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Kava Liver Damage Myth Debunked by New WHO Study

August 29, 2023

Man drinking kava with text Kava Liver Damage Myth Debunked by New WHO Study

The long-held kava liver damage myth has been debunked! A recent study from the World Health Organization (WHO) contradicts decades of false information connecting kava and liver damage. This research—published in 2007 but has only recently come to light—challenges previous studies that raised concerns about kava’s safety. By sharing the study’s results, we can challenge the mistaken ideas about kava’s safety and show its true value, one centered on promoting relaxation, wellness, and a culture of #kalm.

The study, titled “Assessment of the risk of hepatotoxicity with kava products,” questions the basis of claims that kava damages the liver. This thorough analysis is very different from earlier studies that raised concerns about kava’s possible dangers. The study’s researchers dive into the details of the kava and liver damage controversy and break down the reasons why some people thought kava might be connected to liver issues. However, the researchers effectively emphasize the lack of scientific evidence supporting a direct connection between kava and liver issues. This well-designed study methodically takes apart previous assumptions, inviting both readers and experts to rethink their ideas about how safe kava really is. You can find more details about the WHO kava study, its background, and a summary below. By fully grasping the study’s details, you can better understand how significant these findings are in showing the safety of kava and develop a more knowledgeable view on kava’s role in cultural customs and practices for well-being.

Background of Kava Liver Damage Myth

Kava, a perennial shrub native to the South Pacific, has been used for centuries to make a beverage used for mental and physical relaxation. For thousands of years, locals in the Pacific Islands have consumed kava for medicinal, social, and ceremonial purposes, and its popularity has spread to the larger world in the last few decades. Now, kava can be consumed in many forms, from traditional medium grind kava root to extracts, concentrates, and mints. Kava is considered by certain experts as a helpful plant for medicine, with little risk and good results in addressing anxiety, muscle relaxation, mood improvement, and calmness.

In the 1990s, cases of severe liver issues from using kava-containing products were reported in Europe and the USA. By 2002, the German Federal Institute had documented 40 cases, including liver transplants and fatalities. This led to global regulations, including a ban on kava products in Europe, which sparked controversy.

Debates arose over the strength of evidence for liver problems and the economic impact on kava-producing nations. Some argued kava was a safer anxiety treatment than existing medications, and Pacific Islanders had consumed kava for generations without cases of liver damage. When Germany banned kava items, the official German phytotherapy expert group opposed the ban, stating it was excessive. They stressed their confidence in kava’s positive balance of benefits and risks, backed by scientific data.

WHO Study Summary: Does Kava Cause Liver Damage?

Overall, the researchers found that most experimental studies haven’t shown that kava causes harm to liver cells. Clinical trials also did not find that kava caused liver damage either. Based on present knowledge, synthetic and water-based kava products are expected to have a very low risk of causing liver problems. In fact, critics argue that most reported cases of kava-related issues might not actually be linked to kava. They assert that kava’s benefit-risk ratio is favorable compared to other anxiety disorder treatments. One researcher suggests that for cases where causality seemed plausible, the calculated incidence rate is less than 0.02 cases per one million daily doses. This is far lower than the risk associated with diazepam, a drug used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures. Some experts believe that the analysis has skewed towards overestimating risks and underestimating the efficacy of kava. An examination of laboratory, animal, and clinical data indicates that kava and its compounds—kavalactones—are not expected to cause liver toxicity.

Scroll to read the full study, which includes methodology, conclusions, and recommendations for further study.

WHO Study: “Assessment of the risk of hepatotoxicity with kava products”

Questions about Kava Safety?

Visit our Kava Safety resource to learn more about this topic, the history of drinking kava, and how to have a safe, relaxing kava experience.

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