Kava kava (Piper methysticum), a plant grown in the Pacific Islands, has been used as a ceremonial and social drink for around 3000 years.
Some people report its effects are similar to:
- Alcohol - relaxation, sociability, mild euphoria, happiness
- Marijuana – relaxation, feelings of wellbeing and contentment
- Coffee – focus, enhanced cognition
- Valium / Xanax – Changes in brainwave activity that calm the mind without decreasing mental cognition.
Kava has been known to aid in the symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, ADHD, restless legs, muscle pain and has even been cited as a cure for certain cancers.
But is kava safe????
In its pure and traditional form Kava is simply the root of the Piper methysticum plant processed with sunshine and clean water.
However not all Kava is equal and this is where the misconception that all Kava is dangerous or Kava is bad for your liver comes from.
Distinguishing safe kava from 'dangerous' kava ...
Noble Kava v Tudei kava
The ratio of the active ingredients (Kavalactones) in Noble Kava and Tudei Kava is different. Noble Kava has been grown and safely consumed, by Pacific Islanders for thousands of years, as an everyday tonic. Tudei Kava is much stronger and is usually reserved for medicinal or ceremonial purposes and is known to give you a 2 day (Tudei) hangover.
Pure Kava Root v Extracts and Supplements
Pure Kava is processed using clean water and sunshine. Extracts and supplements often use alcohols and other substances in the preparation to extract specific active ingredients. This compromises the quality, purity and the balance of the kava and can add potentially toxic ingredients.
So, is kava bad for your liver – or worse – can you die from drinking kava?
Google "Is Kava Safe" and you will find a bunch of articles, based on a 2001 report, that suggested that kava was responsible for hepatoxicity (liver toxicity) and death in up to 30 people globally. In fact there are up to 50 “scientific reports”, some funded by the mega pharmaceuticals, that rely on this initial report by Humberston, C. L., J. Akhtar, and E. P. Krenzelok.
This report has been turned into a scaremongering campaign against kava – Why?(Ask yourself now - is it in the interest of the monster pharmaceutical companies to promote a simple plant medicine that could compete with the prescription medications that make them mega rich?)
Let’s dive a little deeper into the original study – Not only were the subjects of this report taking other prescribed medication already linked with liver toxicity, this report was based on ‘medicine’ reportedly manufactured using tudei kava extracts that produced an unnaturally high concentration of the kavalactone DHM or dihydromethisticin (used for its antifungal, antiepileptic/anticonvulsant, neuroprotective, anticancer, and chemopreventive properties). Hence the natural chemical make up (or chemotype) of the plant was thrown right out of balance.
Subsequent studies have examined the variables of this report and have cleared kava from responsibility and shown that in fact, other drugs, already known to cause negative effects on the liver were not examined in the study and were most likely responsible.
If you want to know more about this please read this comprehensive article penned by Jimmy Price
So, IS KAVA SAFE?
YES, but sometimes NO!
Here's some stuff worth knowing and reading
Over thousands of years Pacific islanders have consumed kava daily and have shown no signs of liver toxicity as a result. On top of that, they are known to be some of the happiest people on earth. Simply put, consumption of Kava of the Noble Variety has provided no proof of liver damage.
Kava imported into Australia must be processed using water and is controlled by the Australian Govt. Beware of kava extracts or any unlabelled / non Govt compliant kava that may be extracted or processed using chemicals such as ethanol, acetone or alcohol. Ensure you are purchasing labelled product from a supplier with an Australian Govt Permit.
A comprehensive NZ study has shown that on a scale of harm to self and others Kava ranks 22nd out of 23 drugs including alcohol (no 1) Cannabis (no 9) and Benzodiazepines (no 11) Read the study and see the rankings here
Kava has been added to the Chinese Materia Medica as a clinical nutrient. Read more
The Therapeutic Goods Administration and several other global regulators have permitted Kava for sale since 2003 without incident since the initial safety concerns were reviewed in 2002. Read more
The World Health Organization considers the risk of kava toxicity "Very Low" Read more
Some TIPs for safe consumption of Kava
Kava Dosage: While low to moderate does of kava can produce euphoria and enhance mental cognition, larger doses can cause drowsiness and impaired cognitive and muscle function
Combining Kava and Alcohol or other drugs: It is not advised to take kava in combination with other psychoactive drugs or alcohol as there is not much information on how kava interacts with other medication
Kava and Drug Tests: Most drug tests are not designed to detect so Kava will not show up however it is not advised to consume kava if you are driving or operating heavy machinery.
Kava and other medical conditions: Before consuming kava, consult your health care provider particularly if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have a pre-existing heart, lung or liver condition.
Good Kava v Bad Kava: Ensure you are consuming Noble Kava that has been imported and sold to you by a permitted importer.
Kava Extracts: Avoid extracts and other forms of Kava that may be processed using unknown chemicals and have unnaturally high concentrations of DHM or any of the other Kavalactones.
While we deem kava to be safe, we advise that kava be consumed in moderation.
When consumed responsibly, Kava is an amazing power packed plant medicine with a multitude of benefits.
Malogu (Relax and enjoy your kava)
Disclaimer: Any advice and claims made in this blog are general in nature and if you have concerns or questions about consuming kava consult your doctor or health care provider.