National Toxicology Program

National Toxicology Program
http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/go/36127

Abstract for TR-571 - Kava Kava Extract

Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of Kava Kava Extract (CAS No. 9000-38-8) in F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 Mice (Gavage Studies)

 

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Abstract

Kava beverages, made from dried roots of the shrub Piper methysticum, have been used ceremonially and socially in the South Pacific and in Europe since the 1700s. The drink is reported to have pleasant mild psychoactive effects, similar to alcoholic beverages. In the United States, kava kava is an herbal product used extensively as an alternative to anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax® and Valium®. It has also been reported as being used to help children with hyperactivity and as a skin-conditioning agent in cosmetics. Kava kava was nominated by the National Cancer Institute for study because of its increasing use as a dietary supplement in the mainstream United States market and reports of liver toxicity among humans. Male and female F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice received kava kava extract in corn oil by gavage for 2 weeks, 3 months, or 2 years. Genetic toxicology studies were conducted in Salmonella typhimurium, Escherichia coli, and mouse peripheral blood erythrocytes.

 2-WEEK STUDY IN RATS

Groups of five male and five female rats were administered kava kava extract in corn oil by gavage at doses of 0, 0.125, 0.25, 0.5, 1.0, or 2.0 g/kg body weight, 5 days per week for 16 days. One female rat administered 2.0 g/kg kava kava extract died on day 3 of the study. Mean body weights of all dosed groups of rats were similar to those of the vehicle controls. Clinical findings included abnormal breathing, ataxia, and lethargy in the 2.0 g/kg groups of males and females and ataxia and lethargy in the 1.0 g/kg group of females. Liver weights were significantly increased in 1.0 and 2.0 g/kg males and in 0.5 g/kg or greater females compared to the vehicle controls. Minimal hepatocellular hypertrophy occurred in all 2.0 g/kg males and in all females administered 0.25 g/kg or greater.

2-WEEK STUDY IN MICE

Groups of five male and five female mice were administered kava kava extract in corn oil by gavage at doses of 0, 0.125, 0.25, 0.5, 1.0, or 2.0 g/kg body weight, 5 days per week for 17 days. In the 2.0 g/kg group of males, one died on day 2 and one died on day 3. Mean body weights of all dosed groups of mice were similar to those of the vehicle controls. Clinical findings included abnormal breathing, ataxia, and lethargy in males and females in the 1.0 and 2.0 g/kg groups. Liver weights of 2.0 g/kg males and females were significantly increased. The incidence of hepatocellular hypertrophy in 2.0 g/kg female mice was significantly greater than that in the vehicle control group.

3-MONTH STUDY IN RATS

Groups of 10 male and 10 female rats were administered kava kava extract in corn oil by gavage at doses of 0, 0.125, 0.25, 0.5, 1.0, or 2.0 g/kg, 5 days per week for 14 weeks. Deaths attributed to kava kava extract administration included three males and four females in the 2.0 g/kg groups and one female in the 1.0 g/kg group. One 0.25 g/kg male and one vehicle control female also died before the end of the study. The mean body weights of males in the 1.0 and 2.0 g/kg groups and females in the 2.0 g/kg group were significantly less than those of the vehicle controls. Ataxia and lethargy were observed in males and females in the 1.0 g/kg groups during week 1 and in the 2.0 g/kg groups throughout the study. Increased γ-glutamyltransferase activity in 1.0 g/kg females and 2.0 g/kg males and females may represent enzyme induction. However, the hepatocellular hypertrophy observed in the 2.0 g/kg females may have contributed to the increased γ-glutamyltransferase activity. The liver weights of 0.25 g/kg or greater males and 0.5 g/kg or greater females were significantly increased compared to the vehicle controls. The kidney weights of 0.5 g/kg or greater males and females were significantly increased compared to the vehicle controls. The incidence of hepatocellular hypertrophy in 2.0 g/kg females was significantly greater than that in the vehicle controls.

3-MONTH STUDY IN MICE

Groups of 10 male and 10 female mice were administered kava kava extract in corn oil by gavage at doses of 0, 0.125, 0.25, 0.5, 1.0, or 2.0 g/kg, 5 days per week for 14 weeks. Four male and three female 2.0 g/kg mice died during week 1; these deaths were attributed to kava kava extract administration. One additional 2.0 g/kg female died during week 6 due to a gavage accident. The mean body weights of dosed males and females were similar to those of the vehicle controls. Ataxia and lethargy occurred in males and females in the 1.0 and 2.0 g/kg groups during week 1. The liver weights of 2.0 g/kg males and 1.0 and 2.0 g/kg females were significantly increased compared to those of the vehicle control groups. The incidences of centrilobular hypertrophy in the liver of 0.5 g/kg or greater males and 1.0 and 2.0 g/kg females were significantly greater than those in the vehicle controls.

2-YEAR STUDY IN RATS

Groups of 49 or 50 male and 50 female rats were administered kava kava extract in corn oil by gavage at doses of 0, 0.1, 0.3, or 1.0 g/kg, 5 days per week for 104 (males) or 105 (females) weeks. Survival of dosed groups of males and females was similar to that of the vehicle controls. Mean body weights of males administered 1.0 g/kg were less than those of the vehicle controls after week 65, and those of the 1.0 g/kg females were less than those of the vehicle controls after week 41. Clinical findings included ataxia and lethargy that occurred in 21 males and 14 females in the 1.0 g/kg groups during the first 4 weeks of the study. After week 5, ataxia and lethargy were noted in 10 males and eight females in the 1.0 g/kg groups and these findings were observed randomly and intermittently throughout the study. At approximately 1 year into the study, twitching and seizures were observed in males and females in all dosed groups but mainly in the 1.0 g/kg groups.

There was a dose-related increase in the incidences of interstitial cell adenoma in the testis with increased incidences of bilateral neoplasms.

The incidences of hepatocellular hypertrophy in 1.0 g/kg males and females were significantly greater than those in the vehicle controls. Increased γ-glutamyltransferase activity and/or bile salt concentrations in males and females may represent a cholestatic event related to the hepatocellular hypertrophy observed in rats. Enzyme induction may have played a role in the increased γ-glutamyltransferase activity. Significantly increased incidences of centrilobular fatty change occurred in 0.1 and 1.0 g/kg males. The incidences of inflammation, ulcer, and epithelial hyperplasia in the forestomach were significantly increased in 1.0 g/kg males and females. The severity of nephropathy was increased in 1.0 g/kg male rats, and the incidence of nephropathy was significantly increased in 1.0 g/kg females. Incidences of transitional epithelial hyperplasia of the pelvis of the kidney were significantly increased in 1.0 g/kg males and 0.3 and 1.0 g/kg females. The incidences of retinal degeneration in the eye were significantly increased in 1.0 g/kg males and females. The incidences of metaplasia of pancreatic acinar cells to a hepatocytic morphology increased in 1.0 g/kg males and females, and the increase in males was significant.

Significantly decreased incidences of pars distalis adenoma in the pituitary gland occurred in 1.0 g/kg males and in 0.1 and 1.0 g/kg females. The incidence of fibroadenoma of the mammary gland in 1.0 g/kg females was significantly less than that in the vehicle control group.

2-YEAR STUDY IN MICE

Groups of 50 male and 50 female mice received kava kava extract in corn oil by gavage at doses of 0, 0.25, 0.5, or 1.0 g/kg, 5 days per week for 105 weeks. Survival of dosed groups of males and females was similar to that of the vehicle controls. Mean body weights of males administered 1.0 g/kg were generally similar to those of the vehicle controls until the end of the study; however, those of 1.0 g/kg females were less than those of the vehicle controls after week 21. Clinical findings included ataxia and lethargy that occurred in 13 males and 31 females in the 1.0 g/kg groups during the first week of the study. Decreasing numbers of animals exhibited ataxia or lethargy during the remainder of the study, but these findings were observed in 1.0 g/kg females as late as week 101.

The incidences of hepatoblastoma in 0.5 and 1.0 g/kg males were significantly increased compared to the vehicle controls. The incidences of hepatocellular carcinoma or hepatoblastoma (combined) were significantly increased in 0.5 g/kg males. Incidences of hepatocellular carcinoma were increased in all dosed groups of females, and the increase was significant in the 0.25 g/kg group. The incidences of hepatocellular adenoma or carcinoma (combined) were significantly increased in 0.25 and 0.5 g/kg females.

In the liver, the incidences of centrilobular hypertrophy in all dosed groups of males and females were significantly greater than those in the vehicle control groups. Significantly increased incidences of eosinophilic foci occurred in 0.5 g/kg males and in 1.0 g/kg males and females, and the incidence of angiectasis was significantly increased in the 1.0 g/kg males. The incidences of hepatocellular necrosis were significantly increased in 0.25 and 1.0 g/kg males.

In the forestomach, the incidences of chronic inflammation, epithelial hyperplasia, and erosion were significantly increased in 0.5 and 1.0 g/kg females, and the incidence of ulceration was significantly increased in 1.0 g/kg females.

GENETIC TOXICOLOGY

Kava kava extract was tested for bacterial mutagenicity over a broad range of concentrations in two independent assays using several strains of bacteria (S. typhimurium tester strains TA97, TA98, TA100, and TA1535 and E. coli strain WP2 uvrA/pKM101), with and without exogenous metabolic activation. No increase in mutant colonies was seen in any of the tester strains, under any activation condition. In vivo, no increases in the frequencies of micronucleated erythrocytes were observed in peripheral blood of male or female B6C3F1 mice administered kava kava extract by gavage for 3 months.

CONCLUSIONS

Under the conditions of these 2-year gavage studies, there was equivocal evidence of carcinogenic activity of kava kava extract in male F344/N rats based on marginal increases in the incidences of testicular interstitial cell adenoma. There was no evidence of carcinogenic activity of kava kava extract in female F344/N rats administered 0.1, 0.3, or 1.0 g/kg. There was clear evidence of carcinogenic activity of kava kava extract in male B6C3F1 mice based on increased incidences of hepatoblastoma. There was some evidence of carcinogenic activity of kava kava extract in female B6C3F1 mice based on increased incidences of hepatocellular adenoma or carcinoma (combined).

 

Kava kava extract administration resulted in increased incidences of nonneoplastic lesions in the liver, forestomach, kidney, eye, and pancreas of male and female rats, liver of male and female mice, and forestomach of female mice.

Synonyms: Antares, ava; ava pepper; ava pepper shrub; ava root; awa; bornyl cinnamate; cavain; (+)-dihydrokawain-5-ol; Fijian kava; flavokavines A and B; 6-dihydroyangonin; gea; gi; grog; intoxicating long pepper; intoxicating pepper; kao; kava kava extract LI 140; kava kava rhizome; kava root; kavain; kavakava; kavalactones; kavapiper; kavapyrones; kavarod; kavasporal forte; kave-kave; kawa; kawa kawa; kawa pepper; Kawa Pfeffer; kew; LI150; long pepper; Macropiper latifolium; malohu; maluk; maori kava; meruk; 11-methoxy-5, 5-hydroxydihydrokawain; milik; olanzapine; pepe kava; piperis methystici rhizome; pipermethystine; Rauschpfeffer; rhizoma piperis methystici; rhizome di kava-kava sakaua; risperidone; sakau; tonga; WS 1490; wurzelstock; yagona; yangona; yaqona; yongona

Botanical name: Piper methysticum

 


 

Summary of the 2-Year Carcinogenesis and Genetic Toxicology Studies of Kava Kava Extract
  Male
F344/N Rats
Female
F344/N Rats
Male
B6C3F1 Mice
Female
B6C3F1 Mice
Doses in corn oil by gavage 0, 0.1, 0.3, or 1.0 g/kg 0, 0.1, 0.3, or 1.0 g/kg 0, 0.25, 0.5, or 1.0 g/kg 0, 0.25, 0.5, or 1.0 g/kg
Body weights 1.0 g/kg group 10% less than the vehicle control group after week 65 1.0 g/kg group 10% less than the vehicle control group after week 41 Dosed groups generally similar to the vehicle control group 1.0 g/kg group 11% less than the vehicle control group after week 21
Survival rates 34/49, 35/50, 34/50, 31/50 34/50, 35/50, 24/50, 34/50 34/50, 33/50, 35/50, 36/50 38/50, 34/50, 45/50, 37/50
Nonneoplastic effects Liver: hepatocyte, hypertrophy (0/49, 2/50, 2/50, 22/50); centrilobular, fatty change (1/49, 7/50, 4/50, 21/50)
Stomach, Forestomach: inflammation (8/49, 4/50, 9/50, 22/50); ulcer (4/49, 0/50, 6/50, 13/50); epithelium, hyperplasia (6/49, 4/50, 11/50, 27/50)
Kidney: severity of nephropathy (1.4, 1.2, 1.8, 3.1); pelvis, transitional epithelium, hyperplasia (0/49, 1/50, 1/50, 15/50)
Eye: retina, degeneration (6/49, 6/50, 10/50, 16/50)
Pancreas: acinus, metaplasia, hepatocyte (0/49, 0/50, 0/50, 6/50)
Liver: hepatocyte, hypertrophy (5/50, 2/50, 3/50, 33/50)
Stomach, Forestomach: inflammation (5/49, 7/50, 7/50, 13/50); ulcer (1/49, 1/50, 3/50, 7/50); epithelium, hyperplasia (5/49, 6/50, 8/50, 19/50)
Kidney: nephropathy (34/50, 35/50, 37/50, 43/50)
Eye: retina, degeneration (5/50, 5/50, 5/50, 12/50)
Pancreas: acinus, metaplasia, hepatocyte (0/49, 1/50, 0/50, 4/50)
Liver: centrilobular, hypertrophy (0/50, 34/50, 30/50, 39/50); eosinophilic focus (28/50, 32/50, 42/50, 43/50); angiectasis (3/50, 6/50, 7/50, 10/50); necrosis (3/50, 10/50, 7/50, 13/50) Liver: centrilobular, hypertrophy (0/50, 20/50, 48/50, 49/50); eosinophilic focus (9/50, 7/50, 16/50, 26/50)
Stomach, Forestomach: inflammation, chronic (3/50, 6/50, 21/50, 22/50); epithelium, hyperplasia (3/50, 6/50, 23/50, 24/50); erosion (0/50, 1/50, 14/50, 11/50); ulcer (0/50, 2/50, 3/50, 6/50)
Neoplastic effects None None Liver: hepatoblastoma (0/50, 4/50, 9/50, 12/50) Liver: hepatocellular carcinoma (3/50, 13/50, 8/50, 8/50); hepatocellular adenoma or carcinoma (10/50, 21/50, 20/50, 13/50)
Equivocal findings Testes: interstitial cell, adenoma (37/49, 44/50, 49/50, 46/50) None None None
Level of evidence of carcinogenic activity Equivocal evidence No Evidence Clear evidence Some evidence
Genetic toxicology
Bacterial gene mutations:
 
Negative in Salmonella typhimurium strains TA97, TA98, TA100, and TA1535 with and without S9; negative in Escherichia coli WP2 uvrA/pKM101 with and without S9
Micronucleated erythrocytes
Mouse peripheral blood in vivo:
Negative in males and females

Date: March 2012

The NTP is located at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.