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Kava study-- does Kava prevent lung cancer

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Gourmet Hawaiian Kava

Kava Expert
Kava Vendor
HI everyone, it looks like I can post this press release now so here it is------------------
University of Minnesota research finds kava plant may prevent cigarette-induced lung cancer

MINNEAPOLIS/ ST. PAUL (EMBARGOED UNTIL 11:05 PM CST JANUARY 7, 2014) – New research from the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy and Masonic Cancer Center has found that consumption of the root of Piper methysticum or kava, a plant native to the South Pacific Islands, may prevent the development of tobacco smoke-induced lung cancer.

In addition, the research team identified the naturally occurring components of kava that appear responsible for all the cancer-preventative benefits. By using a patent-pending blend of these active kava ingredients, the research team was also able to avoid liver damage, a rare side effect previously associated with various commercially available kava-containing dietary supplements.

The findings are published ahead-of-print today in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

In the latest study, the University of Minnesota research team found daily consumption of a kava-derived dietary supplement prevented the formation of 99 percent of tumors in a mouse lung tumorigenesis model that is routinely used in predicting lung cancer behavior in humans. The unprecedented level of tumor prevention was coupled with the finding that some mice developed no tumors at all. DNA damage resulting from tobacco carcinogens was also significantly reduced by way of prevention, providing a clue to what is potentially behind kava’s effectiveness.

The findings open up the future possibility of doctors recommending or prescribing kava-derived products in the form of dietary supplements or drugs for current tobacco smokers to reduce their risk of developing lung cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco smoking increases the risk of developing lung cancer13-fold for women and 23-fold for men.

The research may also help explain the low rate of cancer incidence where kava is traditionally consumed. Rates of cancer in the South Pacific Islands of Vanuatu, Fiji and Western Samoa are dramatically lower than those in countries with no kava consumption. Similarly, despite tobacco smoking rates comparable to those of the U.S., the occurrence of lung cancer in Fiji is just 5 to 10 percent of the United States lung cancer occurrence rate.

However, not all commercially available kava products are equal and many of those on the market may carry a risk of liver injury depending on their composition and how they are used.

In Europe, where kava had been routinely used to treat anxiety, kava products were temporarily pulled from the market after being linked to severe liver problems. Many factors have been hypothesized as having contributed to the rare occurrence of liver problems, and although a definitive cause has not been identified, current products in the market typically carry a liver injury warning.

“Our research team had also been working on identifying the source of the liver issues previously associated with current kava preparations. Based on preliminary data, we believe we've identified the kava components that contribute to the adverse liver effects and those substances are found in most if not all currently available kava products including the versions of kava used in traditional practices. This research allowed us to develop formulations which do not contain those substances yet retain all the cancer prevention benefits without liver toxicity issues. In fact, we are currently planning to pursue clinical trials with a number of patent-pending dietary supplement kava formulations.” said Chengguo Xing, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy and a member of Masonic Cancer Center. "In the meantime, I would be hesitant to recommend that consumers start using currently available kava-containing dietary supplements in hopes of receiving cancer prevention benefits. Although occasional use of current kava-containing supplements likely has a low risk of liver injury, these products are not well suited for chronic and daily administration.”

In addition to developing safer kava formulations for the dietary supplement market, the team is also pursuing development of kava-derived drugs that may aid in both the prevention and treatment of various cancers including tobacco smoke-induced lung cancer.

Lastly, the findings from these studies may be good news for Hawaii, as the climate and soil in that State are uniquely suited to grow kava. Hawaii had previously served as one of the largest sources of commercially available kava before concerns over liver toxicity resulted in decreased demand. Resurgence in kava popularity would provide a significant economic boost to that State's economy.

Scientists collaborating in this research include lead authors Pablo Leitzman and Sreekanth Narayanapillai in the U of M College of Pharmacy (Chengguo Xing Group), and their peers in the U of M Masonic Cancer Center (Stephen Hecht Group), U of M College of Veterinary Medicine (M. Gerry O’Sullivan) and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (Junxuan Lu). Funding for this research was provided by National Institutes of Health grant no. R01 CA142649.

About the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy

The University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, the only school of pharmacy in Minnesota, offers its program on the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses. Founded in 1892, the College of Pharmacy educates pharmacists and scientists and engages in research and practice to improve the health of the people of Minnesota and society. The college is part of the Academic Health Center, which is home to the University of Minnesota’s six health professional schools and colleges as well as several health-related centers and institutes. Learn more at www.pharmacy.umn.edu

If any of you have any questions about this let me know, I spoke to Ed Johnston who spoke directly with the professor about this article and he was able to ask a lot of good questions that others will have.
For example this study was funded by a grant for lung cancer research and that is why only the lung cancer is mentioned even though they did try it on other cancers too, in the study.
Also when he said this=="we believe we've identified the kava components that contribute to the adverse liver effects and those substances are found in most if not all currently available kava products including the versions of kava used in traditional practices." it sounds like he is implicating even the traditional Kava drink made in the traditional way but he explained that there is a drug that is like a Tylenol on steroids and this drug has been linked to liver problems if you take it with kava.
In the south pacific areas they do not have this medicine so there is no liver problems, I forgot the exact name of this drug but I will find out and post it here. Really we do not have to worry about drinking Kava, but it very important to only drink kava and DO NOT take kava with other herbs or medicine. Aloha to all.



Hi Chris,
This is very interesting, thanks :)
And it flies right in the face of what is written in the wikipedia-articles on methysticin and dihydromethysticin:

Methysticin induces the function of the hepatic enzyme CYP1A1, an enzyme involved in the toxification of benzo(a)pyrene (an already very toxic substance) into benzopyrene-7,8-dihydrodiol-9,10-epoxide, one of the most highly carcinogenic substances yet discovered (often called the ultimate carcinogen). This property is shared by the related compound 7,8-dihdromethysticin, both of which occur in significant quantities in Piper methysticum, indicating that kava and its extracts may be carcinogenic. As benzo(a)pyrene occurs in tobacco smoke, the carcinogenic effects of tobacco may also be increased by kava consumption.
Although to me the references behind this wiki-conclusion seems shaky at best. It would be great if someone updated the wiki-articles with a counter-argument referencing this study. Unless of course, methysticin and dihydromethysticin are among the components they have removed from their extract ...but it would really surprise me if that was the case.

As for questions: It would be interesting to know which substances they have found in sufficient quantities to be hepatotoxic in traditional kava-preparation: Flavokavain B? Yangonin? The double-bonded kavalactones? Pipermethystine?

- Frank


❦ॐ tanuki tamer
Unfortunately the Wiki articles on kava (kavalactones in particular) are filled with assertions like those. I know infraredz has tried changing them to no avail. That particular paragraph suggests that methysticin might increase the toxicity of benzo(a)pyrene, which might very well be true. Then it goes on to say kava itself could be carcinogenic, which is unsubstantiated and seems very unlikely given what we know about it. But hey, armchair wikipedia editors know best.

When will the full study be available? Sounds like some really good stuff.


Notorious Lightweight
Review Maestro
This is half good news and half bad news.

The good news is they have made a huge step in redeeming kava and it's damaged reputation.

The bad news is that redemption may start the whole "lets jump on the kava bandwagon and ride it for profit!" thing.:shifty:

Gourmet Hawaiian Kava

Kava Expert
Kava Vendor
@ Gradius, This professor was asked many questions and one was about that, what is it exactly that you found out, he does not go into detail but he does say that this is a patent pending product and I get the impression that it does not have the full spectrum of the traditional drink, I also suspect that this product does not give you any of the psychoactive effects that we all like and enjoy from kava. It sounds like it is going to be more like a product that is for cancer and not for a relaxing afternoon after a stressful day.

@ Kavadude, here is the study you should look for, I know you have to join but I am not sure if you have to pay to join, look for this---"
Kava Blocks 4-(Methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-Butanone–Induced Lung Tumorigenesis in Association with Reducing O6-methylguanine DNA Adduct in A/J Mice
  • Pablo Leitzman,
  • Sreekanth C. Narayanapillai,
  • Silvia Balbo,
  • Bo Zhou,
  • Pramod Upadhyaya,
  • Ahmad Ali Shaik,
  • M. Gerard O'Sullivan,
  • Stephen S. Hecht,
  • Junxuan Lu,
  • and Chengguo Xing
Cancer Prev Res January 2014 7:86-96; doi:10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-13-0301

And look for it on this website-----http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/current

@Vekta, I think it will actually be better, it will encourage more people to grow 'Awa, in fact the head professor is going to the kava confrence in Fiji in March and he will be stopping here on the Big Island to talk to me and some other key people about growing more 'Awa. Growing more Hawaiian 'Awa is a good thing. Aloha everyone.



❦ॐ tanuki tamer
Reading through the study right now. I received it through the patientlink thing at the bottom, took about a half hour to get it, but it was free.

It's pretty dense reading. They fed some of the mice a diet laced with their kava extract and it prevented tumorigenesis, just like it says.

They used kava extract from Gaia Herbs. They said it contained "minor nonpolar constituents with high toxicity" although they don't elaborate on what these are. What they actually did was feed the mice a diet laced with the kava extract and a proprietary product developed by fractionating (I don't know either) the kava extract into three different products. Fraction B contained 6 kavalactones (they did not elaborate, that I could see, but I would guess those would be the six major kavalactones) and a flavnone. Fraction C contained some other stuff and the dreaded flavokawain B. Fraction B was the only one of their fractions that had a significant impact on the tumorigenesis.

Although they talk about liver damage in the press release, all of the mice had the same liver weight and they don't discuss liver damage in the article beyond that.


❦ॐ tanuki tamer
Also, this is a really great study. Pretty much any plant has some compound or another that inhibits cancer in vitro, but this is one where rats actually consumed kava in their diet with good results. One thing I would like to hear from the authors of the study is how much kava extract that is relative to the bodyweight of the mice. I can't really think of it on the top of my head but I'd be interested to learn if it is much more or less than the average kava drinker is consuming.

Gourmet Hawaiian Kava

Kava Expert
Kava Vendor
As a lot of you know one of the leading scientists in kava Dr.Chengguo Xing from U. Minnesota, is going to Fiji to attend the applied Chemistry Conference which also hosts a Kava Symposium this March, he will be giving a talk on his groups findings on kava and how kava can kill cancer.
After that he will be coming to Oahu (in Hawaii) to give a talk at Chaminade University, then the next day he will be coming to the Big Island here where I live, he will be giving a talk to a small group, this is an invite only so it will be small and we will be able to ask him a lot of one on one questions, I will try to tape the even and post it but if I can't do that then I will tell you folks all about it.
Adil, if you would like to come let me know and I will put you down on the list.
Aloha to all.

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