Kava the medicinal herb
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Kava side effects,Kava and anxiety, Kava extracts

Kava side effects

There are both positive and negative side to kava. Kava has long been used to produce feelings of euphoria and relaxation. In 1768 Captain James Cook was the first Westerner to record the use of kava in the account of his voyage to the South Seas. Subsequent explorers noted the relaxing, soothing effects of the kava drink.

In the 1980s kava was introduced to the aboriginal populations of the Northern Territories in Australia in order to reduce the on the going abuse of alcohol amongst the population and to try to improve mortality in a population where alcohol abuse was rife.

In 2002 kava was banned in Europe, the UK and Canada due to concerns over liver toxicity. While the three-week trial raised no major health concerns regarding the kava extract used, the researchers said larger studies were required to confirm the drug's safety. This was enough for the EU and Canada to ban kava importation. The subsequent EU ban was a huge blow to the South Pacific kava economy, causing a total fall of 75% of kava exports over the period 4-10 mouths post the EU ban. In Vanuatu, a fall from (US $1.34 million or 174200000vatu) to (US $032 million or vt41600000) was experienced during the time of the ban. This represents a fall of 76%. This results a loss of export revenue over US $3.6 million per year.

Contrary to the EU ban on kava, several case studies were made in which most of them disproved the EU belief of the level of toxicity in the liver increasing when kava was used regularly. One of the most comprehensive  case study is
“The Kava Anxiety Depression Spectrum Study “  Lead researcher Jerome Sarris, a PhD candidate from UQ's (University of Queensland in Australia) School of Medicine led a group of researcher (D. J. Kavanagh & G. Byrne & K. M. Bone & J. Adams & G. Deed studies).

 "When extracted in the appropriate way, kava may pose less or no potential liver problems. I hope the results will encourage governments to reconsider the ban," Jerome Sarris


Tu Dai Kava vs. Noble

Recently Tu dai (two-day) kava Piper Wichmannii has become popular due to its potency. However whilst potent there are strong concerns over potential hepatoxic issues with drinking this wild/non-noble strain of kava. In Papua New Guinea it‘s what’s called "Isa", and it’s called "Tuday" in Hawaii. In Vanuatu it is considered a type of "Tabu" kava and is pronounced as "two-day", due to it having negative effects lasting two days and is purported to  increase hepatoxic enzymes in the liver. Some dubious exporters have even been known to mix kava stems (the Kava lactones in the stems have a detrimental or opposite effect from the Kava lactones in the kava roots) with milled kava and also saw dust. At the recent International Kava Conference held in Port Vila, esteemed kava specialist Dr Matthias Schmidt claimed that the exporting of two day kava was the main reason behind the EU kava ban. In Vanuatu there are strict laws over the exportation of Kava as per the Vanuatu Kava Act of 2002 stating that only kava strains that by their lactone composition are deemed as "noble" are allowed to be exported. This can now be regulated as the Vanuatu agriculture department now offer infra red spectrometry analysis of kava for exported so they can determine what type of kava they are exporting. To date it is not being enforced, however reputable exporters such as Vanuatu Kava Store offer testing of their products to all their customers. At a community level in Vanuatu, tu dai kava is seen as weed and isn’t recommended for drinking.

The positive

The positive side to kava is one that benefits both the people and the economy, but like everything moderation is the key. When drinking kava these are effect you’ll feel; mild sedation, a slight numbing of the gums and mouth, and vivid dreams. Kava has been reported to improve cognitive performance, promote a cheerful mood and it’s a muscle relaxant. It has a positive social tonic aspect and the micro economy that is kava bars and the selling of kava is essential to Vanuatu. 

 The negative

The negative effects mainly come from excessive use of kava that’s why moderation is the key. Heavy use of kava is linked to indigestion, dry, flaky, yellowish skin, hair loss, hearing problems, visual disturbances and drowsiness, blood abnormalities, and loss of muscle control, kidney damage, skin scaling, dizziness, and headache, restlessness, upset stomach, and lack of appetite.

Some of the negative effects can be avoided by choosing the right kava (noble or tu dai) and the right amount to take in moderation. Kava should not be taken within two weeks of surgery. Pregnant and nursing women, children, and people with liver or kidney disease shouldn’t use kava. You shouldn’t take it before driving.. Kava also may interfere with blood clots using drug that influences blood clotting should be avoid unless under a doctor’s supervision.

Use kava safely                 

Kava may increase side-effects of medications used to treat seizures. 
Kava and Alcohol do not go together. Impairment from both alcohol and Kava can produce fatal consequences.   
Kava is reported to have adverse effects with sleep and anxiety medications.   
Kava may also reduce the effectiveness of Parkinson's disease medications.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             


Aside from the fact that it can have an intoxicating effect, side effects from kava are generally mild and rare. You can find more information about kava side effects at Buy Kava and Vanuatu Kava Store 


Partner Sites

Vanuatu Kava Store - Tanna Kava - Just Pacific Trading (for New Zealand clients)- Quick Kava - - Kava Store Vanuatu - Kava on the Go


          Kava Information Sites 

BIHA - Kava Supplements | BIHA – Kava Study Kava and AnxietyKava Extracts  |   Daily Post – Vanuatu Premier Newspaper | Kava Culture in Vanuatu