KAVA - BENEFITS AND SAFETY
Many physicians in Germany prescribe Kava Kava Root (Piper methysticum) as a first line of defense for symptoms associated with anxiety. Alternatively, the common chemical prescription is Valium which belongs to a class of conventional drugs called benzodiazepines. Kava Kava does not cause the side effects associated with these drugs and in clinical trials has been shown to be therapeutically similar. It is the kavalactone constituents that offer many of the actions attributed to Kava. They leave your mind sharp while your body relaxes - without the possibility of addiction. Their analgesic effect matches a typical 200 milligram aspirin.
Besides the popular use of Kava for muscle relaxing, soothing anxiety and tension, other uses can relieve headaches, hyperactivity in children, insomnia and aid in the treatment of depression. A lesser known benefit of this root is its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect on the urinary system, particularly for women. It has been used for conditions like bladder & urinary tract inflammations and the kavalactones are also recognized for their ability to relax the uterus, making it useful for menstrual cramps.
In Polynesia, Kava tea is highly popular and even considered more socially acceptable than alcohol. It has been served to famous visitors that include Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, Pope John Paul II, Hillary Clinton and Queen Elizabeth II.
The current safety cautions for Kava are as follows: Avoid during pregnancy, nursing and some kinds of depression. Not recommended for more than 3 months without medical advice. It could increase the effect of alcohol, barbiturates and some drugs used for psychological treatment and has the potential to affect motor reflexes and judgment when driving or operating heavy machinery.
In recent months concerns have been raised about the possibility of liver damage with the consumption of Kava. According to Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council, "...Kava is being anecdotally linked to reports of liver dysfunction without any confirming scientific evidence." Reports from a few countries in Europe prompted the international scrutiny Kava is undergoing now. The FDA is still evaluating the cases in question. Unfortunately, while still evaluating and before even coming to any conclusions, they issued a warning that Kava Kava MAY be linked to liver problems.
When the reports from Europe
surfaced, a check of the FDA database found no reports of adverse liver effects
associated with Kava in the USA. The database did contain 29 of a total of 35
USA Kava "adverse event reports" which turned out to be from a young
man distributing what was called a Kava product at a rave that actually was
1,4-butanediole, containing no herbs or natural dietary supplement ingredients.
Unfortunately publications like The New York Times use this FDA
database as a source of information and in an article on January 16, 2002
reported these cases as problems related to the use of Kava Kava. Some of the
Kava products used in the other cases in this database contained multiple
ingredients other than Kava.
Anon. FDA Issues Warning on Kava Suplement. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 26, 2002.
Anon. Kava Use Not Linked to Liver Damage, Report Says. Vitamin Retailer, April 2002.
Anon. NNFA Releases Expert Analysis of Kava Safety. Whole Foods, April 2002.
Blumenthal, Mark. The Safety of Kava Questioned. Whole Foods, March 2002.
Duke, James A. Dr. Dukeís Essential Herbs. New York: St. Martinís Paperbacks. 2001.
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