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Last week, the Food and Drug Administration reported kava may be harmful. A healthy 45 year old women took kava, went into liver failure and required a liver transplant to keep her alive. Last year Americans spent more than 50 million dollars on kava drinks, kava capsules, kava candy and kava tea. France and Switzerland have already banned kava. Britain has suspended use of kava, and Germany is making it a prescription drug only.

Many people take kava because they think that it will help relieve anxiety, help them sleep better, or even treat symptoms of menopause. Why did it take the FDA so long to protect American citizens when so many other countries have already protected theirs? Because the United States has a health food industry that it has so much money that it can lobby our legislators. In 1994,congressmen Harkins and Hatch initiated a law that prohibits the FDA from regulating foods. Entrepreneurs sell all kinds of supplements as food and therefore there are no government agencies that are allowed to protect you from being harmed from health products that are listed as foods.

Scientists have known of the dangers of kava for hundreds of years. If there were a viable agency to protect American citizens, kava never would have ben allowed to be sold in the United States. However, a group of entrepreneurs met in 1996 and called themselves the Kava General Committee and brought 15 million dollars worth of kava to the United States. In Europe, already there were many reports of people going into liver failure and dying from kava. European countries have already corrected their mistakes.

Kava is an extract of a plant that is a relative of the pepper plant. It grow abundantly in the islands of Polynesia. It damages the liver in the same way that extracts of poison mushrooms do. In low doses, it is harmless. What can you do to protect yourself? Remember, that the dose makes the poison. There is always a dose that is too low to harm you, and there is a dose that can kill you when you exceed that safe dose. The active ingredient in kava is a chemical called kavalactone. I do no think you should take it under any circumstances. But those who are going to take kava anyway, should never exceed 60 to 120 mg per day. Unfortunately, there is no way for you to tell whether the product you buy actually contains the amount stated on the label.

Checked 5/3/07

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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