Do Kava and Alcohol Combine?

Posted by on Jan 1, 2010 in Ask Makaira | 12 comments

Do Kava and Alcohol Combine?For some reason, as kava drinking gets more popular in the United States, we find that we get asked the question about whether kava and alcohol mix more and more often!  I’m not sure why, but we’ve now been asked enough that I decided to devote a post to discuss whether it might be dangerous as well as what the effects of mixing the two might be.

First, I want to stress that we would never advocate mixing two drinks that have very noticeable effects on the body and mind. It’s not unlike asking if it’s a good idea to mix prescription medication with alcohol. I can’t think of an instance where mixing those two things is good idea, and most often, the result will be intensified effects of the alcohol, the prescription medication, or both. The same is true for mixing Kava with alcohol and/or prescription medication and should be taken seriously.

Something that seems to be growing in popularity in places that serve both alcohol and kava, is that patrons will take a shot of kava, followed with an alcoholic drink. Or, they have a shot of alcohol, followed by a kava drink. While, in moderation, there is no permanent damage that any clinical study has yet to link (other than the fact that long-term alcohol abuse can cause serious liver problems), it can cause unexpected effects that might be stronger or more intense than you thought. If one insists on combining alcohol and kava, we would stress to take it slowly. Many think that kava isn’t as powerful a drink as it can be, especially when one doesn’t make their kava drink oneself and doesn’t know the active content in the pre-made kava drink.

Kava is a wonderful, sacred plant that has unique effects all its own! It has often been referred to as the “anti-shyness” herb because it helps one to lose inhibitions for a short while, in addition to many other pleasant, relaxing effects. We can understand that lure of mixing two things that are known to sometimes share some common effects such as giddiness and increased sociability. But, for me, the effects are quite wonderful all on their own, there’s no chance of a “hangover” or “blacking out” or any of the other unpleasantness I so often hear about in relation to alcohol consumption.

I do think it’s important to mention that a single alcoholic drink is sometimes consumed at the beginning or the end of a kava ceremony, but it’s never more than a single drink. That is a personal preference, and isn’t more popular than simply consuming kava all on its own for its pleasurable effects.  Since there has been no history of liver damage in my family of kava growers, I cannot offer this as solid evidence that combining kava and alcohol is safe, but at least, if one makes that choice, know that we have not experienced anything other than intensified effects from the combination of the two.

Aloha no,

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  1. Susan,

    It can take time for Kava to have an effect on you, and it can also take time to recognize the unique effects of Kava. There is a lot of anticipation when trying something new, especially when we know it can affect our waking consciousness. So, the best idea is usually to continue working with the Kava for about a week. We never recommend more than the FDA recommended dose of 290mg of Kavalactone per day, but you might want to try that maximum dose in 1 serving. Part of the beauty of natural herbal products is finding what works best for you and your body. Sometimes it takes time to find out exactly what that might be. Perhaps an Instant Kava Mix would be better suited to you, or a capsule…different people react differently, and it can also be a matter of finding which kind has the most effect on you.

    Hope this helps!

    Aloha no,

  2. Hi Makaira,

    I purchased some Full Spectrum Kona Kava Kavalactone paste and made a drink with two pea sized paste as directed. I did feel something, but nothing anywhere close to what people are describing on your website and otherwise. Am I doing something wrong, should I be trying a different Kona Kava product? I’m not a big drinker and don’t really do anything else so I was looking forward to something that would relax me. The description you and others describe sounds heavenly. I sadly feel I’m missing out. Any advice/ideas?

  3. All I’m saying is that kava and alcohol, Does not “seem to me” to be dangerous, should not be combined with the OTC drug Benedryl. I only say this because “sleepless night, mind-racing” sufferers I know reach for anything that will help, be it any of the aforementioned, but perhaps my comment will help to realize they can just stick with kava. Benedryl causes me anxiety and extreme “bitchiness” the next day, anxiety within five minutes of taking it, and grogginess the next morning. We all know alcohol and it’s side-effects, much the same and more. Kava rejuvenated me with ten- fold energy the next day upon waking. A sort of happiness too, that is somewhat indescribable. This is only MY experience. Put the Benes and booze away and Perhaps try kava. Only a little goes a long way. Xoxo, drunky drunk

  4. I am totally under the influence of a few Pinot Noirs. I took kava tincture Instead of Benedryl. I was scared at first, (only intellectually, being that I hadn’t looked it up,), and although Benedryl causes anxietattacks it seems for ne when mixing with alcohol, the kava is mellowing me the “eff” out. I think I can sleep calmly tonight. Although I’m dissapointed in my amount of alcohol consumption, there’s a peace and tranquility that is ensuing as I type that with allopathic sleep remedies does 180 degree different effect. I do not recommend combining the two. Kava is perfect and beautiful on it’s own, as I’ve come to realize in the short few days ive began to take the tincture drops again, but the body gets confused when we tell it to mellow with something this “sacred”, but are drunk, and/or stoned, etc. I caution- NEVER take take Kava, Benedryl, alcohol together-no matter how insomniac, this just overloads the system. I did such mixture without thinking, in desperation to just sleep the other nifty and the concern for what my mind was arriving within my body was more overwhelming than a sleepless night.

  5. Hi Josh!

    I tried to look at the website for the product and had a very hard time finding an ingredients list, which seems a little odd to me. However, at therapeutic doses kava is completely safe, so unless this soda contains tremendous amounts of kava, or you drink five of them a day for several weeks, this product should be safe to drink. However, without knowing how much kava is in the drink, I can’t in good conscience say for sure. If you want to be sure to be safe, I would suggest purchasing dried kava root and making your own kava beverage – that way, you know exactly how much you are drinking and you ensure your health!

  6. Hey I was wondering I purchase this drink online called Mary Janes Relaxing Soda and it has Kava extract in it.. I wanted to know if this drink is safe or not to drink

  7. Hi Josh!

    It isn’t common to consume Kava leaves and stems. The leaves of some types of Kava are said to contain kavalactones, but not nearly in the same volume as the root, which is what we sell! We have kava in many different forms available on our site. When it comes to making a beverage yourself, we have powdered kava root as well as shredded, dried kava root.

    One should never boil kava, as it decreases the potency. Please have a look at our recipes page, which contains many ways to prepare kava, including the traditional preparation in which you soak the powder or shredded root in cold water, then strain.

    Many people, including myself, definitely feel that kava relieves anxiety and stress a great deal! It has even been the subject of several clinical studies regarding anxiety relief! I drink kava every day and it never fails to help me to relax and put off the stresses of the day. Definitely give it a try!

  8. Hey I was wondering if the kava that ya sell comes in dried leaves or is actually in powder form. Reason why I ask is because most teas I know of are made by boiling the dried leaves and stems in water and then straining the water to make sure no leaves or stems go into the tea that is about to be drunk. Im also not sure if kava should be boiled or how should it be prepared. Also does kava actually reduce feelings of anxiety and stress?

  9. Rachel,

    Another convert; this is always great news! Hearing that breathing clears is a common response we find people talking about. And I wish it was us to supplied every Kava Bar with our organic-blended Kava, but we don’t supply the one you mention above.

    And as is always our mantra: We are not doctors and would never dream of dispensing medical advice. We can only sell Kava to the public because the FDA has approved it and the World Health Organization has deemed it safe. It’s been in our history for over 3,000 years, without a single reported incident or fatality from it, but that’s just our own personal experience.

    Thanks for sharing your experience! Mahalo, Makaira

  10. I just had my first “shot” of kava.. actually a bowl of hot kava soupy tea last night. I immediately felt my airways and breathing deepen. I had been using the Amega wand in the Kava Bar in Asheville NC to facilitate half a dozen healings that were successful and so I already felt very wonderful. I also deeply meditate on Prem Rawats Self Knowledge especially while healing people, after all that the effects of kava are amazing. It is the day after and I am still feeling everything I did yesterday. Does the Asheville Kava Bar get their kava from you?. I am especially concerned as I have had Hep C for over 40 years. I take herbs and am vegan and function on a high level. I would like to continue drinking kava when I take a trip to town about 2x a week. Are you certain this is safe for me. I read your blog on Kava and the liver but need to be reassured. Thank you.

  11. Brenda,

    Thank you for such a thorough and articulate response! You hit the proverbial “nail on the head” when you spoke of responsibility and moderation when it comes to anything we put into our bodies. Whether it’s food, medication, or herbal supplements; the key is moderation. Unfortunately, the medical community has fallen prey to the media hype, and, as a knee-jerk reaction, often instruct their patients to STOP using Kava in order to use nothing or a different medication instead.

    But the facts will always remain the facts: Medicine such as aspirin kills 2,000 people each and every year in the USA alone. Kava has POSSIBLY been involved in only 3 deaths throughout it’s 3,000 year history of use. That’s 3 POSSIBLE deaths, as opposed to over 100,000 deaths in the USA alone that are directly related to aspirin consumption since its introduction. (Yes, aspirin is consumed in much larger quantities, but the statistics still remain the same and the message remains clear.) Alcohol, proven beyond any shadow of a doubt to cause liver damage, is responsible for 75,000 deaths per year in the USA alone as well.

    Even though the German study was proven to be a bogus study, the damage it did to a safe and effective herbal supplement still remains. Use Kava in moderation, use it responsibly, and if you choose to combine it with alcohol, know that both will increase the effects of the other. This could also mean that the damage that alcohol already does to the liver over time and with abuse might also be increased as well. But, we feel that adults should always have the power to make that choice for themselves, based on personal choice an education and NOT hype, propaganda or disinformation. – Aloha no, Makaira

  12. I first discovered Kava in a local discount store. I was already taking a supplement called “Relax and Sleep”. It’s main active ingredient is Valerian Root. Both worked well individually. When I combined the two the result was incredible. It was, “Good Bye Insomnia”! and I slept well. But, my Primary Care Physician, Dr. Shramm, told me that Kava had a tendency to destroy livers. I could not understand what she meant until I decided to Google Kava.

    I could not believe all of the literature written about it. And, according to one site, the issue regarding the liver damage seemed to pertain to an individual who already had significant liver damage from other sources! Now, I’m reading how Kava was actually banned in countries like Canada and still is in Australia. What gives? This whole thing reminds me of the panic over Cyclomates, #2 Red die, and one professor I knew who, after reading an article in the newspaper about what foods in the home were considered carcinogens, went around his home, throwing out his jars of peanut butter (lol)! It seems like everything that we were told was good for you, are now being told just the opposite. Just as things that we were told were bad for you, in the past, are now extra good for you now.

    Because I’m a disabled Vietnam Veteran, and I suffer from multiple medical conditions, I decided to try Kava anyway. As you know, supplements need to be taken for some time in order to get the full benefit of the herb. Even Valerian Root has it’s both good and bad sides. I started taking the Kava from 5 months ago. Up until I saw Dr. Shramm on the 6th of March. She said that she would prefer that I did not take the Kava.

    But, it works for me. And with the Valerian Root, I slept well. Now, I’m back to having insomnia again. I’ve fallen asleep going to the bathroom; falling off the commode and hitting my head on the wall or the tub. I have to get my liver and kidneys checked regularly anyway by the VA, to make sure that the pills I take already don’t cause damage to these organs as well. And so, the Kava and Valerian Root, at least for me, is just 2 more pills that I take at night only, and there is no damage!

    There is a difference between using caution and sense, and, irresponsibility and carelessness. The way I see it, there is no medication (or food) out there without the risk of causing some sort of bodily harm, especially if it is not used responsibly. But, we have to consider if the benefit of taking the drug worth more than its’ risk? Could taking these supplements hurt me? Maybe. But, since my health overall is poor to begin with…if taking these two supplements prevent me from falling asleep at the wrong time and place, then I say the benefit of taking them is worth more than the risk they might impose.

    All I can say, is do not abuse the Kava; it’ll be far less likely to hurt you if at all. The same thing for Valerian Root. Just because a pill is from a natural source does not eliminate the possibility of having an allergic reaction. Any medication, whether prescribed or taken as an over-the-counter supplement must be taken with care. If you are one of those who have signs of pending liver damage, then of course my all means do not take the Kava. But, do not let someone else’s opinion dissuade you from doing what you think is right for your body. But, please do no let rampant paranoia decide for you. I wish you good luck and good sense.


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