High dose of commercial products of kava (Piper methysticum) markedly enhanced hepatic cytochrome P450 1A1 mRNA expression with liver enlargement in rats.Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Dec; 46(12):3732-8.FC
Commercial products containing the kava plant (Piper methysticum), known to have the anxiolytic activity, are banned in several European countries and Canada because of the suspicion of a potential liver toxicity. In some reports, kava and kavalactones (major constituents of kava) inhibited activities of cytochrome P450 (CYP) isoforms including CYP1A2. On the other hand, a few studies showed that administration of kava to rats moderately increased CYP1A2 proteins in the liver. CYP1A isoforms are likely responsible for the metabolic activation of potent carcinogenic environmental toxins such as aflatoxins, benzo[a]pyrene, and others. On these bases, we have investigated the effects of administration of commercial kava products on gene expression of hepatic CYP1A isoforms in rats. A high dose (equivalent to approximately 380mg kavalactones/kg/day; 100 times of the suggested dosage for human use) of two different types of kava products for 8 days significantly increased liver weights. CYP1A2 mRNA expression was moderately increased (2.8-7.3 fold). More importantly, the high dose of kava markedly enhanced CYP1A1 mRNA expression (75-220 fold) as well as ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase activities and CYP1A1 immunoreactivities. Thus, no observed adverse effect levels of kavalactones would be lower than 380mg/kg/day. When the safety factor of kavalactones is assumed to be 100, a value most often used upon the risk analysis of chemicals and designed to account for interspecies and intraspecies variations, a number of kava product users likely ingest more kavalactones than acceptable daily intakes. Based on overall evidence, we should pay considerable attention to the possibility that kava products induce hepatic CYP1A1 expression in human especially in sensitive individuals.