MINNEAPOLISKava root (Piper methysticum) may help prevent lung cancer with unprecedented efficacy, exciting new research from University of Minnesota and Texas Tech University suggests. The study, published in Cancer Prevention Research, found daily supplementation with kava extract prevented 99 percent of tumors in a common mouse lung tumorigenesis model; some mice did not develop any tumors (Cancer Prev Res January 2014 7; 86). Researchers also found kava prevented DNA damage from tobacco carcinogens. "Taken together, these results demonstrate the outstanding efficacy of kava in preventing 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK)-induced lung tumorigenesis in A/J mice," the researchers wrote.
This is highly interesting research and suggests a potential new use for certain preparations made from kava root and rhizome," said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC). Of course, the preliminary results must be confirmed in human clinical trials."
Researchers noted the findings may provide insight into the low cancer rates common in kava-consuming areas, such as Fiji and Western Samoa. While tobacco smoking rates there are similar to the United States, lung cancer incidence is a mere 5 to 10 percent of the United States.
According to Stefan Gafner, chief science officer of ABC, The fact that the researchers were able to find evidence of the ability of a kava fraction to prevent the formation of tumors in mice, in support of epidemiological data showing a lower incidence of lung cancer in people living on the South Pacific Islands where kava is traditionally used, makes this study very compelling. If confirmed in human clinical studies, the results could have a big impact on human health and may lead to a greater emphasis on prevention rather than cure."