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Food Chem Toxicol. 2011 Oct;49(10):2503-16. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2011.06.075. Epub 2011 Jul 3.

Proposal for a kava quality standardization code.

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Department of Internal Medicine II, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Klinikum Hanau, Teaching Hospital of the Goethe University of Frankfurt/Main, Germany.


Rare cases of hepatotoxicity emerged with the use of kava drugs and dietary supplements prepared from rhizomes and roots of the South Pacific plant kava (Piper methysticum). Their psychoactive, anxiolytic, relaxing, and recreational ingredients are the kavalactones kavain, dihydrokavain, methysticin, dihydromethysticin, yangonin, and desmethoxyyangonin, but there is little evidence that these kavalactones or the non-kavalactones pipermethystine and flavokavain B are the culprits of the adverse hepatic reactions. It rather appears that poor quality of the kava material was responsible for the liver toxicity. Analysis of existing kava quality standardizations with focus on chemical, agricultural, manufacturing, nutritional, regulatory, and legislation backgrounds showed major shortcomings that could easily explain quality problems. We therefore suggest a uniform, internationally accepted device for kava quality standardizations that are in the interest of the consumers because of safety reasons and will meet the expectations of kava farmers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, regulators of agencies, and legislators. The initial step resides in the establishment of Pan-Pacific kava quality legislation as an important part of the proposed Kava Quality Standardization Code. In conclusion, a sophisticated approach to establish kava quality standardizations is needed for safe human use of kava as relaxing traditional beverages, the anxiolytic drugs, and recreational dietary supplements.

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