Kava Side Effects

The number one question we get from customers is asking what kava side effects there might be. The main reasons people use kava is to support the body's natural ability to relax and manage day-to-day stress*, and to support mental focus in work and social situations*. Kava is also becoming known as an aphrodisiac in some circles due to its ability to support a calm repose*.

(See Makaira's Blog for even more info)

Reports of liver damage that surfaced in a German study in 2000 led to a ban on kava in large parts of Europe, the United States, and Canada. However, in 2005 a reevaluation of that study suggested that its conclusions were based on insufficient evidence, and the kava ban was lifted in Germany in July 2006.

We have used this plant in our family history as far back as we can trace it, and there have never been any complications whatsoever with our kava consumption. Our beneficial kava effects have been relaxation and creating a social atmosphere that is conducive to long ceremonies, and to telling stories. If that sounds pleasant to you, then you may have met your perfect herbal supplement.

Like any herbal supplement, you should always use kava responsibly. Kava should not be combined with alcoholic beverages or used by anyone under 18 years of age. If you are using prescription medications, consult a healthcare professional before using any kava product. Don't use kava if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have an existing liver or kidney condition or are at risk of developing one. Using kava in excess or with substances that induce drowsiness may impair your ability to operate heavy machinery or a motor vehicle.

With responsible use, kava side effects are rare and usually mild: the most common one is a numbing of the inside of the mouth that occurs during or soon after sipping a kava drink. The kavalactones in kava are most likely responsible for this effect. In South Pacific societies, this numbing effect is actually quite desirable because it's taken as a sign that the kava is of good quality. Occasionally, kava can cause sensitivity to light, which is why kava is traditionally drunk after sunset in the South Pacific.

Mild stomach upset is one of the rarer kava side effects, occurring in only 2% of first-time kava users on average. Although commonly interpreted as a stomach ache, this symptom is actually caused by kava's numbing effect on the stomach, an odd sensation that naive kava users may experience as a stomach ache. As one gains experience with kava, the discomfort associated with this numbing sensation usually disappears.

Finally, there are some kava side effects associated with the longer-term, heavy use of kava seen among some South Pacific Islanders. You probably know what we're talking about: the famous (or infamous) kava dermopathy, in which scaly patches appear on the skin of a kava drinker. Though unappealing to our modern sensibilities, in Hawaii and some other South Pacific regions, kava dermopathy was taken as a sign of prestige because it indicated that person had unfettered access to high-quality kava!

Heavy kava use over months or years can also cause side effects like reddening of the eyes or shortness of breath. However, you can rest assured that moderate, responsible kava use has not been associated with these effects, which are also reversible when kava use is stopped.

It is important to note that we here at Kona Kava Farm only use the root of the plant, where there are no harmful components. This is another reason why we have never had any reported side effects from our products; we honor the plant and do not kill it to harvest it, leaving the stems and leaves to regenerate for another generation.

*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.