “German Court Overturns Kava Ban”. June 12th, 2014. Islands Business.

2. “Tonga to Benefit from Kava Ban Lift”. June 13th, 2014. Radio New Zealand International.

3. “Pacific Needs to Adapt Strict Quality Standards for Kava”. Radio New Zealand International. Last modified June 16th, 2014.

4. Teschke, R., S. X. Qiu, and V. Lebot. September 2011. “Herbal hepatotoxicity by kava: update on pipermethysticine, flavokavain B, and mold hepatotoxins as primarily assumed culprits”. Digestive and Liver Disease 43 (9): 676-81.

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