Doctorate of Natural Medicine, Canada
*Corresponding author:Eldon Dahl, DNM, Doctorate of Natural Medicine, Canada
Submission: July 13, 2019;Published: July 17, 2019
ISSN: 2637-7802 Volume5 Issue1
Kava has an interesting history. It has been safely consumed ceremonially in the South Pacific and other parts of the world for over 3,000 years. The earliest European knowledge of Kava dates back to the late 1700s, with the journeys of Captain Cook.
Today, usage of Kava beverages in tropical climates is similar to the use of alcoholic beverages in the West. However, the plant from which the beverage is made also has useful properties for anxiety, hyperactivity, stress, and restlessness.
Many studies have been conducted on Kava. Below, we summarize just a few:
1. In 2009, the journal Psychopharmacology published a 3-week placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover trial that recruited 60 adult participants who had experienced 1 month or more of elevated generalized anxiety. They received five Kava tablets per day, which totaled 250 mg of kavalactones. The study found that participants’ Hamilton Anxiety Scale scores were significantly reduced; Kava was also effective in reducing depression. Participants experienced no serious adverse effects and no clinical hepatotoxicity.
2. In 2010, the Department of Zoology at Cairo University studied the effects of Kava on rats. They found no adverse effects on the liver and kidneys, and suggested that Kava might be preferred to treat anxiety, due to the lack of withdrawal and addictive properties.
3. In 2001, CNS Spectrums published an article examining the effects of 280 mg kavalactones administered each day over 4 weeks. No adverse effect differences were found between Kava and placebo.
In the 1900’s, Kava extract appeared for sale in the Sears Roebuck catalog as a “temperance wine”-- an alternative to the “demon drink,” alcohol. And, up until the 1950s, Kava products were registered in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia, the official compilation of approved medicines, for the treatment of both gonorrhea and nervousness.
In 2001, the Duke University Medical Center conducted two clinical studies on Kava extract. One study showed that Kava was safe to use with no stress or damage to the liver. The second study compared kava’s effects to SSRI medication, the medicinal class known as the benzodiazepine class of drugs (Xanax, Valium), trade named Xanex and Valium. The second study showed Kava to be as effective as Xanax and Valium for treating anxiety without dependency or withdrawal symptoms.
One week prior to the release of Duke University findings, out of the blue, a Europeanbased report declared – contrary to all previously-known medical science – that Kava had caused liver toxicity in 21 people. Global Kava sales plummeted, insurance companies panicked, European health regulators over-reacted and Pacific Islander growers were devastated. As a result, the Duke finding lost all merit, and the health benefits for treating anxiety were never embraced or acknowledged. The European report did its damage. To this day, with absolutely no scientific evidence of liver toxicity among Kava drinkers, and despite liver safety demonstrated in Duke medical studies, Kava still carries the stigma of concerns over liver toxicity.
One year later, in 2002, Canada and other European countries banned the sale of Kava, citing that liver toxicity may result in death.
In 2009, Life Choice® consulted with Kava experts and conducted a detailed investigation. As an example, the annual Kava sales in Germany before the report were approximately $400,000, and with twenty-one reported liver toxin cases. In the same year, Kava sales in the US were over $300,000,000 with zero reported liver complaints. We investigated the money trail: what company would benefit most from the European Report, perhaps coincidently? The German pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche was examined, and their #1 selling drug with 2.3 billion pills sold in 1978 was Valium. It was once coined as being “Mother’s Little Helper.”
The side effects of medication like Valium are numerous; when the Valium high peaks, there can be a period of withdrawal— experienced as a comedown or crash. The mellow feeling begins to disappear. As the brain rebounds and speeds up from its drugged state, it produces other undesirable effects, such as:
1. anxiety (sometimes more intense than the original anxiety),
4. rapid heart rate,
5. stomach cramps,
7. or seizures.
Most addicts counteract the crash with more Valium or another drug to slow down the body and once again produce the sluggish, happy feeling. The danger of continually taking Valium, however, is that the body quickly builds a tolerance that makes it harder and harder to reach the euphoric state with the same amount of Valium, so the user will need to take increasing doses—upping the risk of severe addiction and overdose. The compulsion to take everincreasing amounts of Valium is one of the signs of addiction.
In 2012, after summiting 3.5 years undisputable safety evidence to Health Canada, Life Choice® was granted the first product license for Kava, with the label claim, “calmative and sleep agent”--a far cry from the prior warnings, “may cause liver toxicity or death.” All licensed kava sold in Canada is in direct response to challenging the false claims, uncovering the truth, and removing the negative stigma associated with quality-sourced Kava. Still, as Kava supplements have flooded the market, problems have occurred, as well. The leaves, stems, and immature roots that are often being used may produce a toxic alkaloid that can contaminate Kava products. When using Kava, be sure it is produced from 5 year roots of Noble origin, for safety’s sake and peace of mind.
In 2014, after examining island natives who were both regular Kava drinkers and heavy smokers, it was discovered that those people had a very low incidence of lung cancer. The University of Minnesota conducted a placebo-controlled study with mice, giving a cancer agent without Kava to half and the cancer agent with Kava to the other half. The results were astounding: a 98% rate for lung cancer prevention. So, for smokers, Kava may be the best option available for preventing lung cancer.
Kava has a positive side effect for women, producing aphrodisiac effects: allowing the brain to become calmer and less agitated. Kava is even a great product for designated drivers, as they get similar effects like alcohol, but without the side effects, since Kava does not negatively influence driving abilities, when taken in moderation. It is a win-win solution for those wanting to be social while abstaining from alcohol. Is Kava a safe, cost-effective, natural treatment for the hundreds of millions of people who are suffering from anxiety? Is it negatively stigmatised as a direct threat to pharma? We leave the decision to you.
© 2019 Eldon Dahl. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and build upon your work non-commercially.