New research supports kava’s striking comeback
When I was doing research fieldwork in the South Pacific in the late 1970s, I kept hearing about how effective a native pepper plant called kava was at fighting cancer.
And I wasn’t the only one. In the 1980s, dozens of research studies emerged showing the anti-cancer benefits of regular kava consumption.
In fact, in 1985, The Hawaii Medical Journal published research showing that in Fiji, where many people drink kava tea every day, there were 75 incidences of lung cancer per 100,000 men.1 Guess what the number was in Los Angeles? 307. More than four times as many lung cancer diagnoses as Fiji.
As I continued studying populations in the Pacific during the 1980s and ’90s, I actually found I knew (and on other projects had worked with) many of the scientists involved in making these early anti-cancer kava discoveries.
And their research was so impressive, I began referring to kava as “The Tane Secret.” Tane (pronounced “tah-neigh”) is the Polynesian god of nature—and in an even broader sense, the god of all good.
I think it’s a fitting name because, as you’ll see, this natural wonder has been helping the peoples of the South Pacific for centuries—and is now astonishing scientists in the world’s most modern laboratories.
I’ll tell you more about this exciting new research in just a moment. But first, let me fill you in on why you may not have heard of kava’s cancer-fighting potential before now.
Another natural cancer breakthrough derailed by flawed research
You see, despite the promising evidence that emerged some 30 years ago, not everyone embraced the Tane Secret. In fact, it had its traditional name dragged through the mud for years.
More than a decade ago, further research into this herb was completely derailed. All because of a false scare about the plant’s effects on the liver.
I did my best to fight this ignorance. In 2003, I asked leading European researchers to prepare a review of scientific studies showing the absence of toxicity of kava. I published it in the premier volume of my scientific journal, Reviews in Integrative Medicine.
That research review found that prescription drugs—not kava—were responsible for the liver problems.
It took others longer to make this realization, but they finally saw the light. Kava’s supposed liver toxicity has now been debunked. A ban on the herb was finally lifted in Germany last year. And research into kava’s anti-cancer benefits continues.
The results have been impressive, to say the least.
Studies show The Tane Secret puts 7 different kinds of cancer in the crosshairs
I reported in the April 2014 issue about research that found that kava root extract prevented lung tumors in 99 percent of lab mice.2
And other recent research is showing that kava may be effective at preventing breast,3 bladder4, bone5, colon6, uterine7, and prostate8 cancer as well.
Let’s take a closer look at the evidence showing how this simple plant may be able to fight cancer naturally. And how the government-industrial-medical complex is preventing you from finding that out.
Why you don’t hear about natural cancer fighters
The sad truth is, there are many natural products hiding in plain sight that appear to be effective at preventing and treating cancer. But they’re ignored by the mainstream since they can’t be patented as drugs. And because they often act by modifying the growth of cancerous cells and tumors, instead of outright killing them.
You see, when government cancer experts screen natural products for anti-cancer activity, they look only for the ability to kill cancer cells. What they don’t take into account is that if something can kill cancer cells, it can and will also kill your normal cells. Which, of course, results in tragic and unnecessary side effects like you find with chemotherapy.
But government science bureaucrats simply ignore other important kinds of anti-cancer activity. Like preventing new blood vessels from supporting the growth of cancerous tumors, or starving cancer cells (instead of feeding them like typical oncology regimens). Other proven (but ignored) mechanisms include boosting the immune system to naturally eliminate cancer cells and transforming cancer cells back to “normal” cells.
Because of this scientific and economic bias in the cancer industry, natural products that are found to be effective at fighting cancer in laboratory studies just don’t make it into hugely expensive human cancer treatment trials. And thus into mainstream cancer-fighting regimens.
That’s why most kava studies are done on animals. Take, for example, the lung cancer study I mentioned earlier.
Mice were given a kava dietary supplement on a daily basis. The researchers then tried to chemically induce lung tumors in the mice. But they failed 99 percent of the time.
Think about that: 99 percent. A prevention rate that high is unprecedented among cancer studies using nutrients and natural products.
In fact, for any substance—natural or pharmacological—to qualify for funding for human studies, National Cancer Institute experts are thrilled if it can reduce cancer by four times, three times, or even two times (like the typical range of many vitamins and minerals).
But they ignore a finding that reduces cancer by 99 times. Unbelievable.
How much kava do you need?
Of course, when it comes to any health effect—including anti-cancer effects—the potency of a nutrient or herb (or drug, for that matter) is directly related to its ability to enter the body’s tissues.
And because there has been so little human research into kava, there’s a big question about just how well it does that. Consequently, scientists aren’t really sure how much of the herb our bodies need to help prevent cancer.
It’s not likely to be the typical 300 mg daily dose of kava dietary supplements, which are often taken for relaxation (see sidebar). In fact, I believe this dose is probably not optimal for any purpose.
South Pacific islanders are known to consume as much as 10 grams of kava a day. That’s more than 30 times the typical supplement dose. And as you see from the accompanying table, the more kava, the lower the cancer rates.
So how do the Polynesians ingest so much kava?
Well, they drink their kava rather than take it in pill form. In fact, the traditional method is to brew fresh or dried kava roots into a tea made with local water.
I’m not talking about Fiji Water—that expensive bottled stuff that is shipped 10,000 miles overseas (talk about a carbon footprint for members of the politically correct green elite who like to pay to drink it).
I’m talking about the water actually drunk in Fiji. As we learn more about the health properties of the water itself, and its interactions with the natural constituents in kava, I suspect it will prove to play a key role in the disease-fighting effects of the traditional kava drink of Fiji and the South Pacific. Because when it comes to winning the “war on cancer,” the South Pacific may hold the key—just as it did in ultimately winning World War II.
In the meantime, it’s not a big mental stretch to imagine a beverage sold in the U.S. that mimics the effective dose of a traditional Fiji kava tea.
After all, a can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar (another plant originally from the South Pacific, in today’s Papua-New Guinea).9 If they can find a way to put 39 grams of a metabolic poison into your drink, we can find a way to prepare a drink with 10 grams of an effective anti-cancer herb.
Until that happens, though, you have a few different options when it comes to supplementing with kava for its traditional use as a relaxant and stress-reliever.
First there are capsules. The recommend dose is 400 mg a day (in the evening).
You can also find ground kava root powder, which can be mixed directly into water or juice. Like coffee, kava powders can be course- or fine-ground. If you opt for course-ground, it needs to be strained prior to drinking it.
Similarly, dried kava root is also available, and can be steeped in water, then strained.
Regardless of which form you choose, make sure it’s organic.
Here are a couple of online sources to consider:
- Herbal Island (herbal-island.com) — This Utah-based company imports its kava products from Fiji, and offers a good variety of products.
- Kona Kava Farm (konakavafarm.com) — This company grows its kava in Hawaii (where climate is similar to the South Pacific) and adheres to strict FDA-compliant good manufacturing practices (GMP). They also offer a wide variety of kava products.
Keep in mind, most people report that kava doesn’t have a pleasant flavor. It can also cause some numbness in the lips and tongue in some people. However, these effects are typically mild and temporary. Most people find the resulting relaxing effects on the body and mind very enjoyable.
Of course, quality and effects appear to vary greatly among sources, so it’s important to look at existing feedback from other customers—and share your own about any products you decide to try.
And that’s not all kava can do…
Kava has been proven to tackle health issues beyond cancer. In fact, the herb has long been used in Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, and other exotic Polynesian locations as an effective anti-anxiety agent. Maybe that’s why U.S. presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Bill Clinton sampled kava drinks during their election-year trips to American Samoa.
Earlier research on the muscle and nerve-relaxing benefits of kava focused on a specific compound: kavalactones.
Kavalactones are bound to lactic acid, which plays a prominent role in alternative energy-producing metabolic pathways in muscles and other tissues when they run out of oxygen (a process called anaerobic respiration).
This ability to produce energy without using oxygen probably harkens back to the biological equipment we inherited from aquatic cells—before oxygen accumulated in the atmosphere and life emerged from the oceans about 300 million years ago.
Accordingly, muscles are tissues in our bodies that are well-adapted to using alternate anaerobic respiration. They have an extraordinary ability to store lactic acid until it can eventually be eliminated from the body.
Because kavalactones are bound to lactic acid, I believe they can also be stored in muscles. And that helps produce kava’s remarkable relaxing, anti-anxiety properties.
More kava, less cancer
The following chart shows the striking relations between kava consumption and cancer rates in South Pacific men. As you can see, the more kava consumed, the lower the cancer incidence:
1Henderson BE, et al. Cancer incidence in the islands of the Pacific. Nat. Cancer Inst. Monogr. 1985;69:3-81.
2Leitzman, P, et al. Kava blocks 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone-induced lung tumorigenesis in association with reducing O6-methylguanine DNA adduct in A/J mice. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2014 Jan;7(1):86-96.
3Abu N, et al. In vivo antitumor and antimetastatic effects of flavokawain B in 4T1 breast cancer cell-challenged mice. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2015 Mar 6;9:1401-17.
4Liu Z, et al. Kava chalcone, flavokawain A, inhibits urothelial tumorigenesis in the UPII-SV40T transgenic mouse model. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2013 Dec;6(12):1365-75.
5Ji T, et al. Mol Cancer. Flavokawain B, a kava chalcone, inhibits growth of human osteosarcoma cells through G2/M cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Mol Cancer. 2013 Jun 10;12:55.
6Triolet J, et al. Reduction in colon cancer risk by consumption of kava or kava fractions in carcinogen-treated rats. Nutr Cancer. 2012 Aug;64(6):838-46.
7Eskander RN, et al. Flavokawain B, a novel, naturally occurring chalcone, exhibits robust apoptotic effects and induces G2/M arrest of a uterine leiomyosarcoma cell line. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2012 Aug;38(8):1086-94.
8Li X, et al. Kava components down-regulate expression of AR and AR splice variants and reduce growth in patient-derived prostate cancer xenografts in mice. PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31213.
9The Coca-Cola Company. Product Nutrition. http://productnutrition.thecoca-colacompany.com. Accessed April 17, 2015.