Kava Kava pulled from Irish market amid safety fears

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Kava kava, Herbalism, Adverse drug reaction, Kava

The popular calming herbal remedy Kava Kava has been withdrawn from
the Irish market over concerns that it may cause liver damage,
reports the Irish Examiner.

The popular calming herbal remedy Kava Kava has been withdrawn from the Irish market over concerns that it may cause liver damage, reports the Irish Examiner.

The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) yesterday said the product has been removed from sale because of reports that it was causing serious adverse reactions among some users.

More than 30 cases of liver damage, including six cases of liver failure, which led to one death and several transplants, have been reported among Kava Kava users in Germany and Switzerland.

IMB medical director Dr Joan Gilvarry said the decision to place an indefinite ban on the product was taken as a precautionary measure until more detailed medical research on Kava Kava could be conducted. Britain, France, Germany and Austria have already withdrawn the product.

The IMB is advising the public to immediately discontinue use of any Kava Kava products. The herbal remedy is sold under 13 different brand names including tincture and tablet formats in Ireland.

"People are becoming more aware that just because something is natural, it does not equate with it being safe,"​ said Dr Gilvarry. "Herbal remedies can have side-effects."

Kava Kava had been recommended as a treatment for insomnia, asthma, headaches, rheumatism, obesity and fevers.

Health experts say there has been a noticeable increase in its use since the IMB made St John's Wort, closely associated with Kava Kava, a prescription-only product in January 2000.

That decision caused outrage among a large number of alternative medicine practitioners and users for whom St John's Wort was regarded as a highly beneficial treatment for depression.

While the IMB has sought agreement from the relevant trade and professional bodies for the ban, the Irish Health Trade Association said it was reluctantly complying with the measure.

"We believe there is a need to distinguish between the natural and synthetic forms of Kava Kava,"​ said IHTA advisor on regulatory affairs Jonathan Griffith. "We are not convinced that Kava Kava is the cause of the problem."

He said the people of Polynesia - where the herbal remedy originated - had been using the remedy for centuries without any adverse side-effects. He also pointed to evidence that Kava Kava users who had reported liver problems had also consumed alcohol and other conventional drugs. "These are products which are also known to cause disease of the liver,"​ he added.

There were further suggestions that the traditional preparations of Kava Kava sold in Ireland are safer than, for example, the more concentrated versions on sale in Germany.

The IHTA is recommending another herbal remedy, Avenasativa, as a suitable alternative to Kava Kava due to its "excellent safety profile".

Related topics: Research

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