We have all heard of and are plagued by the infamous “German Study”, and others studies, that indicate that kava kava might cause liver problems (hepatotoxicity) – but, I am pleased to yet again offer some new insight into the fallible nature of those studies. Recently, at an Oxford annual conference on the ‘science of botanicals’, a presentation was given on new research findings about Kava that offer further evidence to suggest that pure kava kava, used correctly, does not cause liver damage! And furthermore, that Kava is actually a healthy and desirable dietary supplement, when used correctly.
At the annual Oxford conference – the International Conference on the Science and Regulation of Botanicals (ICSB), hosted by the National Center for Natural Product Research (NCNPR) – Chris Xing, Ph.D, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, gave a presentation on recent research findings with regard to Kava that outlined just how the German studies could have been wrong .
In an interview with Steve Myers – Senior Editor of Natural Products INSIDER – Dr. Xing discusses the highlights of the presentation at some length. According to Dr. Xing, it’s possible that those studies used a strain or cultivar called “Tudai Kava”. This particular strand carries a high amount of a chemical that “compromises liver function or detoxification function that may contribute to the observed hepatotoxicity among kava users” .
Dr. Xing and his associates, believe that the hepatotoxic cultivar “… got into the market mainly because it grows faster and offered a higher yield” , which stands as a warning to all of us to always do research about a product before using it! It is important to realize that, like with anything, companies will always find ways to make money faster and sometimes the ways companies choose to do this might not always be beneficial to the consumer, and can sometimes even be damaging!
According to Dr. Xing the hepatotoxicity reports then, which were very few as it is, are “probably due to a wrong cultivar, not recommended for traditional use” . This information is consistent with other studies and findings on Kava that indicate the failings of the German studies. For example, an article in the Journal of Toxicology – “Liver function test abnormalities in users of aqueous Kava extracts” – discusses how island populations that have been using kava kava for centuries have no reports of problems with liver function directly related to kava use .
We are all very fortunate that these findings are surfacing and the reputation of Kava is being rectified, as it does provide many benefits to people, such as relaxation and anxiety relief. As Dr. Xing says, “We believe that Kava, with proper standardization, removing its hepatotoxic species…will benefit humans as an anxiolytic and dietary supplement”.
“Kava kava had a rise and a fall, and right now it looks like it’s coming back”, says Dr. Xing in his interview with Myers of INSIDER . And this is wonderful news for everyone, because kava kava provides a wonderful alternative to harmful pharmaceuticals used to combat anxiety and stress-related symptoms.
Some sources, such as statisticbrain.com and the American Psychology Association (APA), indicate a rise in stress, anxiety and other related symptoms, as well as that over 70% of the United States of America’s population suffers from such symptoms . Many people turn to medicinal means to combat the pain and suffering they experience as a result of mental health problems – like stress, anxiety and related symptoms. In the Western world these medicinal means have traditionally been pharmaceutical or at the very least synthesized chemical solutions. But, these solutions are damaging people’s bodies and minds! There have been reports of pharmaceuticals, like Prozac, causing brain damage that results in the development of tics and other neurological disorders . Yuck, how terrible!
Fortunately, the scientific and medical community is coming to terms with the real problems that pharmaceutical and chemical solutions can cause, and more and more people are turning to natural alternatives like kava kava as an answer to their problems. I am so grateful that a better understanding of Kava is being brought to the forefront of the scientific community by Dr. Xing and others like him, so that people can see and experience just how wonderful Kava is as a healthy supplement option!
1. American Psychological Association – American Institute of Stress, NY. July 28, 2013. Online: http://www.statisticbrain.com/stress-statistics/
2. Clough AR, Bailie RS, Currie B. “Liver function test abnormalities in users of aqueous kava extracts”. Journal of Toxicology. 2003. 41(6):821-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14677792
3. Lamvert, Craig. “The Downsides of Prozac”. Harvard Magazine, June 2000. Online: http://harvardmagazine.com/2000/05/the-downsides-of-prozac-html
4. INSIDER T.V. “New Science May Boost Kava Market”. Online: http://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/videos/2014/05/insider-tv-new-science-may-boost-kava-market.aspx