Dangers of Kava

One of the questions we get asked most often is in relation to the dangers of kava. Since we have a long family history of working with and enjoying this plant, I will offer you our personal experience rather than a long list of facts that both sides of the debate seem to never be able to agree upon.

First, our entire family, throughout many past generations, have enjoyed kava almost every day of their lives, and have lived long, healthy lives. Most of the families who are friends of ours, have also enjoyed more kava in their lives than you could shake 100 sticks at, and they, as well, barring accidents or acts of nature, have enjoyed long, happy lives, with no noticeable side-effects whatsoever, other than increased enjoyment of life.

When the rumors about the dangers of kava erupted on early 2000 because of a Germany study (that has now been unequivocally rescinded and deemed as false and misleading), everyone in our family went for testing to see if there was some hidden anomaly, some dangerous cancer lurking in our systems somewhere, but the doctors found absolutely none. The only thing they found were happy people with low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and too many stories to tell.

Then, several members of our family went to get tested in 2005, once the rumors about the false dangers of kava were finally laid to rest. After 4 years of heavy kava use, there was no indication whatsoever that our livers or other bodily systems had degraded in any way whatsoever over that time, other than the most mild effects of aging.

When a new supplement like kava starts rising in the marketplace, it's often our natural inclination to be skeptical about its benefits and exaggerate the risks that come with its use because we're unfamiliar with that substance. Our beloved 'awa is one such herb that got caught up in media hysteria: the perceived dangers of kava being reported in newspapers and news sites didn't take into account the thousands of years of safe use kava has enjoyed in the South Pacific. Kava is still seen as dangerous in some quarters today, despite a bevy of scientific evidence undermining the flawed German study that started the controversy.

The actual dangers of kava when it's used responsibly are quite slight in our experience. Because kava can cause sleepiness and coordination changes in some people, it is important to drink it in moderation. When you have consumed some kava, do not operate heavy machinery or attempt to drive any vehicles whatsoever. Even we stay out of the driver’s seat and off the tractors when we have enjoyed a few shells of our favorite brew.

A very small number of people--about 0.5% of first-time kava users according to the research literature--may develop an allergy to kava. Kava allergies are usually mild on the rare occasions when they do appear, and consist of slight itching of the skin or throat. Hives might form on the arms or chest. However, in all cases, ceasing kava use makes these symptoms go away. Some researchers believe people with an allergy to black pepper (Piper nigrum) may be at more risk of developing a kava (Piper methysticum) allergy because the species are in the same genus.

If you're interested in trying kava, our number one recommendation is that you research as much as you can about this wonderful plant. Not only will you gain a deeper appreciation for the history and cultural dimensions of kava, you'll also learn tips on how to make your kava experience the safest and most satisfying it can be!