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Medicine Man TV Star Bck on the Kava Trail in Vanuatu
Vanuatu Daily Post
by Marc Neil-Jones
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Close-up of Kava“When the kava market tanked, the people hit hardest were of course those who live in the islands. The rest of us just went on with our lives, made livings by other means, and waited out the sheer stupidity of kava suddenly being "liver toxic," as though the islands wouldn't be littered with the bodies of the kava-drinking dead if that were true.” - Chris Kilham

Chris Kilham is a well known TV personality in the USA who travels the world looking for traditional plants and herbs for use in herbal supplements and medicines in the pharmaceutical industry.

Kilham is the FOX News Medicine Hunter and appears on FOX News Health online and in US and international television markets. He also writes a weekly column for FOX News Health and is on the Medical Advisory Board of The Dr. Oz Show. As Explorer in Residence, Chris conducts medicinal plant research for Naturex of Avignon, France, one of the largest botanical extraction companies in the world.

He is an expert on kava and has samples of kava extract from all over the world. He has published a successful book in 1996 called, Kava: Medicine Hunting in Paradise and was visiting Vanuatu regularly from 1995 to 2005 and his kava book is based on his research here. Kilham was one of the main people using media to popularize kava until the negative publicity in Europe all but destroyed the industry.

He had some interesting comments on the changes he has seen here since his last visit 7 years ago. “When the kava market tanked, the people hit hardest were of course those who live in the islands. The rest of us just went on with our lives, made livings by other means, and waited out the sheer stupidity of kava suddenly being "liver toxic," as though the islands wouldn't be littered with the bodies of the kava-drinking dead if that were true.”

“Some sharp minds challenged the medical information, sorted it out, amidst a plethora of reports, fired a few rounds at the entrenched and truculent European fear-mongerers, and the years ticked by. But in the wild west (the US), we never banned kava, even though some insurance companies refused to insure anybody who sold kava. Odd, considering that kava extract has been sold since 1900 when it first appeared in the Sears Roebuck catalog, and kava extract enjoyed a long run in the US Pharmacopoeia, the official compendium of approved medicines. But insurance companies have never been swayed by sober facts, when fear pricks the wallet so much more.”

Kilham advised Daily Post why he was back in Vanuatu is the fact that he believes things are changing and kava could suddenly become huge again. “My keen sense of wind shifts tells me that it is time to bring kava back, and to do so in a steady, methodical,and VERY high-profile manner. Since my last trip here, my own media fortunes have risen sharply, and now I intend, for the good of Vanuatu, to put my back into bringing kava back to its rightful place in the US market.

“Right now I am a correspondent on FOX News, and my health segments air in about 100 countries. I also appear on The Dr OZ Show, the largest daily TV show in the US. Add to that reach in magazines and appearances radio shows all over the world, and on the other major TV networks ABC, CNN, NBC, et al, and there is a rich field of opportunity for kava promotion. Setting about on this course will take time, but I am confident that the kava market will go up. There is no good reason why this should fail.”

“The sophistication of kava science has gone way, way up. Vincent Lebot is now not the only fine scientist in the kava scene, though he certainly remains one of the titans. Many fine, talented people have devoted years to the sorting out of kava science and kava quality, and so an entire army of talent is assembled to bring kava forward.”

He has joined the growing number of people voicing concerns over some kava exporters here sending out wild kava and tudei kava to export markets and has warned it could severely damage the industry. “Vanuatu growers must keep the bush rubbish kava, mystery weeds and tudei kava out of the market. If we can all
pull together in a high and constructive way, we can establish a vibrant, thriving, lucrative kava market that will be of tremendous value to the people of Vanuatu, and to those all over the world who use kava products.”

Kiham advised, “I know my place in the kava pantheon, and it is one of promotion. With mass media at our disposal, we have the means to hound down the nay-sayers, push back the flack, and make excellent progress.

May 2012