Posts Tagged "kava dangers"

Kava, Oxalates, and Kidney Stones

Posted by on Nov 16, 2012 in Ask Makaira | 2 comments

Kava, Oxalates, and Kidney Stones

Aloha everyone! I hope you are all enjoying a peaceful transition into winter! Things at the farm have been pretty hectic, but we are all working hard and are still able to relax in the evenings thanks to our wonderful ‘awa (thank goodness!) One of our customers, Steve (another Hawaiian!) sent me a note asking about the levels of oxalates in ‘awa. He has a tendency to develop kidney stones, and has to avoid foods that are high in oxalates. He was wondering if kava contained this substance, and if perhaps it had something to do with kava liver damage cases in which above-ground portions of the plant were consumed. So, what are oxalates? Well, according to The Herbalist’s Path, oxalates are naturally occurring acids found in certain foods, especially sorrels, rhubarb, spinach, black tea, and cocoa, among others. Higher concentrations are often found alongside higher amounts of calcium. Oxalates are something that the body can digest. Most are excreted without effecting the body seriously. In fact, when you take vitamin C capsules, your body converts the excess into oxalates, which are filtered through the kidneys and come out in urine. However, as Steve mentions, oxalic acid crystals CAN create kidney stones. Therefore, individuals who have a tendency to develop kidney stones are often advised to avoid high-oxalate foods. Now, I’m not sure if kava leaves have oxalates in them. I was not able to find any resources to confirm or deny this. I suppose it is possible that the leaves do contain these crystals, and that this is part of what makes them toxic. Fortunately, kava leaves are never eaten traditionally, and you can rest assured that our kava is made ONLY from the safe below-ground portions of the plant! And here’s the good news! According to the World Health Organization Monograph on Selected Medicinal Plants, calcium oxalate crystals are absent in powdered kava root material! Not only that, there are HUNDREDS of internet articles suggesting that kava is actually beneficial in relieving kidney stones. According to Dr. Sharol Tilgner, author of “Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth”, kava has an antispasmodic action and an anti-inflammatory action, which means it can actually relieve the pain of kidney stones and help them to pass through the ureter. Now, I’m not a doctor, and if you are actually experiencing kidney stones, the first thing you must do is go see one. Nevertheless, I found all of these internet sites interesting, because kava is used traditionally in Hawaii and the South Pacific to relieve–drum roll–urinary tract troubles! Yep! That’s right. It looks like modern medicine (at least on the internet) is finally catching up with traditional wisdom! So you can drink your kava without concern over oxalates. And if you are struggling with kidney stones, why not ask your medical professional if kava might be of benefit? Perhaps she will already have heard of it, or perhaps she’ll be willing to do some research with you to find out more! Aloha no,...

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Kavalovetone – A Pleasant Herbal Blend

Posted by on Oct 16, 2012 in Ask Makaira | 2 comments

Kavalovetone – A Pleasant Herbal Blend

Aloha Everyone! Makaira here! I hope all of you are enjoying the transition into fall. Here at Kona Kava Farm, our busy harvest season is finally slowing down, giving me some time to relax and update my blog! We’ve been receiving many questions from customers about the worldwide legal status of kava recently, so I’ve taken the time to update my article on the topic. Please head on over and take a look. Please note that we’ve been having a tricky time getting our kava to Australia and Italy. If you live in one of these countries, we will ship to you, but be aware that you order at your own risk and that the products you order may be seized by customs, in which case they will never reach you. We’ve also been receiving lots of inquiries about our kavalovetone capsules, so I’d like to take a moment to discuss these lovely products in more detail. Unlike the rest of our kava products, our Kavalovetone 84% capsules contain kava AND herbal extracts of a number of wonderful, relaxing herbs. As I discussed in my Herbal Kava Combinations article, kava often works very well with other calming herbs. These capsules contain a combination of our famous 84% kavalactone extract and the following herbs: Chamomile, Hops, Lemon Balm, Gotu Kola, Ginko biloba, Ginseng, Passion Flower, Skullcap, St. John’s Wort, Valerian, Vitex (Chaste Berry), and a proprietary Ayurvedic herb blend. Now, one thing that I want to be sure to note here is the inclusion of St. John’s Wort in the blend. As I mentioned in an early Ask Makaira article, there is no known interaction between St. John’s Wort and Kava, although I recommend that you ask your doctor before combining these two plants. However, St. John’s Wort is known to have not-so-beneficial effects when combined with certain pharmaceutical drugs. In particular, St. John’s Wort can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills, and can increase the side effects of SSRI antidepressants and sedatives. For a comprehensive list of the medications with which St. John’s Wort interacts, please take a look at the excellent information on the University of Maryland Medical Center website. So, if you’re interested in trying out our wonderful 84% Kavalovetone capsules, please be careful and make sure that you are not taking any medication which interacts negatively with St. John’s Wort. We want to be sure that all of our customers to have a safe and enjoyable kava experience! Aloha no,...

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Driving Under the Influence of Kava

Posted by on Sep 11, 2012 in Kava News | 4 comments

Driving Under the Influence of Kava

Aloha everyone! Makaira here! I hope you’re all enjoying some pleasant fall weather, and that those of you who have headed back for another year of school are settling in well after a relaxing summer vacation. I’ve been noticing a rather disturbing trend in recent mentions of kava in the news, and decided that a blog post on the topic was in order. With the increasing popularity of kava across the globe, we are also seeing more and more cases of individuals getting pulled over for driving erratically while extremely intoxicated on kava. There were a few court cases in California some ten years ago surrounding people who were pulled over after drinking large quantities of kava. In one such case, a man in San Mateo, California, was pulled over, failed a field sobriety test, and said that he had taken 23 (!) cups of kava before driving. The charges against him were dropped when it was determined that state DUI laws did not definitively include kava tea. In most states (including here in Hawaii) the situation is similar – DUI laws do not usually indicate kava as an intoxicating substance under the influence of which citizens are forbidden to drive. And, fortunately, although I have been seeing at least one article a month regarding an individual being pulled over for driving erratically under the influence of kava, no one seems to have been killed or gotten into a serious accident as of yet. However, as kava increases in popularity, and as it becomes more and more common for people to use it as a substitute for alcohol, cases of people trying to drive on high quantities of kava are going to increase. It is essential to remember that kava is sedating, and that it does slow down reaction time. Furthermore, those wonderful muscle relaxing effects of kava also tend to decrease physical coordination. I always drink kava after I’m done working and have come home for the night, and would never drive on anything but the smallest amount – I know that my awareness and coordination will not be sufficient to safely operate a motor vehicle. After all, once I’m wrapped in the warm embrace of this beautiful plant, the last thing I want to do is attempt something stressful and potentially dangerous like piloting several tons of metal moving at incredibly high speeds. Furthermore, I don’t know a single person in my family or circle of friends who would ever even consider driving on any significant quantity kava. So, the reason I’m writing this article is to ask anyone who reads it to be very careful when it comes to kava and driving. I don’t want to hear about anyone coming to harm when working with this plant – kava is a healer, after all, and as long as it is treated with respect, it will only bring benefit to your life. Furthermore, as a community of kava users, we have a responsibility to ensure that this plant stays safe and legal for years to come. If kava becomes linked to automobile accidents, injuries, or, god forbid, deaths, there is a much greater chance that it will be regulated, and that the thousands of people who benefit daily from kava will no longer be able to access this medicine. Next time you drink kava, take the same precautions that you would with alcohol – be sure that you don’t have to drive anytime too soon afterwards if you want to drink more than just a little, set up a designated driver system if necessary, and call a...

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Kava for…Pets?

Posted by on Nov 5, 2011 in Kava News | 9 comments

Kava for…Pets?

Aloha everyone! Makaira here. The rainy season is beginning in Hawaii, which means that I’ve been spending less time outside working with my beautiful ‘awa plants, and more time researching, reading, and looking for mentions of kava in the news. Just the other day, I happened to stumble across a completely bizarre article regarding kava and pets. I’ve honestly never even considered this to be an issue, so I thought I would share it with all of you in case anyone was wondering whether kava was good to give to pets. This article in the Telegraph UK is entitled If your pet is scared of fireworks night, use real medicine, not homeopathy, and was written by a vet from Ireland. The article mentions the fact that some people choose to use traditional or homeopathic remedies to help their pets feel calm during noisy fireworks shows, in light of the upcoming Guy Fawkes celebration in the U.K. The author states that there is no evidence to show that these natural treatments work, and that therefore pet owners should use ‘real’ medicine, i.e., heavy narcotics, which always come along with numerous dangerous side-effects, to help pets cope. The title of the article is loaded enough, and the article itself is absolutely seething with the author’s bias against any non-pharmaceutical medicine. Keep in mind, we’re talking about animals, who have no way of letting us know what side effects they may be experiencing from pharmaceuticals, and who cannot decide whether taking a pharmaceutical will be worth the potential risk to their health. I don’t know enough about homeopathy to argue for or against it, and I’m not interested in getting into that particular debate, but what I do know is that homeopathic medicines do not cause dangerous side-effects like pharmaceuticals do. I’m not sure why society assumes that ‘real’ medicine must be overly strong and potentially dangerous (and, indeed, the article does not discuss any of the potential side effects of ‘real’ veterinary medicines, although I’m sure there are many). Nor do I understand why anyone would want to expose a beloved pet to these side-effects rather than trying a method that is clearly much safer, if perhaps not as dramatically effective. You may be wondering what on earth kava has to do with any of this. Well, this is the part of the article that really surprised me.  Apparently, there is a new product for pets known as Calmex, which contains kava. Kava is banned in the U.K. due to dubious ‘liver damage’ claims, but apparently it can still be given to pets there. Now, on the one hand, all of my readers will know that I feel that the kava ban in the U.K. is completely ridiculous and based on little other than fear-mongering. I feel confident that kava is safe for myself, my family, and the majority of humans because of its long history of use by indigenous peoples as a medicine and entheogen. However, there is no such history of usage for pets, and as I mentioned above, pets cannot communicate with us and let us know how a medicine is making them feel. I wonder, too, how the company that makes Calmex determined what dosage of kava would be safe for a pet – after all, animals come in many different weights and sizes. Kava CAN be dangerous when used to excess over long periods of time, and my concern would be that pet owners might not consider this when treating animals. I’ve always felt that the idea of giving animals pharmaceutical medicines like Prozac for depression,...

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A Resurgence of Fear: Is Kava Dangerous?

Posted by on Jun 2, 2011 in Kava News | 26 comments

A Resurgence of Fear: Is Kava Dangerous?

Aloha everyone, About ten years ago, it seemed that everyone was terrified of kava. Several reports had come out of individuals who were taking kava experiencing liver failure. The medicine was banned in a number of countries, including the E.U. and Canada, and it was considered by many to be fact that kava was dangerous and damaging to the liver. Of course, it was later discovered that the individuals who had been experiencing the liver troubles were taking kava that had been made from stems and leaves of the plant, rather than just from the rhizome, and that this was the cause of the reported cases of liver failure. By 2005, many countries all over the world had lifted their bans on kava, and people didn’t seem nearly as worried any more. A number of studies demonstrating the relative safety of kava came out, it was found to be effective in relieving anxiety and depression, and it seemed as if the terror that had been gripping people in regards to this little plant had been mostly allayed. At least, that was the case until recently. About a month ago, it was reported that a bicyclist collapsed in New York and was admitted to the hospital with severe muscle weakness and kidney failure. Somehow, the doctors traced his condition to the consumption of kava kava, stating that it reduced blood flow to his muscles and kidneys, causing them to fail. The man said he had consumed two cups of kava and had ridden his bike for several miles before collapsing. We don’t get any information about other health issues the man may have had, other medications or herbs he was taking, whether he consumed alcohol regularly or, well, anything, really. We were just told that kava causes kidney failure and muscle weakness. As has been mentioned by some of our commenters, it is possible to lose PINTS of water while bicycling. This man was riding for miles during the daytime, just after drinking an undisclosed amount of kava. Kava is a diuretic, meaning it can cause dehydration. It is just as likely that consuming a strong cup of coffee and then riding a bicycle for a significant period of time would lead to these symptoms. Furthermore, it seems surprising to me that someone would choose to take kava before exercising.  For myself and my family and friends who drink kava on a daily basis, it is something to be taken at the end of the day, when work is done and it is time to relax. I would never consider drinking kava and then exercising, and I don’t know anyone who would.  Perhaps the dehydrating effects of kava should be studied and clarified more fully, but I feel fairly confident in saying that if this individual had taken kava and then had a good night’s rest and proper hydration in the morning, things would not have turned out so poorly. This one incident seems to have brought fear of kava back in to the spotlight in a pretty big way. Within the last week, I’ve discovered quite a few articles which discuss the terrible dangers inherent in kava and herbal medicines. The first one, which was posted to ABC’s website discusses the risks inherent in taking herbal remedies. Toxicologist Amitava Dasgupta is quoted as stating that “Using kava kava for a few months can cause significant liver damage, including total liver failure”. The toxicologist also lets us know that ephedra and yohimbe can damage the heart and cause high blood pressure, and that bitter orange contains compounds that are similar...

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