Kudzu Root and Kava Kava Banned?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Regina Boos
Posted on: January 29, 2005

Could you please tell me why kudzu root was taken of the market. Also kava kava. What were their supposed negative side effects?

I am not aware that kudzu root (Pueraria lobata) was taken off the market. In Richters catalogue, we have voluntarily stopped sales of seeds or plants to the United States because the plant has become a serious pest in many southern states. But as far as I know, the dried root and any medicines made with it are legal in the U.S.

Kava kava is banned in Canada and Europe. It was banned because of reports that suggested that prolonged use of kava products causes liver damage. Kava is not banned in the U.S.

We believe that the ban of all kava products was wrong. There is a centuries-old tradition of using kava in Polynesia and it is hard to imagine that those people would continue to take something that would make them sick. In fact, they take kava in much higher quantities than the amounts taken in western countries.

We believe that the problem is the way that kava products were manufactured in the West. In Polynesia, the active constituents of kava are released by a combination of mastication and fermentation, while the commercial products are made using chemical solvents that concentrate the active constituents. When you prepare a herbal product using water as a base solvent you often get a very different mix of compounds than when you use an organic solvent like benzene. This, we believe is where the explanation for the apparent safety of kava when used by traditional societies.

We have a section on our "Issues" page devoted to kava and the ban in Canada. Please visit http://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=Issues/issues.html .

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