Kava Not Linked To Liver Damage

CHICAGO, Illinois—A report issued by the University of Illinois has defended kava against claims that it causes liver toxicity.

After assessing the same evidence that led to the herb's safety being questioned in much of Europe as well as North America, Australia and New Zealand, the report's author, Donald Waller, PhD, concluded there is "no clear evidence that the liver damage reported in the US and Europe was caused by the consumption of kava."

Waller, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the university's college of pharmacy, highlighted two cases of excessive kava consumption that, "from a toxicological perspective ... provide some evidence that kava itself is not a direct hepatotoxin, even in extremely high concentrations."

In the report, delivered to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Feb. 19, Waller noted that kava consumption may not be appropriate with "concomitant intake of prescription drugs associated with liver damage, excessive alcohol consumption and pre-existing liver disease with compromised liver function."

Waller assessed 26 kava-related case reports received by the FDA between May 1998 and September 2001, as well as 30 Swiss and German cases that led the German health authority to issue an advisory to the industry warning of the herb's potential hazards late last year. He criticised the case reports as lacking in "specific clinical and historical information," and recommended they be "revisited where possible to obtain further information."

The FDA was expected to make a ruling on kava's status as FFN went to press.

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