kava (generic name)
- Auto Immune Conditions
- Bladder & Kidney Health
- Brain & Nervous System
- Care Transitions
- Dental Health
- Emotional Health
- Eye Health
- Falls Prevention
- Financial Planning
- General Safety
- Health Care Basics
- Healthy Living
- Hearing Loss
- Heart Health
- High Blood Pressure
- Life Transitions
- Lung Health
- Men's Health
- Nutrition & Weight Management
- Pain Management
- Preventive Health
- Sexual Health
- Stomach & Digestive Health
- Stress & Anxiety
- Women's Health
TraditionWARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Addiction, anesthesia, anorexia, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic, aphrodisiac, arthritis, asthma, birth control, bladder inflammation, brain damage, bust enhancement, cancer, colds, depression, diuretic, dizziness, gonorrhea, hemorrhoids, incontinence, indigestion, infections, inflammation (ear), jet lag, joint pain or stiffness, kidney stones, leprosy, menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, sleep disturbances), menstrual disorders, migraine headache, muscle spasms, neuroprotective, pain, parasite infection, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), protection of brain tissue against ischemic damage, renal colic, respiratory tract infections, rheumatism, seizures, stroke, syphilis, toothache, tuberculosis, urinary tract disorders, uterus inflammation, vaginal prolapse, vaginitis, weight reduction, wound healing.
Adults (18 years and older)
Many doctors recommend starting with a low dose and gradually increasing intake over time. Typical doses range from 50 to 280 milligrams of kava lactones per day at bedtime. Sixty to 120 milligrams of kavapyrones have been taken daily. A dose of 50 to 100 milligrams taken by mouth has been used for up to two months. A dose of 100 milligrams of kava extract (WS 1490) has been taken three times daily. Doses as high as 800 milligrams daily of kava extract have been taken for short periods, but have not been studied over the long term and safety is not clear.
Children (younger than 18 years)
There is not enough scientific evidence to recommend the use of kava in children.
SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
People with allergies to kava or kavapyrones should not take kava. Skin rashes have been reported after taking kava.
Side Effects and Warnings
Until recently, kava was generally thought to be safe: when used in otherwise healthy people not taking any other drugs, herbs, or supplements; over short periods of time (one to two months); and at recommended doses. However, there have been numerous reports of severe liver problems in people using kava. Multiple cases of liver toxicity, including liver failure, have been reported following the use of kava in Europe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings to consumers and physicians and has requested that physicians report cases of liver toxicity that may be related to kava use. Although many natural medicine experts still believe that kava is safe at recommended doses, there is not enough scientific information to make a clear conclusion. Therefore, kava should be used only under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional, should never be used above recommended doses, and should be avoided by people with liver problems or taking drugs that affect the liver.
Other serious side effects that have been observed with chronic or heavy use of kava include: skin disorders, blood abnormalities, apathy, kidney damage, seizures, psychotic syndromes, and increased blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension). Blood in the urine has also been reported.
Mild side effects may include gastrointestinal (stomach) upset, allergic rash, or mild headache.
Several cases of abnormal muscle movements have been reported after short-term use of kava (one to four days), including tightening, twisting, or locking of the muscles of the mouth, neck (torticollis), and eyes (oculogyric crisis). Worsening of symptoms of Parkinson's disease and several cases of abnormal whole body movements (choreoathetosis) following high doses of kava have also been noted. Tremor, poor coordination, headache, drowsiness, and fatigue have uncommonly been reported, particularly with large doses. A case of muscle cell breakdown (rhabdomyolysis) was reported in a 29 year-old man after taking an herbal combination of ginkgo, guarana, and kava.
Sedation (drowsiness) has occasionally been reported with kava use, although there is early evidence from several small human studies that kava may not significantly cause this effect. Because this issue remains unclear, driving and operating heavy machinery is not recommend while taking kava.
Eye disturbances and eye irritation have rarely been associated with chronic or heavy kava use. Rapid heart rate, electrocardiogram (ECG) abnormalities, and shortness of breath have been reported in heavy kava users. Laboratory tests suggest that kava may increase the risk of bleeding through effects on blood platelets.
Kava may affect electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) outcome. It has also been associated with meningismus (pain caused by irritation in the layers around the brain and spinal cord), urinary retention, skin lesions, enhanced or decreased cognitive performance, anorexia, sleeplessness, abnormal sensations called paresthesias, vomiting, and dangerously high blood pressure.
Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
Use of kava cannot be recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding. There may be decreases in the muscle strength of the uterus with the use of kava, which may have harmful effects on pregnancy. Chemicals in kava may pass into breast milk with unknown effects, and therefore this herb should be avoided during breastfeeding.