Canadians who used the herb kava-kava until it was banned in 2002 will be applauding a recent decision by the Welsh government to revoke its ban on the sale of the herb. The kava industry, along with thousands of UK consumers, hopes to see other UK regions follow the move, which came into effect in October. The UK followed other European countries and Canada in banning the sale of the kava because it had been linked to cases of liver damage.

Kava is taken primarily to help reduce stress and aid insomnia. In the South Pacific, the herb occupies a prominent position in social, ceremonial and daily life and had been used for generations.

In an attempt to fight the ban, kava campaigners produced a report on the safety of the herb by Berlin-based Phytopharm Consulting. The report concluded that kava could be regarded as safe and effective, and that the measures taken by the European health authorities were inappropriate and unjustified. The Welsh decision to revoke the ban came through a court case brought by the UK’s National Association of Health Food Stores against the UK Government.

Dr Joerg Gruenwald of Phytopharm Consulting said: “It is a scandal how herbal products are treated. All synthetic products used in the same indications have a much higher incidence of toxicity or strong addiction potential. Kava is safe and effective, proven by many studies compared to most other drugs in this indication. Therefore, the situation has to be re-analysed.”

The campaigners have submitted the safety assessment of the herb to WHO and the EU member states and are currently preparing a broad information campaign to raise media attention of kava.

NutraIngredients, Nov 28, 2003