Questions about kava kava’s safety?
Kava has become the “herbal answer” to Valium-like drugs in America. Kava helps calm the mind and relax the muscles without causing side effects like over-sedation or addiction common to prescription drugs. However, some media reports suggest kava causes liver damage. You should know that evidence shows in 27 of the 30 reported cases the people were using other medications, or had a history of alcoholism which may have caused the liver toxicity. In the South Pacific where kava is used regularly in very high doses, there are few reports of liver toxicity.
Is kava misuse the problem? A study by the University of Manoa found an alkaloid, pipermethystine, found primarily in kava’s stem peelings have liver toxic effects in vitro. While traditional healers use only the root in preparations, widespread industrial production of the herb means that some manufacturers use stem peelings and leaves in commercial products due to the much cheaper costs. Leading theories speculate this misuse has led to current toxicity problems. We use modest doses of whole kava kava root in combination with other whole herbs and we have not seen any problems.
Until we know more, we suggest to avoid kava when you drink alcohol, or if you have liver problems, or if you take drugs that affect the liver. Experts theorize that kava may potentially aggravate liver disease in rare cases.
To Life-long health,