Kava exporters in Pacific react to Western Kava bans

January 18, 2002 2:15 PM   Subscribe

Kava exporters in Pacific react to Western Kava bans
    Pacific countries who export kava called for an international review of its alleged health risks. They are reacting to a recent spate of warnings on its use and, in some cases, bans on its sale (1).
    Growing concern over a link between kava use and liver toxicity has prompted Germany, Switzerland and France to ban the sale of kava-derived herbal medicine (1, 2, 3). The US, Canada, and NZ are advising against its use, pending their own reviews (1, 2, 3, 4).
    Kava is cultivated and brewed to produce an narcotic ceremonial drink in much of the Pacific. Recently it has become a cash crop for an herbal-enthused Western market (1, 2), as well as part of a growing drug-abuse problem (1) in Pacific countries.
posted by rschram (13 comments total)
I'll take a iced, percent, vente Kava to go. Hold the foam.
posted by Brilliantcrank at 2:32 PM on January 18, 2002

kavascript is evil.
posted by quonsar at 2:45 PM on January 18, 2002

This needles me, because I love my kava kava. Seriously -- I absolutely detest over-the-counter sleeping pills. They seem to shut down my REM sleep (I don't know if this is medically accurate but it's my impression), and though I wake up physically rested this leaves me mentally unrested and irritable. Also, if I'm having trouble sleeping but need to work in the morning, OTC pills have a hangover effect that even coffee can't overcome. I typically take half the regular adult dose. Also, I would take a pill often enough to consider the habit-forming aspects. Maybe I'm just overly sensitive to this class of drugs.

Anyway, in lieu of that, I prefer a kava kava pill. It doesn't put you to sleep as quickly, so you have to remember to take it earlier, but it doesn't have those side-effects for me. I gradually become sleepy, I get a VERY rich REM sleep period, and I generally wake up feeling refreshed, not just rested. Best of all, if I don't take one until (say) after midnight, it doesn't leave me groggy in the morning. And it isn't habit-forming that I've seen.

So I really hope they determine this is all hoo-hah about something that because it wasn't invented in a lab gets looked at sideways by medical experts.
posted by dhartung at 3:01 PM on January 18, 2002

Kava Kava extract is awesome. And very true, dhartung, you get some vivid REM sleep and dreams (though not so much as when you take Ginko...now that shit gives you some wacky-ass dreams.) I usually have some every night, but it isn't like sleeping pills, which may get me to sleep but have me waking up groggy because of the lack of REM sleep.
posted by adampsyche at 3:07 PM on January 18, 2002

Today's discerning ambulance chasers prefer ephedra which has a history of more nasty adverse events than all other supplements combined. Relax, it's just kava.
posted by euphorb at 4:15 PM on January 18, 2002

I make my kava the old fahioned way--no, not chewed and spit out by young virgins of either sex--but with a blender and a dash of lecithin and coconut oil, sort of like this. And, man, does it taste shitty.

Lucky for me, I know of a Samoan mom and pop that sells it for $10 a pound--the hippie herb shops hereabouts just rip you off.

I tell my friends it's like beer but you don't get stupid or slur your words. You do stumble if you drink too much but as I've never gotten a driver's license, the world is safe. Now, that Vanaatu strain...

Hey, did you know it's a cultivar. doesn't go to seed ever, has been a domesticated plant longer than nearly any other?

The first time I made some that worked, I spent the evening at a party, rolling around on the carpet while entertaining a friend's two year old--it is the social drug non pareil...

Of course, they want to ban it--you know the mantra: If It Feels Good, Don't Do It.
posted by y2karl at 4:37 PM on January 18, 2002

Kava is wonderful stuff, and although it is true that some toxicity effects appear when it's taken to excess over long periods of time, it is so much less mind-altering and druglike than most other plant-derived 'narcotics'. Like y2karl said, it's a social drug, and a very gentle and relaxing one. Fijians are perhaps the kindest people on this planet (in my experience) and the fact that Kava is a large part of their culture is not entirely unrelated, I believe.

When my mother was around 50, she visited Fiji for the first time, and ended up taking kilograms of Kava powder home, as she loved it so much. How she got those kilos of greyish-white powder in unmarked white paper packets through Canadian customs, I will never know.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:38 PM on January 18, 2002

Obviously, the jury is still out on Kava Kava, but there's no question that this is a GREAT post. Thanks, rschram!
posted by UrbanFigaro at 6:46 PM on January 18, 2002

This NY Times article from earlier this week also offers some overview of the recent German decision and the lack of a mechanism within the FDA to deal with herbal supplements being used medicinally.
posted by briank at 7:29 PM on January 18, 2002

Various common foods--meats, fruits and vegetables--are toxic in over-consumption, but no one goes the drug testing route with them. Jeez, what do you think would happen with coffee or alcohol if taken this route? Not to mention red meat, milk, peanut butter, swordfish, tuna, carrot juice, garlic--you name it.

One question is who has a financial interest here vis-a-vis regulation? Could it be the pharmaceutical companies?

Then there is that pesky embedded puritanical thing I mentioned--you know, a few politicians on the right have attacked Viagra for being a 'drug.' If a substance causes any pleasant sensations in the least, people will focus on the problems of over-consumption and go straight to prohibition.

Harm reduction approaches like teaching proper use always get trumped by the crime fightin' moral crusaders. Kava has, at least, the overuse limiting advantages of icky taste and time consuming production. Its abuse potential is pretty much nil--with the don't operate heavy machinery under the influence caveat, of course.

Hmm, Mothers Against Nyquil Using Drivers...

posted by y2karl at 8:01 PM on January 18, 2002

Ambulance chasers, with a chaser...? Already there.
posted by rschram at 8:47 PM on January 18, 2002

Heck, we can buy the stuff at Walgreen's in Kentucky. They've still got Kava when they've run out of milk.
posted by mecran01 at 11:11 AM on January 19, 2002

This is a bit late, but for the record, Lee Kagan's Kava Page is the ultimate scholarly reference on kava--consider the Using Kava page from it. This was where I got my information back in the ascii days of the Seattle Public Library. Also, here is Chris Kilham's Kava Review. I got both of these from Waruno Mahdi's WWW Homepage's linktastical Sub 3a INDO-PACIFIC LITTORALS.
posted by y2karl at 8:17 PM on January 20, 2002

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