Kava In a Nutshell

Posted by on May 21, 2007 in Kava News | 24 comments

Kava In a NutshellA report stating that Kava caused liver damage was released in 2001 but ended up backfiring on the “powers that be” who sought to ban its use. As a result, there was a rash of studies (both informal and clinical) aimed to see if Kava was as bad as the report stated, despite the fact that with over 3,000 years of use throughout Oceania, there wasn’t a single death linked directly to Kava root use.  These clinical studies have shown that the Kava herb (when using only the roots and NOT the leaf or stem) is a (I’m only quoting a source here) “safe non-addictive anti-anxiety medicine, and can be as effective as prescription anxiety agents containing benzodiazepines such as valium.” (Of course Kava is an herbal supplement and not a medicine, and we truly do not intend to equate it with any medicine whatsoever.)

The big difference is that benzodiazepines have been known to cause lethargy and may often make the mind fuzzy and unclear, whereas Kava has actually been said to improve concentration, memory, and reaction time, especially for those who suffer from anxiety. (This is something we have known here at Kona Kava Farm for generations, but it’s nice to see studies and testimonials show it!) Kava proves, time and time again, that a relaxed state can be reached safely and effectively using natural methods.

Why does Kava produce these effects? It’s because there are a wide range of alkaloids and lactones in the Kava root. Of the fifteen lactones isolated from Kava, there are six major lactones (kavalactones) known to be active. All of the kavalactones are active, but it’s the fat-soluble ones derived from Kava resin that have the greatest relaxing effect. Kava also has a direct effect on muscle tension similar to tranquilizers.

Kava has been known to produce mild changes in feeling characterized by elevated mood, fluent and lively speech and increased sense of hearing. (This is perhaps why it is known as the “anti-shyness herb” in many parts of Oceania.) Pharmacological studies show that Kava’s active ingredients produce physical and mental relaxation and a feeling of well being.

It is important to note, though, that (much) higher doses can lead to muscle weakness, visual impairment, dizziness and drying of the skin. Long-term excessive use of the herb may contribute to hypertension and reduced protein levels in the body. Alcohol consumption may increase the toxicity of the pharmacological constituents, so mixing the two is not only unnecessary, it might be dangerous as well. So, as with absolutely anything responsible adults choose to put into their bodies, use Kava responsibly.

Aloha no,


NOTE: The information herein provided above on Kava Kava and alternative health principles is for general information only. Please do not use this information to diagnose, treat or cure any illness or health condition. Any health or safety-related issues arising due to individual application of our products should be further researched, and the advice of a medical professional requested for allergic reactions to individual ingredients. Kona Kava Farm and its owners or employees cannot be held responsible for, and will not be liable for the inaccuracy or application of any information whatsoever herein provided. None of our statements have been evaluated by the FDA.

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  1. Aloha Brad!

    Thank you for sharing your story! I’m so happy to hear that you are enjoying the benefits of kava! 🙂 The liver toxicity studies have been pretty well debunked by now, though it is probably best to avoid taking it at the same time as other substances that we know damage the liver (such as alcohol). 🙂

    Enjoy your ‘awa!

  2. I was on several medications for cholesterol and anxiety, insomnia…the works, all of which affected me negatively with mood swings and irritability.

    Now I exercise, eat better and have started taking Kava Kava. (I dropped all of the prescription meds for now.)

    I haven’t slept this well in YEARS. I have been taking 1 in the mid morning and 1 before bed, approx 400 mg each Kava kava root. I’m really enjoying the effects without any apparent side effects. I see a doctor regularly and will monitor my blood work, as I am HIV +.

    I hope the liver toxicity studies are not right because I would definitely like to continue using the Kava Kava.

    Thanks for a great article…

  3. Aloha Nate!

    Unfortunately, as I am not a medical doctor, I am forbidden by the FDA from providing medical advice. I can provide some anecdotal evidence, however. I’m extremely happy to know that kava has been assisting you and that your doctor is willing to work with it!

    I can’t tell you for certain that pure kava root is completely non-toxic. There are cases where kava use has been followed by liver damage, but this is likely a result of poorly prepared kava. I can tell you that our kava is prepared with the root of the plant only, and that I take it every day, as do my family members, and none of us have ever experienced the slightest amount of liver trouble. Kava and valium together may have a more serious effect on the liver, however. Since your doctor is working with you on the taper, I would follow his advice and you should be just fine! All the best on your path to healing!

    Aloha no,

  4. Hello!

    I just recently purchased one ounce of your kavalactone 84% paste. It is truly something! I have gone through multiple seriously invasive surgeries and have been put on Valium and Soma for muscle relaxation/pain relief. I take no other medications or OTC drugs, and I am on considerably low doses of these medications. After using your Kava paste I was astounded at how much and how long it relaxed my muscles, how it uplifted my mood (as Valium and depressants in general eventually cause depression- especially in people with chronic pain), it literally made me more attentive and focused- two qualities that have been destroyed by Valium and GABA drugs in general, it reduced pain in general, increased my drive for social interaction and the desire to accomplish tasks, which has also been diminished by the drugs and all of my serious health problems I have been through, increased my quality of sleep amazingly, something that has been destroyed by Valium as well, the list goes on! My main reason for posting this was not to glorify the magical Kava root, but to ask if it dangerously/significantly interacts when metabolized in the liver with drugs like Valium (Benzos), because I know the Kavalactones utilize the same liver enzymes for metabolization as Valium/Soma. There is obviously a lot of negative propaganda out there against Kava, in fear it will replace a load of different types of (toxic) medications, thus my doctor has no idea of what extent it’s safety is alone or in combination of Valium/Soma. All of the doctors I have been to write off herbal supplements as ludicrous and push more dangerous synthetic pharmaceuticals, so I obviously cannot go to them anymore for honest/accurate information. I am planning to slowly taper off of my low dose of Valium (10mg a day) completely very soon in collaboration with my Doctor with the help of your Kava pastes- as they very clearly will greatly help with the process in making it much easier. So, this is why I ask- during the 3-6 months of slow withdrawal off of my Valium, is it safe for the liver to use the Kava paste concomitantly? I really hope it is safe, because there is absolutely nothing that has decreased my need for Valium, made me feel as stable, and withdrawal free as Kava. Oh, and is pure Kava root (kavalactones), not used in conjunction with any other drugs, truly 100% non-toxic? I ask because I have heard of people complaining of liver/abdominal pain after using relatively normal doses of your pastes, however these reviewers could have been using other drugs they had not mentioned, and the pain they feel could not be related to the liver at all, but just simple stomach upset from taking too many kavalactones- which is not uncommon.

    I hope to God there is an answer out there! If you do not know the answer, if possible could you please point me in the right direction?

    Thank you!!

  5. Jay,

    That’s a great question, and unfortunately, there’s no 100% way to tell if stems and leaves were used. This is partly why you’ve really got to trust the source, and that’s one of the things we really pride ourselves on here at Kona Kava Farm. All I can really offer are these few tips:

    1. Kava root is VERY tough. So, even when it’s powdered, there is going to be a LOT of tough, almost sand-like particles along with the powdered roots.
    2. Stems and leaves do give Kava Kava a very different smell to the trained nose! Kava powdered with the leaves has a far more “leafy” and “planty” smell to it. If you have some of our root left…it will smell almost a little “musty” and “earthy” instead.
    3. The color also changes when leaves and stems are added to the powder. True, pure Kava root should have a very creamy color to it, but VERY tan and VERY brownish…it should never have a green cast or tint to it at all.

    Hope this helps! Aloha no, Makaira

  6. I have bought kava products from you before, and I must say I was satisfied by both the service and product, and I also felt secure in knowing that I am getting a good safe product. The problem I have is that I live in the Caribbean, and anytime I order, even express, I have to wait at least a month to receive it, which is out of your control I know. My question is this. I have found a local place that sells kava powder. Is there anyway for me know that I am getting the pure root powder, and not the whole plant as a powder? Is the colour different or is there any way at all I could find out for myself without simply trusting what a store cashier tells me?

  7. Marco,

    Anything that will assure your best health or offer you confirmation and comfort in relation to it is absolutely reasonable in my opinion! We have but one body and one life, and doing your best to protect it seems completely reasonable to me. In fact, if I had any concern that my or family’s use of Kava wa a danger to my health; I wouldn’t be working this hard on the multi-generation family farm we’re so proud of.

    And, I’m actually excited to see your results as you go. I have the greatest of confidence that if you continue to purchase quality Kava products and use them responsibly, that you will get the “all clear” to continue enjoying the many benefits that Kava has to offer. Aloha no, Makaira

  8. I’ve been taking a 250mg kava root extract for the last few days and am very impressed with the results so far. Relaxation and well-being with reduced anxiety have clearly improved. Obviously the stir about the liver toxicity has worried me as well and I have ordered a liver test set which measures Urine bilirubin and other things in urine and can indicate early signs of liver complications. I intend to test this regularly and if any indication of change in liver function is present to stop.

    Do you reckon this is reasonable or does anyone have any experience with this?

  9. I know when comments grow large, it’s sometimes difficult to read through all of them, so if you look above, you will see that I answered a very similar question. In short, it simply states this: By law, I have to give you a stock answer, which, unfortunately is this:

    “We are not doctors and cannot dispense advice such as that, sorry. You have to speak with your doctor or pharmacist to get a professional opinion on how these products might interact with each other. ”

    We do know that, in Europe, that Kava has often been prescribed instead of Prozac, but I don’t know of any reports where it has been used in conjunction with that medication. – Aloha no, Makaira

  10. My son is 18 years old and he is taking 40 milgrams of prozac, he wants me to order Kava tea form you. Is this harmful to mix the to toghter? Should I ask his doctor before drinking? please let me know what you think.

    Thanks so much,
    Sandra Counts

  11. There are many alkaloids responsible for the effects of Kava Kava; not just kavalactones, and there is no documentation that we know of that describes what the differing amounts of different alkaloids do in relation to specific effects. We do know that our plants have the most desired and potent lineup of kavalactones, which is the 4-2-6 lineup. (I will try to post the PDF documents which explain this in more detail, because it’s far more scientific explanation than we can share here.) Most times, with herbal supplements, it is open to personal experimentation; not every Kava product from every grower is going to be the same…synergistically, each plant will react slightly differently to each different human. This is why we always tell folks to buy powdered root; it contains all of the active alkaloids for the full effects of Kava, and also contain the alkaloids that reportedly protect the liver from damage as well. WE hope people like our ‘awa the most, but not everyone will agree on the flavor, the potency, or the effects of our kava versus another, becuase every body is different. Hope this helps! – Aloha no, Makaira

  12. I have discovered there are several types of kavalactones in kava in varying ratios to each other (depending on the cultivar?). I recently bought some 100% lateral root kava from another supplier, which is clearly potent, but is quicker to cause dizzyness than much euphoria and well-being like i’ve experienced in other brands, even when I lower the dose. Is this due to an undesirable k ratio? do you know which kavalactones are most desirable (i.e. kavain vs. methysticin, yangonin, dihydromethysticin, etc.) or if there’s even a way to tell?

  13. There isn’t a huge difference, as our liquigels and capsules are full-spectrum extracts. We love the ritual of making a fresh drink, but many find the taste unpleasant, so we offer the liquigels and capsules as an alternative. It is really up to personal preference. Making drinks yourself is, of course, much less expensive, so that can often be a consideration as well. Aloha no, Makaira.

  14. Is there a difference in the effects you feel when taking the pills as opposed to drinking the drinks?

  15. There is absolutely nothing wrong or harmful about ingesting the powder whatsoever. Most people have difficulty with the flavor of ‘awa, so straining out the powdered root is a way of making it more palatable for the average consumer. In our family and circle of friends, we rarely strain out the powder (but almost always use fresh root since we’re right here on the farm and can pick our Kava Kava fresh), and like the added flavor that it provides the final drink.

    Will it be more potent? – Yes, most definitely. Extraction, especially using a 5 minute extraction, and without heavy amounts of a fat like pure coconut milk, some kavalactones and other important alkaloids are left in the plant and lost when you strain it and throw it away. So, be brave and with confidence that you are not ingesting anything harmful by not straining out the root. Aloha no, Makaira

  16. In all of the methods for creating the Kava drinks from the Kava powder, you are to strain out the powder after blending. Is there any problem ingesting the mixure with the powder suspended in the liquid? Is this harmfull? Will you receive a stronger dose?

    Thank you!

  17. This is why the recommended dosage of our product is 2 capsules. With 2 capsule dosages, which are also what is recommended by the FDA, you will get 106mg of Kavalactone, well above the minimum of 70 milligrams. It can be very confusing when the FDA gets involved and we have to abide by very specific rules in terms of dosage amounts and other factors. We have the maximum allowable per capsule, but many companies claiming to have Kavalactone in their capsules, can get away with just a few milligrams in each capsule, which means with the 2 capsule FDA recommendation, you would only be getting a few milligrams. Hope this helps! – Aloha no, Makaira

  18. Hi, I have surfed your site and read many articles, and came accross something that confuses me. I recently purchased a bottle of your 84% Kavalactone liquigels (I cant wait to receive them), which you say contain 58 mg of Kavalactone per pill. The article titled “Kava Dosages” states that “A single dose of kava extract in tablet or capsule form should deliver a minimum of 70 milligrams of kavalactones…Avoid products that do not deliver at least these kava dosages, as you will most likely get no effect.” What do you think about these statements?

  19. By law, we always have to offer the same response to these often-asked questions: We are not doctors and cannot dispense such advice, sorry. You need to speak with your doctor or pharmacist to get a professional opinion on how these products might interact with each other. We would love to be able to provide you with this information, but the FDA feels that we are not qualified to do so, and prohibits us from doing so. – Aloha no, Makaira

  20. I’m taking 40 mg. of paxil, and 2 mg. of xanax. i started taking kava kava to help me detox from the xanax. the dose i’m taking is 850 mg. Do you see any potenial problem taking an herbal supplement with and anti-depressant.

    Preston Woods

  21. We do not know of any studies other than the bogus German study that used the whole kava plant instead of just the root as well as participants who were either on prescription medications or were regular consumers of alcohol. Kava combined with alcohol, central nervous system depressants, and psychoactive drugs reportedly increases the risk of adverse effects, but as we state elsewhere on our extensive catalog of information, we do not know of any specific clinical studies that have shown this.

    Kava has reportedly been successfully utilized as an alternative to potentially harmful choices such as alcohol or prescription medication, but never should anyone advocate combining the two.

    There reportedly has been several studies funded by precription drug companies who do not like how popular kava kava is becoming, and it is highly coincidental that just as kava was becoming widely popular in Germany as a safe alternative to Prozac (especially for children), that a study suddenly appeared in Germany appearing to show that kava was harmful to one’s liver, despite thousands of years of safe and effective use of this sacred plant in Polynesia.

    Just as any herbal product or medication or food for that matter, there can be undesirable or harmful interactions with countless things that we put into our bodies, and it is up to an informed doctors who you personally trust to decide what might cause a harmful interaction in you. – Aloha no, Makaira

  22. I read that taking Kava in conjunction with some prescription medications (including prozac) can cause problems. Apparently Kava can interfere with how your body breaks down the medications, and this is when the claimed liver problems started. I also read that in that German study most of the people who had problems were also taking other prescription medications that can cause liver issues to begin with.

  23. Alcohol is a drug that whould not be taken with Kava. We have never heard of any negative reactions from anyone who has taken Kava in conjunction with medications like Prozac, but we are not doctors and are not equipped to answer such questions properly, sorry. I can only say that I know more than one person who has been taking Ambien or Prozac, and have also incorporated Kava Kava, and it reduced their dependency on the prescription medications. But, as always, none of our products are intended to diagnose or cure any disease, nor are they medications. ALoha no, Makaira.

  24. What drugs or herbs should not be taken with Kava? Have there been any studies on this question? In particular I was wondering about anti-depressants/ADD drugs such as Prozac, Wellbutrin, and Zoloft and sleeping pills/aids such as Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata, Rozerim and Valerian. Should I consult a physician before taking Kava if I am taking any of these medications?

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