Recently, I learned about a remarkable source of kava kava. This kava kava is grown in only one location in the world, and by only one tribe. It is used primarily for tribal rituals, and is available outside the tribe only if you personally know one of the tribal elders. Do I know the tribal elders? Alas no. But as it turns out, I do know someone who knows someone who does know the elders. Through this connection I was able to gain access to this "special" kava kava.
What makes it so special? Quite simply, it is probably 3-5 times stronger than any other kava kava in use on the planet today. For fun, we brewed up some tinctures (using the Barron Effect®) on this special batch -- and WOW!!! The result is the most powerful anti-stress mood-enhancer that I have ever experienced, by a huge margin. Several of the companies that I private label for tried some of the samples that we brewed up and immediately begged to have access to nerve tonic formulas based on this special kava kava; and we are in the process of doing just that. But invariably, when talking about kava kava, a question comes up.
Is Kava Kava Safe?
A little over a year ago, kava kava (long considered one of the safest of all herbs) came under attack and was all over the news in a series of damning stories.
- First, reports came out of Europe saying that German and Swiss health authorities identified approximately 30 cases of liver toxicity (including 4 that required liver transplants and 1 death) associated with kava kava. Based on these reports, Britain banned the sale of kava kava, and German authorities put manufactures on notice.
- Here in the US, the FDA responded by requesting that doctors notify them of any adverse effects that they see that might be associated with kava kava. The FDA Medwatch website now lists numerous cases of kava toxicity stemming from a 1996 New Year's Eve party.
- And finally, the American Herbal Products Association issued a much-publicized cautionary warning on kava kava.
And yet, here I am, once again promoting the use of kava kava in stress release formulations. How can I?
Well, let's take a closer look at the three indictments above.
- As for the European cases, what was not commonly reported is that in 21 out the 30 cases cited, the people involved were also using hepatotoxic drugs (drugs that poison the liver) and/or high levels of alcohol. In the other 9 cases, indications are that multiple drugs or medications may have been used. So much for the European evidence.
- The "kava toxicity" cases listed on the FDA Medwatch site that supposedly stem from a product sold at a 1996, New Year's Eve “rave” party are equally bogus. The Los Angeles police department toxicologists published a report two weeks after the party stating that the product used at the party contained absolutely no kava, but in fact, contained a highly toxic industrial chemical, called 1,4-butane-diol. Nonetheless, the bogus claims against kava have remained on the FDA website ever since. So much for fairness from the FDA.
- As for the AHA, they were just responding to public pressure. They pretty much said that there is no real indication that kava is dangerous, but until more is learned, you should keep your dosage under 300 mg a day, and see your doctor if you experience any indication of liver problems. (Note: the dosage in the tinctures that I am proposing is far far below 300 mg a day.)
In addition, the issues of kava's safety and efficacy have been studied extensively, including a statistical review of seven human clinical trials, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, which indicated no significant adverse effects related to kava use and liver toxicity. And the longest running study conducted to date tracked 101 people taking 70 mg three times a day for six months (FAR more than you would get from any kava tincture), and which showed negligible side effects. In fact, more of the placebo subjects reported side effects than those taking kava. The researcher concluded that, "in contrast to both benzodiazepines (the class of sedative drugs that includes Valium) and antidepressants, kava possesses an excellent side-effect profile."
And finally, let's not forget that South Pacific islanders have been using large amounts of kava kava for well over a thousand years, with absolutely no evidence of liver toxicity.
Bottom line: at the moment, we would have to say that all reports on kava toxicity belong in the realm of “Urban Myth.” Am I saying that kava kava absolutely does not cause liver damage? No, just that there is no credible evidence (zero, zilch, nada) that it does. And since it helps so many people, it would be irresponsible at this time to remove it from stress relief formulas based on bogus information.