As we can see, herbs are often claimed to have dangerous
adverse effects that do not really exist. The FDA
commonly does this in an attempt to gain more control
over herbs, which helps them to protect their illegal
investments in pharmaceutical companies, and to protect
their cozy relationship. As with chaparral, kava was
also given a false reputation of causing cases of
Kava refers to the INNER ROOT of the kava plant.
Kava has been used for centuries as both medicine
and as a mind altering drug, when specially prepared.
And for centuries it has had a reputation of being
quite safe, except when abused. By this I mean extremely
high doses over a period of time. Overuse by kava
addicts can lead to thickening and peeling of the
skin. This has never been seen in normal use of kava
capsules. And no cases of hepatitis were ever reported
from traditional preparation and use of kava.
A few years back though, there were actually cases
of hepatitis appearing out of nowhere in people taking
kava supplements. The medical journals, and news media
jumped all over the story and reported repeatedly
that kava was dangerous and caused hepatitis. Yet
they never reported all the facts, or the truth, even
when the problem was exposed. In fact, the problem
stemmed from the greed of a pharmaceutical company
looking to cash in on the herbal movement bandwagon.
The company traveled to Fiji to obtain information
on the use of the herb, and looking for kava sources.
During traditional preparation, the islanders would
strip off the outer root bark and discard it. Only
the inner root was being used for consumption. The
pharmaceutical company decided that they could buy
up all of the waste the islanders were discarding
for next to nothing, dry it, grind it, capsule it
and sell it. So this is exactly what they did. Though
in the blinding glare of dollar signs, and in their
rush to get in on the bandwagon, they overlooked an
important rule of herbs. Not all parts of a plant
have the same chemistry! Though a few plants will
have basically the same alkaloids, glycosides, etc.
throughout the plant in varying amounts, this is not
common. It is more common to have totally different
chemistries throughout the plant, including the same
areas of the plant. For example, cocklebur root is
a pain killer. The leaves are used to treat asthma,
and the seeds used to stop diarrhea. And when using
lapacho (pau d’ arco, taheebo, ipe roxo), the
inner bark is used, not the outer bark, which does
not have the medicinal properties. Kava is no different.
The reason the islanders were discarding the outer
bark of the kava was because they knew that the outer
bark was toxic!
If the pharmaceutical company would have taken the
time to ask questions on the preparation, and looked
into the chemistry then the isolated cases of hepatitis
could have been avoided, and kava would not have received
an undeserved bad reputation. General use of the inner
root of kava remains safe as it always has.