In recent years, serious concerns about the dangers of kava and the effects on the liver have given rise to cautions about kava and kava products. Professor Iqbal Ramzan, Dean of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney, Australia, originally came from Fiji, where his culture regularly drinks kava. He wanted to investigate further the effects this natural product has on the liver.
His findings are published in the January 28, 2008 edition of the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Professor Ramzan spent one year investigating the cellular effects of kava on the liver. Kava has been used in ceremonies and for recreational and social purposes in the South Pacific since ancient times, much like alcohol, tea or coffee is in other societies today. But Ramzan had worries about the effects, and so he began his investigations. Recently, evidence began to emerge about the adverse affect kava could have on the liver.
To test these theories, the University of Sydney study focused on the major kavalactone (the ingredient in kava believed to affect the liver) -- kavain -- and investigated the effects it had on the ultrastructure (or biological structure) of the liver. The study found that following kavain treatment the liver tissue displayed an overall change in structure, including the narrowing of blood vessels, the constriction of blood vessel passages and the retraction of the cellular lining.
In other words, the kavain treatment disturbed the basic structure of the liver, consequently seriously impacting the normal functioning of the liver. Additional investigations into the effects of other major kavalactones on the liver, as well as studies on whether the effects of kava are reversible, are urgently needed.
Medicinal uses for kava began to emerge in the 1980's and it has been marketed in herbal form as a natural way to treat conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, tension and restlessness, particularly in Europe and North America.
Obviously, it is not recommended to consume Kava until further research proves its safety in light of these studies.