Is Kava a Legal High?

I can't count the number of times we are asked if kava kava root is a "legal high", a "legal drug", or if it provides the user with a "natural high".  First of all, there are very specific laws in place by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), which regulate almost all the food we eat, the medicine we ingest, and the illegal drugs that plague the world.  Two important points are as follows:

1. If anyone is marketing any product as a legal high, or if anyone compares their product to any legal or illegal drug, they are not in compliance with the laws of the United States, and will, at the very least, be forced to desist from making such claims.

2. Kava kava is a natural herbal product allowed for sale in the U.S. by the FDA, which means that kava kava is unlike COUNTLESS untested herbal products that are being sold without FDA approval.

There is a misguided perception that the herbal products market in the United States is like the Wild West, and that a company can say almost anything they want about a herbal supplement with no government regulation. In reality, the Food and Drug Administration has set down certain rules that supplement manufacturers and distributors must abide by in order to sell their products. These regulations are codified in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.

First of all, while it is true that herbal supplements need not be approved by the FDA before sale, any claims that vendors make about the health benefits of their product must be supported by scientific research. The days of supplement companies making wild, untested claims about their products are thankfully long gone. Kava is one of the most extensively researched herbal products on the market, and its ability to promote relaxation and stress reduction* when used appropriately is backed up by many scientific studies.

Moreover, herbal supplement manufacturers have to adhere to good manufacturing practices (GMP). GMP standards ensure that herbal products are free of contaminants such as chemical solvents, have accurate ingredient labels, and contain the appropriate amounts of the stated ingredients. Whether you're buying powdered kava mix, kava capsules, or a concentrated kava extract from us, you can rest assured that these products contain a verified amount of kavalactones that we have to report under DSHEA. It's in our interest as a company to be accurate and truthful!

Finally, the Food and Drug Administration continues to monitor the safety of herbal products once they've been put onto the market, and will take regulatory action against any herbal product that appears to be unsafe based on a high number of adverse reaction reports, either from physicians or consumers. The FDA has the power to take regulatory action against any manufacturer or distributor of a herbal product that appears to carry a substantial risk of harm to the public, either by issuing the company a warning or requiring that the product be taken off the market entirely.

Kava Kava is a natural herbal product that has been used for thousands of years and has provided our long family line with many benefits. It upsets us to see so many unscrupulous people trying to take such an important plant in our culture and market it as something that it is not. In no way would we ever compare it to the dangerous drugs that one can find on the streets.

Labeling kava a legal high detracts from its traditional context of respectful use as an element of social bonding and cultural affirmation in the South Pacific. After a long day of toil--often labor-intensive subsistence farming or other physical work--the nakamal becomes a place of retreat where Pacific Islanders can enjoy a relaxing bowl of kava as a community. Rather than ask if kava can be used as a legal high, we encourage our readers to look around the vast resources on this site, as well as on our Kona Kava Farm blog, for more information about the history, traditional use, and cultural place of kava in the South Pacific.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to cure, treat, diagnose, or prevent any disease.