Is Kava Safe?
If you are wondering how to drink kava, there’s a lot to learn about and understand. There is much online information on kava safety and side effects. Below we explain the origins of prevalent online information suggesting that kava drinking leads to liver toxicity and provide an update. We explain how to drink kava safely and avoid any negative side effects and list “the dos and don’ts” on how best to drink kava.
Kava Side Effects
Is kava safe? Anyone researching kava for the first time will soon come across websites, blogs, and articles that claim kava drinking is bad for the liver and your health. These bring into question kava safety and side effects. The origin of these claims is research that was done over 15 years ago in Switzerland and Germany. That research led to kava drinking being banned in those and other European countries. Subsequent research reputed the findings of the original studies. Reviews of the original data revealed that the cases of liver toxicity, initially attributed to kava, actually occurred principally two totally different factors:
i) study participants consuming other substances known to negatively affect liver function
ii) the researchers’ use of parts of the kava plant not meant for use in drinks in the preparation given to study participants.
As a result, the ban on consumption of kava was lifted in Germany in 2015, and has been lifted in other countries since too. For more information on the history of kava consumption read this interview with world-renowned kava expert Dr Vincent Lebot.
According to the National Library of Medicine, “based upon reported cases, the estimated frequency of clinically apparent liver injury due to kava is less than 1:1,000,000 daily doses.”
This is confirmation that the likelihood of negative health side effects from drinking kava is minimal.
A Long History of Drinking Kava
The long history of kava drinking supports this statement.
Kava drinking has been an integral part of the cultural traditions of the Pacific Islands for over 1,000 years, without any record of causing liver problems. Pacific Islanders have enjoyed the relaxing characteristics of kava root for centuries. And they continue to do so today.
World Health Organization Statement on Kava
The World Health Organization’s Codex Alimentarius concludes as follows:
“Kava has had at least a 1500-year history of relatively safe use, with liver side effects never having arisen in the ethnopharmacological data. Clinical trials of kava have not revealed hepatotoxicty as a problem. This has been confirmed by further studies evaluating the toxicology of kava drink. Based on available scientific information it can be inferred that kava as a traditional beverage is safe for human consumption.”
Unfortunately, the health warnings on kava safety and side effects still dominate online. These often deter people from drinking kava when they could benefit from its relaxation effects. The prevalence of comments related to the old and inaccurate research continues to appear in articles. Fortunately, more up-to-date and positive findings from a growing body of University research are also being shared.
Kava is a Herbal Supplement
Fortunately, in the US kava is legal and categorized as a herbal supplement. Researchers have easy access to the herb and are unencumbered by any legal restrictions. As a result, we are gaining a better understanding of how kava affects the mind and body and of potential healthy kava root effects. And, a more balanced representation of the kava safety and side is emerging.
There are many beneficial effects of kava as a herbal supplement compared to the limited potential, negative side effects. That said, there are some ‘dos and don’ts’ related to how to drink kava that we recommend you adhere to for kava safety.
Guidelines for drinking kava safely
Drink Noble kava ONLY that has been purchased from a trusted vendor known for testing their kava to ensure no adulteration of their product with Tudei kava varieties. Learn more about Noble vs Tudei kava here.
Drink kava on an empty stomach
Kava is ALWAYS most effective on an empty or near empty stomach. Many people will not feel the effects of kava if consumed close after a large meal. It’s recommended to drink kava 3-4 hours after eating. A small amount of people will feel slight nausea when drinking kava on a totally empty stomach and prefer to eat a piece of fruit or small snack before or after their first shell to eliminate this.
Stop drinking kava if you start to feel nauseous
If you start to feel dizzy or nauseous when drinking kava, it’s likely kava’s way of telling you that you’ve had enough to drink for the night!
- Do not drink or mix kava and alcohol together.
- Do not drink kava if you are taking any other substances or products that depress mental function or if you are taking antipsychotic or anti-anxiety drugs.
- Do not drink kava and drive.
- Do not consume kava when pregnant.
- Do not drink kava if you have or have had previous problems with your liver.
- We would also recommend that those suffering from Parkinson’s disease avoid the consumption of kava, especially if they have mobility problems, since kava can make your limbs feel heavy making movement feel more problematic.
Please note that this post is not meant to be a comprehensive review of the total safety of kava. Research is increasing every day on how kava affects individuals. Human physiology varies greatly. If you are concerned about introducing kava to your lifestyle, as with any new herbal supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your primary physician.
Above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information and our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Before starting a dietary supplement, it’s always wise to check with a medical doctor. It is especially important for people who are: pregnant or breastfeeding, chronically ill, elderly, under 18, taking prescription or over-the-counter medicines. None of the information is intended to be an enticement to purchase and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. Herbal products contain phytochemicals that are not ordinarily found in typical food sources and may produce physiologic effects.Indiscriminate use of any herbal product is not recommended except under the direction of trained health care professionals. In addition, there may be drug interactions that may produce reactions or interfere with the efficacy of prescription medication.