Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

Looking for a Natural Pain Reliever as a Hangover Cure?

Did you overdo the festivities a little over Christmas? Looking for a natural hangover cure or pain reliever?

Kava has also been used as a natural pain reliever down the years – so can it really stop you having to reach for those Aspirin, Paracetemol or Ibruprofen tablets when you wake up with a hangover?

  Read more

By Zane Yoshida

Effects of Kava and Alcohol this Festive Period

It’s that time of year all around the world when Christmas and New Year parties are in full swing.

On the Pacific islands kava drinking levels tend to go through the roof as families and friends get together.

Elsewhere around the world, the festivities are celebrated in different ways, but in much of the developed world, over-eating, over-drinking and not enough exercise are a common outcome for large numbers of people.

Not to put too much of a dampener on things, but the New Year is certainly a hard time for the liver too. That got us thinking about the differing attitudes to liver damage from kava and alcohol, as well as medications.

Alcohol & liver damage

Alcohol is a leading cause of liver disease in the world – and has been linked to hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis and steatosis (fatty liver).

It is know that prolonged and excessive consumption of alcohol dramatically increases the risk of liver damage and disease, but the exact reasons are not fully understood.

Most alcohol will pass through the liver and be detoxified in the process, but it is believed that the secretion of pro-inflammatory substances in the livers of heavier alcohol users causes inflammation, apoptosis and eventually fibrosis of liver cells. However it is also known that much of the damage can be reversed, because of the liver’s amazing regenerative powers.

The point remains that, even given the wealth of evidence connecting alcohol and liver damage, there is never any debate on bans or clear labeling of the proven health risks on bottles and cans.

Prescription and non-prescription drugs & liver damage

Nonprescription and prescription drugs are easily the most frequent cause of acute liver failure in USA. The FDA reports that half the cases of acute liver failure each year are due to drugs – and almost half of these cases are caused by over-the-counter medications.

It is widely suspected that numbers are under-estimated because doctors often miss the diagnosis leading to under-reporting of cases.

This can mean that some medications stay on the market far too long before being investigated and eventually withdrawn, potentially increasing the risks to users.

Kava & liver damage

During the 1990s people in the west had started to use kava for anxiety and stress relief and to promote sleep especially. There were reports from Europe at the beginning of the millennium about cases of liver toxicity involving kava in dietary supplements.

This led to a kava ban which still affects the kava trade of the South Pacific nations like Fiji and Vanuatu to this day.

It is suspected that the cases that led to the ban were not from usage of kava in the traditional drink form, where only the prized roots of the kava plant are prepared with cold water, and then drunk. It is widely suspected that either:

-Other parts of the plant may have been used

-Preparation of the kava may have involved alcohol or other additives as well as water

-The kava supplement may have been taken in combination with other substances that could have put extra strain on the liver (e.g. alcohol or  tranquilising/anti-depressant drugs like Valium or Prozac)

In any case, the number of cases of liver toxicity in the South Pacific, where the kava is prepared in the traditional way, is negligible – and that applies over many centuries of usage.

Don’t mix the drinks!

Some sound advice would be to think of your liver this festive period. Don’t mix drinks that will put extra strain on your liver. A combination of kava and alcohol, with rich foods and perhaps some medications, is going to put a heavy load on your liver.

Bear in mind that, compared with alcohol and some medications, the potential threat from kava usage on its own is minuscule.

You should be able to enjoy a kava shot or two this festive period, safe in the knowledge that you are much less at risk of liver damage than if you take some other common substances that do not have any health warnings associated with them.

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Effects of Kava and Alcohol this Festive Period