Supported by several European clinical studies which demonstrated kava's anti-anxiety effects, kava became huge.
Kava sales became huge and for the first time, many South Pacific island cultures flourished economically because of the resulting brisk kava sales.
Two studies by Duke University Medical Center in 2001 showed that kava is safe for the liver and causes no noticeable problems. It was shown in these studies that kava extract is as effective for the treatment of anxiety as Xanax and Valium without the hazards caused by those drugs.
One week prior to the publication of the Duke studies, a European-based report declared that kava had caused liver toxicity in 21 people and kava sales crashed.
Ignoring the results of the Duke studies, insurance companies panicked, European health regulaters over-reacted and the Pacific islanders were left with plenty of kava on the shipping docks and no sales.
After several years and reviews by many research teams, the kava liver toxicity report was found to be shoddy and baseless. But the damage was done.
Despite absolutely no evidence of liver toxicity among kava drinkers and demonstrated liver safety in medical studies, kava still carries the taint of poor research.
Things are beginning to turn around though. The epicenter of kava culture, Vanuatu is preparing for the next kava boom.
With more than 100 varieties of kava, each one produces a slightly different effect. During the interim between the "kava crash" and now, large plantations of noble kava have opened thus ensuring the best types of kava will be super-abundant when kava sales take off -- as they are already starting to do.