Kava was recently re-awarded its status as an effective tranquilliser by one of the highest courts in Germany

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The German Federal Administrative Court has overturned a ban on kava products imposed in 2002 because of fears by the public health authorities about the plant’s toxicity. In a sitting held in June this year, the court found the risk of using kava to be ‘not unusually high’ and that mere doubts over a medicinal product did not justify it being banned. The ban, it said, was ‘unlawful and inappropriate’.

In Cape Town Dr Florrie Kerschbaumer, Founder of the Flora Force range of natural remedies, welcomed the decision. ‘Prior to kava being taken off the market in South Africa Flora Force Kava-Kava was one of the company’s best-selling products and many users benefited from its properties,’ she said. ‘When the product was banned, Flora Force opposed the ruling. We are very happy that the German Federal Administrative Court has proven us correct and we look forward to the local authorities following the lead set by their German counterparts so that South Africans can once again benefit from kava.’

The victory comes after a hard-fought battle against the 12-year embargo that has had a severe impact on exports to the EU and the US. According to Vincent Lebot, the Vanuatu-based researcher who provided scientific evidence at the trial, ‘It’s a clear victory for all of us who know that when kava is properly used with the right varieties cultivated with the right agricultural practices in a reasonable way, it’s not a dangerous product.’

Kava is an important crop in the South Pacific island countries, principally Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu. There, kava drinks prepared from the plant’s roots are used locally in a social environment as a relaxant and stress reliever. The kava content does not alter in any other way the state of mind of the consumer and appears to have no adverse effects. The mild tranquillising effects of kava’s active ingredients led to extracts of its root being used to develop herbal medicinal products for the treatment of mostly situational anxiety, particularly in Europe.

Now, kava once more holds the status it held in 2001 as a prescription-only medicinal product. But the decision applies to Germany only. The revised regulation has still to be adopted in the UK and in the other EU countries where the ban had been supported.

However, says Dr Lebot, the Pacific region’s kava trade is still under threat as there are serious problems with the quality of kava being exported from the region. The chair of the International Kava Executive Council, Tagaloa Eddie Wilson, stated that the council has been working with Pacific farmers and governments to introduce kava production standards. ‘The next step,’ he said, ‘is to put in place a set of quality assurances and processes so that
[anyone who] exports kava has to comply by very strict quality standards.’[divider_top]

Acknowledgements & Photo credits

  1. Kava photo by Forest & Kim Starr [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons