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Unsolved mystery of kava toxicity

Date:
July 14, 2011
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
A major new review of scientific knowledge on kava -- a plant used to make dietary supplements and a trendy drink with calming effects -- has left unsolved the mystery of why Pacific Island people can consume it safely, while people in the United States, Europe and other Western cultures sometimes experience toxic effects.
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A major new review of scientific knowledge on kava -- a plant used to make dietary supplements and a trendy drink with calming effects -- has left unsolved the mystery of why Pacific Island people can consume it safely, while people in the United States, Europe, and other Western cultures sometimes experience toxic effects.

The article appears in American Chemical Society's journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

Line Olsen and colleagues point out that for centuries, people of the Pacific Islands have safely consumed a beverage made from crushed kava roots. Kava'scalming effects made it popular in Western cultures in the 1990s, when people also began to use a herbal supplement for the treatment of anxiety, emotional stress and sleep problems. But in 2001, reports of liver damage among Westerners who took kava supplements gained widespread attention. Many Western countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, ban or regulate the sale of kava products. To determine why kava is toxic to some people but not to others, the researchers sifted through the scientific studies published on the topic.

Their review of 85 scientific studies on kava toxicity found no consensus on kava toxicity, despite several theories that have emerged over the years. Culprits include methods for preparing kava, the particular species of kava used, the possible toxicity of substances produced by the body when kava is digested and genetic differences among consumers. "To date, there remains no indisputable reason for the increased prevalence of kava-induced hepatotoxicity in Western countries," the researchers say.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Line R. Olsen, Mark P. Grillo, Christian Skonberg. Constituents in Kava Extracts Potentially Involved in Hepatotoxicity: A Review. Chemical Research in Toxicology, 2011; 110503130451058 DOI: 10.1021/tx100412m

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American Chemical Society. "Unsolved mystery of kava toxicity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110713102019.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2011, July 14). Unsolved mystery of kava toxicity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110713102019.htm
American Chemical Society. "Unsolved mystery of kava toxicity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110713102019.htm (accessed May 30, 2015).

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