Kava Kava Knocked By FDA

Kava kava has been much advertised as a sedative, muscle relaxant and diuretic and, in recent years, has become very popular. It is sold without a prescription. Some while ago MedicineNet carried a couple of stories about the dangers of kava kava. One story was titled Kava Kava - Herb Hurts Liver. The other was called Rhubarb - Over Kava Kava Alert.

To my mind, medicinal herbs such as kava kava should be regulated by the FDA just like prescription drugs in the US. It is impossible for anyone to remember all the different health warnings about different herbs. Why not have the FDA protect us from adverse herb effects?

Frederick Hecht, MD, FAAP
Associate Chief Medical Editor,


March 27, 2002 - The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising consumers of the potential risk of severe liver injury associated with the use of kava-containing dietary supplements. Kava (Piper methysticum) is a plant indigenous to the islands in the South Pacific where it is commonly used to prepare a traditional beverage. Supplements containing the herbal ingredient kava are promoted for relaxation (e.g., to relieve stress, anxiety, and tension), sleeplessness, menopausal symptoms and other uses. FDA has not made a determination about the ability of kava dietary supplements to provide such benefits.

Liver-related risks associated with the use of kava have prompted regulatory agencies in other countries, including those in Germany, Switzerland, France, Canada, and the United Kingdom, to take action ranging from warning consumers about the potential risks of kava use to removing kava-containing products from the marketplace. Although liver damage appears to be rare, FDA believes consumers should be informed of this potential risk.

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