Kava Benefits and Side Effects

Kava Kava Benefits and Side EffectsWhenever you look into any new herbal remedy, kava benefits and side effects are some of the first factors you should consider in determining if an herb is right for you. Kava has been used medicinally for hundreds if not thousands of years in Polynesia, Micronesia, and Hawaii, as well as a recreational beverage for relaxation and tension relief. It has proven, over thousands of years, that it has far more benefits than side effects, but it’s important to educate yourself about what exactly those are.

Some studies into the effects of kava on the brain demonstrate that potentially, kava can benefit people who suffer from social anxiety and stress by calming them in a way similar to benzodiazepine medications such as Valium or Ativan, although we would never compare a natural dietary supplement’s effects to any prescription medication.While kavalactones (the class of active compounds in kava) reportedly affect the same pathways in the brain as Valium, kavalactones do not seem to impair your ability to think and reason clearly, nor do they make you drowsy if a small amount is taken. In clinical studies, about 70 to 210 mg of kava seem to be effective against social and general anxiety, while between 60-150 mg can help people overcome persistent insomnia. However, since one of the side effects of kava can be slight impairment of coordination and drowsiness at higher doses, we do recommend that you refrain from driving after taking kava in any form.  One of the best ways to ensure an accurate dose of Kava when looking for these varied effects, is to take Kavalactone 30% capsules. Each capsule is 150mg of Kavalactone, making it easy to choose the benefit of helping with sleep, or anxiety.

Another of the medicinal benefits of kava is as an analgesic, or painkiller, for which kava has also been traditionally used in the South Pacific. Indigenous islanders use kava to treat arthritis pain and to reduce overall chronic pain; to treat dysmenorrhea (menstrual discomfort); to relieve tension and pain in muscles; and even to treat asthma and urinary tract infections. I have personally convinced my mom, who suffers from sometimes intense arthritis pain, to take Kava. I got her Kavalactone 30% Capsules, and some tincture. She loved it, and although it was difficult to get her past the hype about the side of effects of kava in relation to the liver, she nows sees how beneficial this natural supplement can be to help raise the quality of her life.

Kava Side Effects

Some of the mild side effects of kava usage include impairments in coordination, sensitivity to light (one reason why kava is traditionally consumed in the evening), and muscle weakness (or abnormal tonicity). Numbing of the lips and membranes of the mouth is another of kava’s side effects. This is often considered the sign of a potent high-quality brew among kava aficionados, though. If used very heavily over a period of time, kava side effects expand to include redness in the eyes, shortness of breath, and an unappealing but benign skin condition called kava dermopathy. Kava dermopathy is a side effect where a heavy kava user’s skin becomes scaly and yellowish in patches. This happens most commonly on the arms and chest. Far from being harmful, kava dermopathy was actually considered a status symbol in ancient Hawaii.

If you had the condition, it was a visible sign of your easy access to lots of potent kava brew! And, know that once your over-use of Kava stops, the dermopathy disappears completely within a week or two. For this to manifest, it requires an enormous amount of kava consumption. Even in my heaviest times of kava use, where I was consuming about 1,000mg of kavalactones a day, I never felt any of these side effects. I’ve never known any of my friends who are regular kava consumers to experience any of these side effects either. Other friends own a kava bar and have regulars who’ve been coming to them for years, and they have yet to see a single case of someone who has reported negative side effects beyond an upset stomach or the rare case of dizziness.

Equally as rarely, about 2.3% of people tested in initial open trials of kava’s effects report a variety of ailments. The list includes side effects such as stomach upset or gastrointestinal discomfort, tremors, headache, dizziness, restlessness, or drowsiness. (However, if you’re using kava as a sleep aid, this last effect might seem more like a main benefit of kava.) And remember, out of this tiny percentage, other factors weren’t taken into consideration such as whether or not people consumed the kava on an empty stomach, whether they were on any medication or had consumed alcohol, and so on.

Also, not everyone experienced all of the side effects listed above. That means even a smaller percentage (less than 1%) felt specifically a headache, and another (less than 1%) felt dizziness.  Also, it’s important to note that not everyone in the audience was familiar with the effects of anything that might be psychoactive on the brain other than alcohol or coffee. So, the very tangible effects of kava can be disorienting to some who are unfamiliar with that kind of a sensation. So, some who listed “dizziness”, once they become more familiar with kava, might change their minds about the initial reported effects.

In some extraordinarily rare cases, kava kava can cause more serious side effects. This has been limited to people who have a history of liver disease or a weak liver due to infection with Hepatitis B or C, or long-term heavy alcohol usage. Kava is traditionally prepared from only the root extracted into water, and according to an extensive Kava Study by the World Health Organization, that process is liver-benign. But, like any herb you may choose to ingest, your liver has to work to metabolize kava just like anything else. If you have a weak liver, it’s best to avoid taking any drug or herb that may place an undue load on your liver. Kava is certainly not one of those supplements to worry about, and again, any water-extracted Kava has been conclusively shown to not have any ill effects on the liver.

In terms of drug interactions, because of its tranquilizing effects, it has the potential to react negatively with any drugs that affect the central nervous system. This includes sleeping medications, depressants like alcohol, benzodiazepines such as Valium, antipsychotic medications, and medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease such as levodopa. What generally gets reported, is that the effects of kava kava were intensified, or the effects of the medication or alcohol was intensified. Some people think this is a good thing, but until you’re familiar with kava, how it affects your system, and have worked with it for some time, we highly recommend keeping your kava intake separate from any other potentially-psychoactive substance you might take.

Simple Measures

There are a few simple measures you can take to reap the benefits of kava while minimizing your risk of incurring any harmful side effects. First of all, it’s prudent to always consult your doctor before you begin using any herbal supplement, including kava. This step is of especial importance if you have a liver condition, take any of the medications listed above, or if you consume alcohol on a regular basis. Furthermore, when you’re looking for a kava product, whether as a root powder, pill, tincture or drink mix, only buy from vendors that guarantee their preparations are made using only the root of the plant. In the case of tinctures and other concentrates, it’s best to buy products made using chemical-free methods, such as CO2 cold extraction or simply water and ethanol extractions.

The purity of effects you feel and benefit you gain has everything to do with the quality of kava you consume. We’ve been doing it for nearly 2 decades here at Kava.com, and we have spent much of that time perfecting our extractions processes, including the purity of each process.

If you want to take kava therapeutically for anxiety or sleep, make sure to follow the FDA’s dosage guidelines of no more than 290 mg of kavalactones per day. Do this at least until you’re more familiar with how kava affects you. Reportedly those throughout Oceania have consumed anywhere between 1,000 – 3,000 mg of Kavalactones every single day with no ill effects. But that is from a culture steeped in Kava. Everything in moderation, and you’ll more than likely be better than fine: With so much discussion about any potential dangers of Kava, we can sometimes forget how effectively kava can increase your overall quality of life.

Any potential rare side effect, to me, vastly outweighs all of the positive kava has brought to my llife and the lives of those around me. And, in decades of kava consumption, with regular doctor visits that also check my enzyme levels, I am happy to report that I am far healthier than I was before kava became a daily part of my life.

Lastly, the FDA also recommends a one-week break after 1-2 month’s use, to give your body a rest, and that you not take kava habitually for more than three months without considering seeking a physician’s advice. We like to think that kava kava benefits outweigh the side effects, which for the most part are negligible and easily avoided with conscientious kava use. If you follow the guidelines above, you should be able to reap the benefits kava kava has to offer effectively and safely. As always, just be smart. Don’t over-consume on kava on your first try, and work your way into it, slowly, observing the benefits gradually, slowly increasing your dose as you see what happens.

47 Responses

  1. i can finally sleep and go back to sleep if i should wake up. in the morning i feel so rested and ready to go.

  2. I’m having some skin cancer removed from my upper body and smoking is said to make healing slower and harder .So I think kava-kava will help get pass my craving for nicotine a lot easier . Plus it’s healing effect will help in the promotion of my wounds healing. unlike most pharmaceuticals kava dose not cause addiction or tolerance over time so quitting kava after my recovery will be easy and safe. It will also help any pain I may have it will also promot relaxant of blood vessels .Making it a much better than a nicotine patch when and after the removal of my skin cancer.

  3. i find the kava kava root helps me with my pain and it is veary calming .i drink it with dong quai and passionflower .idrink it as a tea .one in the morning and one at night .sometimes 3 time a day .i have F-M-S -C-O-P-D- INSOMNIA -CHRONIC PAINE THIS HELPS WITH ALL THAT

  4. I am not sure, but it is seeming more and more to me, That my use of Kava over the last few weeks is clearing up my on going skin conditions that till now have not gone away.

    Has anyone ever heard of Kava healing on going skin conditions, cause it is healing my skin??

  5. Ted,

    I do not know of any research which suggests that kava is helpful for treating skin ailments, but over the years we have had customers report that kava has helped whit just about every condition you can imagine.

    One possible explanation for your improvement is that kava has reduced your stress and anxiety levels. High levels of stress, sleep deprivation, and other consequences of our fast-paced lifestyles can lead to all sorts of undesirable consequences for physical health. For this reason, many people who start using kava will simply report feeling better in general.

    -KavaDotCom Team-

  6. I am benefiting from sleeping all night long despite previous tossing and turning due to arthritic pain in my joints. I like that I can be reasonably clear-headed the next day.

    However, I am wondering what, if any, information may exist for older persons taking kava. I am specifically wondering if there is any correlation with the recent studies that show that sleep-inducing Advil, sleeping pills, night-time cough syrup etc can adversely contribute to dementia – how do long-term kava users age in the traditional cultures which have judiciously used kava over the centuries. Thoughts?

    Many thanks.

  7. Tobey,

    First off I am glad to hear that kava has been helping you to get a more restful nights sleep. I do not know of any research that has found kava to have different effects for elderly people compared to the general population. Of course kava users of any age should avoid mixing kava with alcohol/prescription drugs and consult a doctor if kava produces any unusual side effects. Still the risks associated with kava consumption are low, even in societies where kava is consumed on a regular basis. Native Pacific Islanders often consume kava throughout their lives and into old age, with no patterns of ill health observed in these societies.

    KavaDotCom Team

  8. For those of you who want to try a real taste of kava, I think Vanuatu as the best variety of kava in the Pacific. Kava has been a way of life in Vanuatu. Travel to Vanuatu and try their best kava ever, learn the origin of kava and find out that there is no age limit to drink kava in Vanuatu.

  9. Breathpainter,

    I have never heard of anyone using kava to soothe feet (or any other body part!). Kava has not traditionally been used topically, and I do not know if it would have any effect on the skin. However there is no harm in trying and we’d be interested to hear about your experience if you do decide to give it a shot!

    Team Kava

  10. I started taking a fat burner years ago with kava kava as one of the ingredients and my skin started clearing up on my hands after suffering greatly for 3 yrs or so. I had no way of knowing which ingredient or if it was overall combination/formula. They stopped making the fat burner and my hands got really bad again. I just recently started taking kava kava and my hands are clearing after one week. Just saw a comment on here about someone’s skin condition clearing. I have tried so many things and my skin is finally reacting to kava kava in just a short time. I think kava kava needs to be researched more in its healing of skin conditions. For me it is a miracle because nothing I tried would come close to healing my hands. I’m taking it internally via a concentrated formula. Not sure topically but will give it a try.

  11. Regarding skin conditions:
    Many skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema are strongly linked to TNF alpha, an inflammatory chemical released by the immune system. Research has shown Kava to be a TNF alpha inhibitor, meaning it is anti-inflammatory and may be helping skin conditions in that way. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/12809361/

  12. I am twice Kidney transplant and having a trouble of sleeping. I went vacation to see my girl friend and she gave me Kava Kava to make me fall sleep and heaven mercy, I fall asleep for 8 hours and wakes up feeling so great! I never had that feeling in a long time! I told my husband about it, he told me immediately to stop it because of many meds I’m taking it might give a side effect? I wanna take the Kave Kava What should i do? Please advice me. Thank you.

  13. CC Krnjeu,

    Glad to hear that kava has helped you with sleeping in the past! I personally use kava for the same purpose and have been amazed by how rested I feel in the morning. Here at KavaDotCom, we simply recommend that customers who take regular prescription medications consult their doctors about potential interactions with kava. My guess is that you will be able to use kava, but its important that you check first.

    Team Kava

  14. I wanted to get off of Lorazapem for my anxiety and sleeplessness so I searched for a healthier alternative. Haven’t been on it long but I already notice a beautiful difference. I feel more emotionally level. I have hope that I can handle this naturally.

  15. Drea,

    Thats wonderful to hear! We work hard to help people live healthier lives with all natural products, and its great to get positive feedback from our customers.

    Team Kava

  16. I just started taking kava to relieve my anxiety. I am hoping I can get off my anti-anxiety medication if this works.

  17. I was wondering if there would be any issues combining kava kava to my current herbal mix of passion flower, skullcap, and lemon balm. I take this tincture mixture 3 times a day and it really reduces my anxiety level. I was only considering adding the kava kava at night, to enhance my sleep.



  18. Dante,

    Thanks for reaching out. Ordinarily you do not need to worry too much about interactions among herbal supplements, although the best thing you can do is check with your doctor. Kava has few side effects but it does affect everyone differently and in rare cases it can cause an unpleasant interaction with other substances.

    Team Kava

  19. Summer,

    Great question! Chewing kava roots is a practice that dates back centuries in Polynesia. To prepare kava drink, young women would traditionally chew on kava roots and then spit the kavalactone-rich pulp into a communal bowl for consumption. According to accounts from girls who participated, the task of chewing raw kava roots was strenuous and often resulted in painfully sore jaws. As you can imagine, it wasn’t particularly sterile either!

    Today this practice has largely disappeared and kava roots are almost universally ground with the aid of machines. There is no advantage to be gained from chewing kava root and the tough root material can actually be harmful to your dental health. For this reason, I don’t recommend that you try.

    Team Kava

  20. It should be noted that it is advised to not take Kava IF you are on a MAOI antidepressant like Parnate. There are benefits to Kava Kava, but users should also know about interactions it may have with other medications for safety reasons.

  21. Bedeude,

    Great advice! It is really hard to be able to predict how kava may interact with different medicines, and when in doubt you should always consult a doctor. 99% of the time it will be perfectly OK to consume kava even if you do take prescription medication. But only a medical professional will be able to tell you for sure – It’s always worth it to check.

    Team Kava

  22. Brian,

    Most people find that kava does not disrupt sleep patterns, but I do know of cases where kava can make it more difficult to sleep. This generally happens with powerful kavalactone extracts like the Full Spectrum 55% Paste or the Kava Tincture Plus. Instant kava can also make it difficult to sleep due to the sweetness.

    I find that warm, traditional kava drinks are especially easy to fall asleep with. Our ‘Awa Calm Capsules are another good option since they contain kava plus a few herbs which are known to induce drowsiness. If you are still having trouble falling asleep, you may want to try reducing your kava dose before bedtime. Hope this halps!

    Team Kava

  23. I recently purchased a small vial of Kava Kava Co2 standardized essential oil from a high end essential oil seller. I want to also buy the Kava root. How would you recommend using the oil? I understand how to use the root via many Youtube videos, lol.

  24. Prof,

    Great question. Kava kava essential oil is a potent and somewhat uncommon form of kava and can be used in several ways. The oil can be applied topically to the skin or vaporized into the air with an essential oil diffuser. Kava oil has a pleasant aroma and can produce a calming sensation when inhaled.

    If the kava oil that you purchased is certified for human consumption it can also be consumed orally. Kava oil is often highly concentrated, so you should only need a couple drops. You can either put a small drop on your tongue or dissolve it in a drink.

    Team Kava

  25. My 14-year old daughter just started taking kava (in pill form) for anxiety. We’re really hoping we can completely avoid other anxiety medications. This is just her third day, but the first day she has gone to school with it. She says she feels pretty calm and level, but then she crashes after about 7-8 hours and feels very emotional, gets angry easily, then very fatigued. I told her this will probably go away in time. Has anyone else experienced this?

  26. Mary,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Kava is highly subjective and side effects (like fatigue) may affect one person but not the next. Generally speaking side effects from kava are quite mild and will be most noticeable for a couple hours after consumption. To be experiencing side effects 7-8 hours after taking kava strikes me as unusual.

    My recommendation for you would be to speak with your doctor about your daughter’s reaction to kava. It is a good idea for anyone under 18 to consult with a medical professional before beginning a kava regimen. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact us at [email protected].

    Team Kava

  27. Good afternoon,

    I lost my job and I have been experiencing some anxiety as well problems falling and staying asleep. I was looking for an over the counter remedy and came across Kava on various website. I bought some root today and brewed it, 10-15 minutes in boiling water, and drank about 8 ounces. It provide help with the anxiety. Should it happen this fast? What type of douses do you recommend? And finally do you suggest not to take with Melatonin? I have been taking Melatonin to fall and stay a sleep. This blog was so helpful and it is wonderful that you are looking to help out people that do not want to use pharmaceutical drugs.

  28. My son who is 18 is suffering from very bad stress and anxiety and we were searching for something all natural vs something proscribed to help him reduce his symptoms. I researched kava and liked what I read so we bought some for him . My question is , how long does it usually take for it to start working before we see a difference ? He’s taking one capsule of the kava root after breakfast and one after lunch . I didn’t want to give him too much until we see how he reacts to two capsules . I think max is three a day .

  29. ESS,

    Kava can be an effective OTC remedy for general anxiety. It sounds like you did everything right in preparing your kava, although we don’t recommend boiling your brew. When consumed in drink form, kava goes to work in just a few minutes and the effects linger for about 4 hours. 1-2 tablespoons of powdered kava root is a good dose to shoot for.

    Kava is OK to take with OTC medication and other herbal supplements. As long as you stick to the recommended doses for kava and melatonin you will be fine. Kava use should be avoided with alcohol or prescription drugs however. If you have any further questions feel free to email us at [email protected].

    Team Kava

  30. Liz,

    In capsule form, kava begins to work in 10-15 minutes and the effects last for approximately 4 hours. Most people with general anxiety will use kava on a daily basis. Some will see an improvement immediately, other people may take a few days to adjust to the kava.

    2 kava root capsules, up to 3 times per day, is what recommend to customers. ava root capsules are fairly mild and most people report no side effects. If you have any further questions, feel free to email us at [email protected].

    Team Kava

  31. I have Crohn’s disease. You said cava can reduce inflamation and block TNF. Would this be good for me and could the calming effect slow down my gut?

  32. Krista,

    Unfortunately we cannot give out medical advice to our customers. Kava may well be helpful for you, but I would recommend discussing that with your doctor.

    Team Kava

  33. I have oral allergies to avocados, strawberries and blueberries. Eating them causes my inside lower lip and my tongue to feel numb. Have there been reports of Kava causing oral allergy?

  34. Ginger,

    Kava allergies are quite rare and I cannot recall an instance when we had a report of kava causing an allergic reaction. None of our products contain avocado, blueberry, or strawberry extract so you should be fine if you decide to order any of our items. However it may be a good idea to speak with your doctor first just to be sure.

    Team Kava

  35. Coleen,

    Kava is known for having numerous beneficial properties and our customers have found it to be helpful for a range of medical conditions. However the effects of kava are somewhat subjective and there is no way to tell you if it will be helpful for your particular condition.

    I would recommend speaking with your doctor about using kava for any medical conditions. We cannot dispense medical advice since we are retailers without formal medical training. If you and your doctor do decide that kava is a good option, I would be happy to help you select an appropriate kava product.

    Team Kava

  36. My daughter recently reported she’s found many benefits from kava. I am a heavy beer drinker. I’m wondering if you have heard of anyone who has successfully transitioned to kava?

  37. Dear Mel,

    This is quite a common question, and I will give you the stock answer first: “We are not a doctor and cannot dispense medical advice. Please seek the advice of your family doctor if you want to take Kava during your pregnancy.”

    And now, the answer that has been gathered from doctor’s opinions, research papers, and stories taken directly from the people of Oceania who have used this amazing plant safely for thousands of years:

    Unfortunately, the short answer is that not enough is known about kava’s safety in pregnancy to recommend it. To give you a better idea of why this is, let’s take a look at kava kava’s common effects: kava is used as a sedative and anxiolytic because of its tranquilizing and antispasmodic properties. In other words, kava calms the central nervous system and also acts as a muscle relaxant. It has been suggested that kava’s relaxant properties could have a negative effect on uterine tone [1].

    When questions of kava safety arise, the first thing to look at is the anecdotal evidence. Kava’s history stretches back thousands of years: in the South Pacific, the root has been used medicinally for pain relief, insomnia, urinary infections, and other conditions. According to Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, kava kava has also been used to help women more easily give birth and to correct displacement of the womb [4]. However, the book goes on to say that a combination of kava and other pepper species has also been used to induce miscarriage. In Hawaii and Polynesia, the kava leaf was used topically for the same purpose [4]. However, we would like to point out that kava leaf is known to be poisonous to humans. In contrast, the kava root has been proved safe for human consumption by thousands of years of traditional use.

    The American Pregnancy Association has given kava a rating of possibly unsafe for use in pregnancy, mostly because there isn’t enough known about the effect of kavalactones on a developing baby. It isn’t known whether kavalactones can be transmitted to the fetus in the womb, and the same kavalactones that are perfectly harmless in an adult might still be harmful for fetuses whose livers and brains are developing [1]. Many prescription anti-anxiety medications such as Valium are listed as unsafe for use in pregnancy because they can harm the developing fetus [2].

    It’s also possible that kava kava may weaken the muscles around the uterus, which could lead to miscarriage or premature delivery [3]. Finally, kava’s sedating effects could amplify the effect of anesthesia if a mother must be sedated during labor for any reason [2]. Physicians recommend that patients stop use of any herbal supplement with sedative effects (such as passionflower, valerian, or kava) 2 weeks before any medical procedure involving anesthesia.

    While there are few definitive studies of kava’s safety in pregnancy, a good starting place for herbal safety in pregnancy can be found in this 2002 literature review [3]. Based on the research, it is the Kava Guru’s opinion that kava should not be used in pregnancy. In those times when anxiety or stress becomes an issue during pregnancy, it may be possible to consult a holistic health care practitioner about herbs that are definitively safe in pregnancy, or about other stress-busting techniques such as prenatal yoga and meditation that can help you feel calm and ready for this change.


    Team Kava


    1. The American Pregnancy Association. “Herbs and Pregnancy”. Last modified January 2013. https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/naturalherbsvitamins.html

    2. Livestrong.com. “Kava Kava and Pregnancy”. Last modified February 7th, 2014. https://www.livestrong.com/article/184996-kava-kava-pregnancy/

    3. Ernst, E. March 2002. “Herbal medicinal products: are they safe during pregnancy?” British Journal of Gynaecology 109 (3): 227-235.

    4. Bone, Kerry and Simon Mills. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine, 2nd ed. Churchill Livingstone, 2013: pg. 711.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe Newsletter

Mailing List


Related Posts

Gulp-n-Chill: Making Kava Drinks for Wellness

Intro Are you tired of the same old drinks and looking for something new and refreshing? Look no further, because we have the perfect solution for you – the best kava drinks and recipes! Our website offers a wide variety

New Kava Shell Kava Shot Drink

The Ultimate Kava Drink It’s been on our “idea board” for years. We’ve spent a lot of (fun) time formulating, taste-testing, and crafting what we envisioned for a proper maximum punch Kava drink. The result is arriving soon; our 2

Say Goodbye to Anxiety With Kava Powder

Say Goodbye to Anxiety with Kava Powder Anxiety is a common problem that affects many people in today’s fast-paced society. Stress is right alongside anxiety. Both can cause physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, and muscle tension, as

Make your Own Kava Drinks

The Secret to Great Kava Drinks Making a great traditional Kava drink is easier than many think. Yes, we offer all kinds of shortcuts here on Kava.com. But nothing quite soothes the soul and mind like putting just a little