Researchers at the University of Minnesota (UM) and Texas Tech University recently studied the effects of a special preparation of the kava root (Piper methysticum) on lung cancer in mice, and have concluded that the chemically defined extract may have the potential to reduce the risk of lung cancer in humans, according to a press release issued by UM.
“This is highly interesting research and suggests a potential new use for certain preparations made from kava root and rhizome,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC). “Of course,” he added, “the preliminary results must be confirmed in human clinical trials.
Blumenthal noted that ABC policy on reporting of scientific and clinical research on herbs and their preparations designates that "ABC does not usually cover animal research in its scientific reporting, preferring human clinical trials. However, in this case ABC believes that the potential implications for human health and the herb kava are significant enough, as suggested by this particular animal research, to warrant attention by ABC."
According to Stefan Gafner, chief science officer of ABC, “The fact that the researchers were able to find evidence of the ability of a kava fraction to prevent the formation of tumors in mice, in support of epidemiological data showing a lower incidence of lung cancer in people living on the South Pacific Islands where kava is traditionally used, makes this study very compelling. If confirmed in human clinical studies, the results could have a big impact on human health and may lead to a greater emphasis on prevention rather than cure."
Prof. Bill Gurley, PhD, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the College of Pharmacy of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, reviewed the study and commented to ABC, “…the findings are both compelling and certainly merit further research in order to translate them into the clinic. The findings are a breath of fresh air for kava, in particular, and botanical supplements, in general. Recently supplements have suffered quite a bit of negative publicity—some of it deserved, some not—but the kava study from the University of Minnesota emphasizes what good science coupled with quality botanicals can produce."
According to Rick Kingston, PharmD, a clinical professor of pharmacy at the University of Minnesota and president of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs at SafetyCall International in Minneapolis, “This research is truly unprecedented in its potential impact. A 99 percent cancer prevention efficacy is unheard of with this very sensitive research model and paves the way for future clinical trials to assess human applications. Another fascinating aspect relates to identifying kava components likely responsible for rare cases of liver toxicity associated with kava dietary supplements. Fortunately, the risk of kava liver complications is low, but this will allow development of supplement preparations devoid of [compounds that may cause] adverse liver effects that can be used for both anti-anxiety and wellness applications in the supplement arena.”