A study conducted by the University of Sydney scientists has shown that kava — a herbal supplement chiefly used to treat conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, tension and restlessness - could affect the normal functioning of the liver.
This study is a follow-up to a previous study, which highlighted the adverse effects of kava.
Professor Iqbal Ramzan, the man who led both studies, said that his latest work was aimed at further investigating what effects kava could have on the liver.
This time, he focused his attention on an ingredient in kava called kavain.
His team used electron microscopes provided by the Australian Key Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis at the University of Sydney to study what effects kavain might have on the biological structure of the liver.
The researchers found that following kavain treatment the liver tissue displayed an overall change in structure, including the narrowing of blood vessels, the constriction of blood vessel passages and the retraction of the cellular lining.
They said that kavain also adversely affected certain cells that function in the destruction of foreign antigens such as bacteria and viruses, which make up part of the body's immune system.
While writing about their observations, the authors of the study noted that the kavain treatment disturbed the basic structure of the liver, consequently seriously impacting the normal functioning of the liver.
The study's findings, published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, clearly support earlier literature observations on kava's adverse affects on the functioning of the liver in general.
The authors, however, conceded that additional investigations into the effects of other major kavalactones on the liver, as well as studies on whether the effects of kava are reversible, were urgently needed.