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New Studies Show Kava Kava Is Potentially Dangerous

Mar 17, 2003 | Consumer Reports Kava kava, also known simply as kava is a top-selling herbal supplement, with sales of more than $9 million a year. It's marketed as a tension relaxer and an alternative to Xanax and Valium.

The herbal supplement kava kava is widely available. It's sold in capsules, in tea and in other forms. Some carry claims that it "helps you relax naturally" and "promotes calm and relaxation."

But, Consumer Reports says new, compelling evidence shows there are serious health concerns with kava kava.

Health food store owner Arun Datwani said lots of people with high-stress jobs ask for it.

"Police officers, individuals with corporate jobs. People who have to deal with people all day long," Datwani said.

Consumer Reports' chief medical advisor, Dr. Marvin Lipman, said there's growing concern about kava's safety.

"New evidence has associated the use of kava with liver damage. And in some of those people the liver damage has progressed to liver failure," Lipman said.

In response, kava has been banned in Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Singapore. Sales have been strictly limited in France and Germany.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has issued a consumer advisory. It warns "persons who have liver disease or liver problems should consult a physician before using kava-containing supplements."

Consumer Reports says that's not nearly enough.

"Given the weight of the evidence against kava, we would urge everyone to avoid its use," Lipman said.

So while kava can still be seen on store shelves, Consumer Reports says pass it by.

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