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Why Experts are Now Saying this Herb is Not Only Safe, but Needed Now More Than Ever!

Oct 4, 2016 | Industry News

5 minutes to read

Applied Food Sciences sets the record straight about kava at SupplySide West with the release of their newest ingredient KAVOA™ kava extract for relaxation, stress relief and sleep support.

After more than a decade of some negative attention, Applied Food Sciences, Inc. (AFS), along with other industry experts, are setting the record straight about the safety and efficacy of Kava. During SupplySide West Expo October 4-8, AFS is set to debut its newest offering, KAVOA™ kava extract, a safe and effective ingredient for sleep support, relaxation and stress relief.

“Kava [kava-kava or piper methysticum] is an herb with a long ethnobotanical history in Polynesia, and it produces clinically-documented anti-anxiety benefits,” said Mark Blumenthal, American Botanical Council’s (ABC) founder and executive director — Applied Food Sciences is the newest contributor to ABC’s Adopt-an-Herb Program with its adoption of kava.  “ABC is deeply grateful to Applied Food Sciences for its adoption of kava on the HerbMedPro database, which will allow ABC to stay current with emerging research on kava’s benefits and new information that helps to clarify prior concerns about its relative safety.”

With its long history of use and the growing body of evidence on the benefits of kava, why any concern for its safety?

Over the last two years Applied Food Sciences has taken a deeper dive into kava by analyzing prior published criticisms about the use of this herb. Creating relationships with local South Pacific Island kava growers and evaluating methods for growing, harvesting, processing and analyzing kava, AFS identifies the main reasons for safety concerns with kava. These concerns are associated with five key areas of production: 

  1. Use of Non-Noble or incorrect chemotype cultivars(s).
  2. Unstandardized harvesting practices (yielding byproduct contamination to the kava before processing).
  3. Use of the incorrect parts of the plant, namely the peelings and stems (instead of the root and rhizome).
  4. Inadequate methods of manufacturing for producing standardized extracts (low quality,
    unstandardized extracts).
  5. Lack of scientifically validated methods for measurement of actives (kavalactones and chalcones).

“Working together with farmers, researchers, and agronomists we wanted to promptly address these concerns in collaboratively creating best practices to develop a better standard in kava,” says Chris Fields, VP Scientific Affairs for AFS. “From the farm level, to processing and extraction, we have implemented a six-point plan for the commercialization and sustainability of our kava supply to the nutrition market. The plan encompasses aspects from all five elements outlined as potential areas of concern over the safety and use of kava.”

Additionally, in collaboration with the University of South Pacific, Douglas Labs (Fiji), Alkemist Labs (USA) and Chromadex (USA), AFS developed a validated method for formulators to use in the determination of the major kavalactones while also determining the negative chalcones associated with use of plant stems, peeling and arterial parts of the plant. 

By optimizing the beneficial lactones and reducing or eliminating the negative ones, AFS has created a new safer extract,  KAVOA™ kava extract, that formulation experts can confidently use in products moving forward.

“We also acknowledge AFS’ commitment to a robust supply chain program that helps to ensure the sustainable harvest of the appropriate variety of kava for use in consumer products,” ABC’s Founder Mark Blumenthal added.

AFS, recently published a white paper on kava that details the return of safe kava. The paper goes over, in detail, the six-point plan and addresses prior criticisms of kava, refuting much of the poor quality of data used in many examples.

Why is Kava needed in the U.S. today?

The unfortunate reality is that Americans are overworked, overstimulated, and under rested. As more research supports the long-term effects of this problem, consumers are seeking effective and natural remedies. 

“Taking a closer look at human physiology, the demand for individuals to decrease stress, anxiety, and restlessness, seems to make a whole lot of sense,” explains Brian Zapp, Director of Marketing for  Applied Food Sciences. “Individuals spend their day searching for ways to increase energy by consuming caffeine, B-Vitamins, and other energy related compounds trying to get more done during the day. Combine that with the ongoing stimulation from technology at night and we are left hardwired, unable to unwind”

While it is easy to relate to this pattern, the statistics that support it are even harder to ignore: 

The nation’s Center for Economic and Policy Research states that Americans get the least amount of vacation days in the world.  While other countries require as much as 40 paid days off, the U.S. has zero prerequisites in this area (CEPR, 2016). 

The FDA reports that Americans consume on average 300mg of caffeine per person per day (FDA – Caffeine Intake by the U.S. Population, 2012).  That is equivalent to 3 cups of coffee or two 16oz energy drinks every day. 

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute shows that a two-hour exposure to tablets and mobile can cause melatonin suppression, which affects sleep (LCR, 2012).

Therefore, it comes at no surprise that the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research states that around 70 million Americans are reporting to have sleep problems (NCSDR, 2016).

While it is seemingly easy in America to find and consume stimulants, it is increasingly more difficult to, in turn, “switch off” when the day is done.  This inability to relax and recover from the day is likely one of the biggest contributors to the growth of the sleep market.

Existing research on kava suggests that certain kavalactones, particularly kavain and the dihydrokavain, contribute most significantly to the anxiolytic, relaxation, and sleep benefits of the root. AFS targets these lactones in the finished KAVOA™ kava extract; yielding a specific chemotype or fingerprint that is optimum for efficacy and safety in finished products.

To learn more about Applied Food Sciences and their efforts with kava, see their Vendorbrief at SupplySide West titled “The Return of Safe Kava.” Friday, October 07, 2:00 – 2:25 PM at Booth WW111, or visit their website or call 855-885-2399.

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