South Africa has joined numerous European countries by banning all products containing the herbal kava from sale.
The Medicines Control Council of South Africa issued a statement last month requesting the withdrawal of all dietary supplements, medicines and preparations containing the herb Piper methysticum, commonly known as kava.
The authority has also issued warnings to consumers of the risks of severe liver injury associated with use of kava supplements.
"Although liver damage appears to be rare, the MCC believes consumers should be informed of this potential risk and that it is inadvisable to continue to use preparations containing kava," said the MCC statement.
The agency also claims that there is 'no evidence to support a safe dose of kava'. However a recent report by Germany's Phytopharm Consulting concluded that kava can be regarded as a safe and effective herbal medicinal product. It also found the measures taken by European health authorities to be inappropriate and unjustified.
The plant, indigenous to islands in the South Pacific, is thought to relieve stress, anxiety and help sleep. However certain cases of the past few years have linked kava to liver damage, leading to a ban in the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland and Canada.
The MCC issued a press statement in September 2002 warning the public of the possible dangers of kava-containing products and asking interested parties to submit evidence which could be used to support the availability of kava products in South Africa. No evidence was received, according to the agency.
The agency has asked retailers and consumers to return kava products to manufacturers and distributors participating in the recall.