Kava kava: Uses, Side effects, Benefits, Interactions

Australian Kava Editor

There are several intoxicating plants like kava in the Pacific Islands. Tongan and Marquesan dialects use the word kava, which means “bitter,” to refer to the plant.

Other names for the kava plant include Awa, sakau, Seka, and malok or malogu.

Note: None of the texts written in this article is a piece of medical advice. Please, contact your medical doctor before taking any kava beverage, supplement or extract.

Kava Kava or Kava

Kava

Kava is a traditional herb or intoxicating plant consumed as a drink or in capsule form, used by Pacific islanders to produce a drink that induces relaxation, and relief from an anxiety disorder, restlessness, and insomnia.

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You could see people calling it kava or kava kava. Whatever name you choose to use, they are the same.

Kava Table of contents

Below are what we will discuss in today’s kava article:

Overview of kava kava (kava plant)

The Piper methysticum plant yields kava. It’s a common beverage for ceremonial relaxation in the South Pacific.

The Polynesian word “awa,” which signifies bitter, originates from “kava.” The central nervous system and the brain are both affected by kava.

Kava plant effects are attributed to kavalactones, which are contained in the plant. 

Kava plant is a popular treatment for stress, anxiety disorder, benzodiazepine withdrawal, insomnia, and a slew of other ailments are all treated with kava.

Kava kava has been related to liver damage and, in some circumstances, death. People with liver disease should avoid kava because it can cause liver damage. 

In Europe and Canada, kava was pulled off the market in the early 2000s. Nonetheless, most governments have permitted kava to return to the market after examining the facts.

In the United States, kava was never removed from the market.

What is kava?

Kava is a traditional herb or intoxicating plant consumed as a drink or in capsule form, used by Pacific islanders to produce a drink that induces relaxation, and relief from an anxiety disorder, restlessness, and insomnia.

A euphoric, sedative and analgesic beverage made from the kava plant’s shrub, called “Kavalactones‘ are the main compound’s active components responsible for the effects.

The “British charity Cochrane” did a study and found that kava was more likely to help with short-term anxiety than a placebo.

A “low level of health risk” is determined by the World Health Organization (WHO) for a moderate intake of kava kava in its traditional form.

Toxic effects, such as liver damage, may happen if you use kava extracts made with organic solvents or eat a lot of low-quality kava products.

Are you looking for where to buy kava in Australia?

You can buy kava in Sydney. If you want purchase kava in bulk, you can as well buy kava in wholesale in Australia.

A short history of kava kava

According to Wikipedia, Kava originated in either New Guinea or Vanuatu by seafarers. After interaction with the Austronesian Lapita civilization in eastern Polynesia, kava expanded over the rest of the island chain. Unlike other Austronesian groups, it is unique to Oceania.

While kava has made it to Hawaii, it has not yet made it to New Zealand, where it cannot grow. Many Austronesians outside of Oceania have stopped chewing betel leaves because of kava use.

According to Lynch (2002), kava means “bitter root” or “powerful root [used as fish poison].” This word comes from Proto-Oceanic kawa, which means “bitter root” or “powerful root.”

Uses of kava kava

Kava kava is popularly known to be very effective in treating anxiety disorders and short-term insomnia.

There are many health benefits of using kava. Below are some of the health benefits using of kava dietary supplements:

  1. Kava can treat anxiety disorder; 
  2. kava serves as a stress reliever; 
  3. Kava helps in situations like muscle tension, insomnia, depression, and pain relief.

The link between kava and liver illness has been brought to the attention of US health experts. Impurities and chemicals have been identified in certain herbal and dietary supplement products.

It is critical to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking kava dietary supplement or herbal medication.

When and how to use kava pills

As instructed, consume kava dietary supplements by mouth. The recommended duration of administration for the kava herbal supplement is three months.

Kava kava is effective for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Some anti-anxiety drugs may not be as good as taking kava by mouth for at least five weeks. However, they might be just as good if you keep them for that long.

In some instances, kava may not be effective.

It doesn’t seem that taking kava by mouth helps reduce the symptoms of a type of anxiety disorder: generalized anxiety disorder or GAD.

Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD is an illness that causes people to have exaggerated worry and tension. Kava doesn’t seem to improve the symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Other uses for kava extracts are being researched, but there isn’t enough solid evidence to say whether they will be beneficial or detrimental.

Toxicities and side effects of using kava beverages

According to a 2016 review conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Federal Agriculture Organization (FAO), Consuming kava beverages is safe. There are few confirmed adverse health effects of using kava beverages.

Drinking excessive kava beverages or taking kava dietary supplements will cause the following adverse side effects: weight loss, scaly skin rash, indigestion, nausea, and loss of appetite.

Other symptoms that may occur using kava are dizziness, drowsiness, headache, mouth paralysis, and impaired vision. 

If you experience easy bleeding or bruising, weight loss or red/pink urine due to kava beverage or kava supplement consumption, you need to see your doctor immediately.

Long-term kava usage may result in inflamed eyes, dry/scaly skin, or yellowing hair, skin, and nails (or all three).

These effects caused by long-term kava usage are reversible when consumption is discontinued. You should know that hepatitis may also cause yellowing of the skin. If your eyes or skin become yellow, you should seek emergency medical help.

People who use kava products are unlikely to have a life-threatening allergic reaction such as: severe dizziness, trouble breathing, a rash, itching, or swelling. 

Learn more about Kava powder vs. Kava pills.

Kava warnings and precautions

Taking kava by mouth may pose a risk to pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, while pregnant, taking kava may affect the uterus.

Also, some of the kava’s compounds may transfer into breast milk, posing a risk to a nursing baby. Should you not use kava? If you’ve been diagnosed with liver illness, you should avoid kava. Pregnant women are not advised to take kava. 

Kava might exacerbate liver problems. People with Parkinson’s disease should avoid kava since it might worsen their symptoms.

The central nervous system is affected by kava, which is why it is used in surgery. Surgical anesthetics and other drugs may be involved more as a result. It would help if you stopped taking kava at least two weeks before your surgery.

Kava may cause an allergic reaction, so notify your doctor or pharmacist when you experience such or before taking any dietary supplement of kava root extract. If you have any other allergies before taking it, an allergic reaction or other issues may occur if this product contains any inactive components.

Kava medication might cause dizziness, drowsiness, and blurred vision.

Dizziness and tiredness may occur due to drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana. 

Liver disease may also be exacerbated by excessive alcohol use. If you’re using marijuana, talk to your doctor about it. 

Some kava drinks include sugar and liquor. If you have diabetes, alcoholism, or liver problems, check caution before using kava.

Consult your pharmacist for advice or healthcare provider on using kava medication. 

Recommended: Kava recipe: Learn how to make kava in 10 minutes

Interactions of kava kava

Please remember that this publication does not cover all possible medication interactions, and it’s not a piece of medical advice.

If you take medicines that interact with kava, you may be at a higher risk of experiencing severe adverse effects.

Your doctor and pharmacist will appreciate having a complete list of all the medications and herbal supplements you use, as well as their dosages, to help you make a decision. 

If your doctor and pharmacist know all the medications, they’ll be able to do their jobs better.

Kava interacts with CNS depressants.

Sleepiness and decreased breathing may occur as a side effect of kava. Some sedatives may produce drowsiness and decreased respiration. When used with sedatives, kava may induce respiratory issues and excessive tiredness.

Medication altered by the liver interacts with kava.

The liver breaks down some medicines, and kava might affect how quickly the liver breaks down these medicines. If kava affects how the liver breaks down drugs or medications, that will cause an adverse health effect.

Kava changes how medications interact, and its interactions with other drugs often intensify the side effects. Please be cautious and contact your medical doctor if you take kava with anything.

Below are some of the medications that interact with kava abnormally:

  1. Cytochrome P450 2C19 (CYP2C19) substrates
  2. Cytochrome P450 2C9 (CYP2C9) substrates
  3. Cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1) substrates
  4. CYP2D6 substrates 
  5. CYP3A4 substrates

A list of medications that interact poorly with kava can be found here and can affect how the liver breaks down this medication, raising the risk of potential liver damage.

Kava interacts with drugs transported via cellular pumps.

Pumps are used to transfer drugs into and out of cells. Kava has the potential to alter the way these pumps perform and the amount of medicine that is retained in the body.

Kava interacts with medications that might affect the liver.

Certain drugs may also impair or harm the liver. The danger of liver damage increases if you take kava with a drug that harms the liver.

Interactions between Kava and Haldol

The liver handles the decomposition of haloperidol. Kava can slow the rate at which the liver breaks down this drug. If this treatment method is used, there is a chance that the effects and side effects of haloperidol will be made worse when it interacts with kava.

Kava and Ropinirole have an interaction.

The liver breaks down Ropinirole. If kava is taken with this medication, this drug may be broken down more by the liver. It may heighten Ropinirole’s effects and adverse effects.

Kava and ethanol do not mix.

It’s possible that drinking kava and alcohol together might harm the central nervous system. 

  1. It may increase the chance of adverse effects. 
  2. It includes tiredness and mood swings, which are possible.
  3. Kava may also be harmful to the liver. 
  4. Taking kava alongside alcohol may raise the risk of liver disease.

Recommended:

Kava Kava dosing

Adults often take 150–400 mg of kava extract daily for two years. The best way to figure out what medicine to take and how much to take is to see a doctor. 

Notes: If you’re using kava, tell your doctor about it. 

Kava Kava regulation

Most nations still allow the use of kava beverages and kava root extracts, and kava is classified as food or a dietary supplement by government bodies.

Let’s see how kava is regulated in our country, Australia.

Kava regulations in Australia

The National Code of Kava Management governs the kava supply in Australia. As long as it’s a kava root or dried-form kava, international travelers 18 years and above visiting Australia can carry up to 4 kg of kava in their luggage.

The kava limit for each person in Australia was set at 2 kilograms and later increased to 4 kilograms in December 2019.

The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration recommends taking no more than 250 mg of kavalactones.

In Australia, larger amounts of kava can be imported with a permit for medicinal or research uses. 

The commercial importation of kava kava began on December 1, 2021.

In the Northern Territory of Australia, kava consumption is limited to 2 kg per adult. However, kava was previously banned in the western part of Australia in the 2000s.

The Western Australian Health Department said in February 2017 that it was removing its prohibition, bringing the state “into line with other states.” Now kava is allowed in Western Australia, but it is regulated.

Kava FAQs

Many Australians believe buying kava is difficult, but it’s not. The truth is that you can buy kava in Australia without issue if you partner with us.

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Can I use Kava in Australia? Is it illegal to use kava in Australia?

Yes, you can use kava in Australia. Purchasing kava in Australia is easy with us. There has been no law change that prevents the use of Kava in Australia. So, you can use Kava kava in Australia. Note: If you are in Western Australia, you can use kava kava, but it’s regulated.

What are Kava drinks made from?

An extract of the “Piper methysticum plant” is turned into a drink or extract called kava.

In the South Pacific, kava drinks are made from fresh kava roots. Sometimes, kava drinks are made from dried kava when the fresh root is unavailable.

Where can you find support for Kava usage in Australia?

You can get assistance by calling any of the support lines below if you are in Australia;

Alcohol and Drug Foundation of Australia – Tel. 1300 858 584

Counseling Online – Call 1800 888 236 for expert drug and alcohol counseling.

For more information about kava, visit our kava blog.

References:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austronesian_peoples

https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-703/kava-kava-oral/details

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-872/kava

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/what-is-kava-kava

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