Most pacific island countries publish annual health reports and submit these to the WHO. Islanders have been drinking kava on a regular basis for centuries. Because generally only about half of the population (males) drinks, any major side effects of kava consumption would be statistically obvious. So far, not one has been observed. I believe that scientists in universities may be in too great of a hurry to be the first to discover the harmful effects of heavy consumption of kava. A study done in Australia where the aborigines had switched over from heavy alcohol abuse to kava use had shown that the ones using kava heavily had more liver damage (Mathews, Journal of Australia 1988). This is inconclusive because the findings also showed that those who were using kava heavily had also used alcohol heavily for many years. It is more likely that the previous alcohol abuse had caused the liver damage than the recent use of kava, so the studies were flawed. There is no scientific evidence to recommend a ban on kava. The Australian government tried to ban kava from the market but the aboriginal community challenged and won the suggested prohibition because of their desire to free their communities from heavy alcohol consumption. No one ever came home from drinking heavy amounts of kava and beat their wife and kids. In 1989 an article entitled ”Can Kava Kill?” was published. It was full of errors and cited only one person that was supposedly killed by Kava. Upon further investigation the medical community could never pinpoint this death on kava. Like I stated before there has been centuries of evidence showing the safety of kava. This alone should be proof enough for kava to be defined as GRAS, or generally recognized as safe. According to commission E Monograph, a Germany based research group that addresses safety concerns, contradictions, duration, and interactions with other drugs, it is quite safe with a few understandable exceptions. As far as safety when pregnant, or nursing, there have been no published reports of any birth defects, or any adverse effects in infants of nursing mothers taking kava. There are no fetal abnormalities found in high doses of animal studies. 10 There have been two studies with conflicting results on combining alcohol and kava. The first study was done by giving oral doses of kava to mice. Then injecting them with alcohol. I don’t know anyone that injects themselves with alcohol, but the findings showed increased sedative effects. The second study was done on humans. Both kava and alcohol were given orally. It showed that kava tends to actually counter some of the safety related adverse effects of mild to moderate alcohol consumption.11 The fact is that the traditional way of drinking kava forbids the consumption of alcohol.
In 1997 reports from Los Angeles Police Department implicated kava as the problem ingredient responsible for hospitalization of more than 50 young people following a New Year’s Eve rave concert. Labels on a product called ”FX Rush” which was given free to concertgoers as a marketing promotion, listed kava as the primary ingredient. The victims’ had symptoms of dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, and respiratory arrest. However these symptoms are not associated with kava. Subsequent analysis of vials of the product confiscated by the police showed that it contained no kava at all and did contain a toxic chemical.12 I assume the promoters felt that kava just sounded exotic and unknown enough to attract party-goers. Commission E states that there are no known side effects. Because of the clinical use of kava in Germany, researchers have been able to do large scale, multi center surveys on the occurrence of side effects. The results of such surveys have been encouraging. In rare cases, allergic skin reactions can occur with the standardized extract. Other side effects of the standardized extract include accommodative disturbances, such as enlargement of the pupils and disturbances of oculomotor equilibrium, discoloration of the skin, have and nails have been described. All these side effects quickly subside after discontinuation of the standardized extract.13 After reviewing some of the studies trying to scare people out of using kava I have come to the conclusion that medical journals seem to be eagerly accepting poorly substantiated and documented reports of possible side effects of botanicals, while being rather reluctant in the past to accept reports on the efficacy of them. In the reverse I have seen the utter refusal to take off the market drugs that kill thousand of people by well-documented reports and studies. The main point to make is that kava has very little if any known side effects when taken in the whole state. It can be used without any risk of potential abuse or addiction. And has little if and counteractions with drugs.