How Safe Is It?

Kava kava has been used for centuries by the inhabitants of the South Pacific with few reports of any adverse effects, and over the last ten years kava kava has become one of the top selling herbal supplements worldwide. Recently a few concerns have been reported that kava kava may have caused some liver problems.


To put this in perspective, hundreds of thousands of men and women use kava kava regularly, yet there have been just 4 reported cases of liver problems in which subjects had taken only kava. In the small number of case studies that formed the basis of the 2000 German-Swiss study on kava, almost all the subjects had been taking another medicine, alcohol, or both in combination with kava, and it is equally likely that these substances could have caused the problem.


As far as kava kava is concerned, to quote the Medicines Control Agency (M.C.A.) which was responsible for reviewing kava: "no case has been identified with a causality classification of certain.", that is, in which kava was determined to be the cause beyond a reasonable doubt. (20th December 2002).


As a farm and a company, we believe that the therapeutic benefits of kava kava far outweigh any unsubstaniated side effects. Many respected organizations believe kava kava to be highly effective and should remain available, including the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (N.I.M.H.).


In fact, a closer examination of the facts reveals that kava kava has a very low rate of toxicity compared to many currently available medications. Jerry Cott, PhD., former Chief of the Psychopharmacology Research Program at the National Institute of Mental Health said, "If the incidence of liver toxicity for kava is correct, then according to German researchers it is less than that of conventional pharmaceutical anti-anxiety and antidepressant prescription drugs. These are generally considered to be acceptable (though small) risks," he said, referring to the risk-benefit comparison by which conventional medicines are evaluated.


Cott also pointed out that a small clinical study from Duke University published in October 2002 showed no adverse effects from kava on the liver.


The Research


Kava has a long traditional use in the South Pacific: indigenous peoples often consume kava on a long-term basis with few reported side effects, and its safety/toxicity has been studied extensively in recent years.


In 1990 the German government's Commission E, a panel of herbal experts in the fields of medicine and pharmacy, evaluated the scientific and medical literature and had approved the use of kava as a non-prescription supplement for "nervous anxiety, stress, and restlessness."*


In the longest running study conducted to date, 101 people taking 70 mg 3 times a day for 6 months had negligible side effects, and in fact, more of the placebo subjects reported side effects than those taking kava. The researcher concluded that, " kava possesses an excellent side-effect profile."


The safe and effective benefits of kava to relieve symptoms of anxiety* were also supported in a meta-analysis, a systematic statistical review of seven human clinical trials published in 2000 in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, and again in a similar critical review in 2001. The reviews did not find significant adverse effects related to liver toxicity.


In conclusion, the liver is affected by many substances, including prescription and non-prescription drugs, as well as alcohol, which is a major cause of liver damage. We must be aware that herbs are biologically active substances, to be treated with the appropriate respect regarding potential interactions and toxicity, including to the liver. On the other hand, kava kava's margin of safety far surpasses that of its pharmaceutical equivalent.


We would advise at this stage, until further research has been conducted, that those people with liver problems, or those people with a history of liver problems should avoid kava kava.
  - Excerpted from Dashwood Direct.


A Story about LOCAL KAVA is HERE.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to cure, treat, diagnose, or prevent any disease.