Kava kava: Yes it’s Natural. But is it Safe?

In spite of a 2002 FDA Consumer Advisory, kava drinks continue to be popular in the United States. In some states, kava bars have opened for business and are doing quite well. Kava users tout the calming effects of the herbal supplement while manufacturers expound on the all natural qualities of the product. Kava(piper methysticum) is an ancient herbal supplement derived from the root of a crop that grows naturally in the Pacific Islands. Kava is normally taken as a tea but may be ingested in pill form. In spite of its all natural ingredients and tranquilizing qualities, the supplement has come under scrutiny for its association with hepatoxicity. In some countries, the supplement is banned because it has been associated with liver injury including liver failure. In its March 2002 advisory, the FDA noted 25 such liver injuries around the world. In the United States, there have been reported injuries including at least two deaths associated with the ingestion of kava products. These two deaths were preceded by failed liver transplants. Kava is still under FDA scrutiny and several pending lawsuits may reveal more about the potential dangers of this all natural herbal supplement.