Why This Herb Has a Lot of Promise and Questions Attached to It

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Kava is a herb with a lot of promise, and that prompts a lot of questions. In a new report, health experts propose global
guidelines for safe use and production of kava, a subject that rarely comes up in this health e-letter mostly for safety reasons. But it does have potential in helping fight anxiety, insomnia, fatigue and symptoms of menopause.

The South-Pacific plant has been traditionally used to reduce stress and anxiety, but is restricted in some countries. Let’s take a look at what some of the world’s top kava experts say on this alternative cure. They have proposed a “six-point plan” intended to be the framework to help reintroduce kava into countries where it is restricted. They hope it leads to only high-quality kava being used around the world.

The report was published in “Phytomedicine” and the “British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.”

What happened was that kava was restricted in 2002 in Europe, the United Kingdom, and Canada over concerns that it may cause liver problems. This was considered to be potentially due, in part, to companies using chemical extracts from poor-quality herb and an incorrect version of kava. The experts say that future strategies should focus on standardizing kava products across the world, and ensuring the manufacturing process improves it to the point of being a safe herbal product.

In Australia in 2005, the Australian Therapeutics Goods Administration allowed for water soluble extracts of kava to be used for medicinal purposes. Preliminary results with their version showed it safe and effective in reducing anxiety (though a larger study is needed).

Experts want kava plants used that are at least five years old, and only the peeled root is to be used in medicine. It must be water soluble, with dose recommendations of under 250 mg of “kavalactones” (the active chemicals) per day. And they want a Pan-Pacific quality control system put in place where kava is cultivated.

If this is followed and if kava use again opens up as safe across the world, patients who suffer anxiety and insomnia will have one of natural medicine’s best options back on the table.