True Kava Side Effects

WHO World Health Organization KavaThere is a lot of noise about the side effects of Kava. As the World Health Organization (THE defacto standard for research when it comes to international issues of health and well-being), clearly stated; “There is no link to liver damage with water-based root extracts of Kava Kava.” In their Summary in their exhaustive 2007 book called “Assessment of the Risk of Hepatotoxicity With Kava Products” suspended in water (Kava drinks, Kava tea), or water-based extracts clearly states this:

“The forms of Kava used used traditionally by Pacific-Islanders and by some aboriginal communities are not believed to be associated with the serious forms of liver damage observed in case reports.”

The report summary goes on to say this:

“Experimental hepatotoxicological investigations showed no overt hepatoxic reactions due to kava pyrones (kavalactones). A number of comprehensive reviews have been published in an attempt to explain the cause-effect relationship observed in the case reports but to date a clear mechanism to explain this purported hepatotoxicity has not been found.”

And in reference to one of numerous studies:

The post-marketing surveillance studies based on spontaneous reporting did not identify liver toxicity among a total of 7,978 patients taking 150 to 240 mg of kava extract daily for approximately six weeks (Stevinson 2002).

In reference to water-based Kava extractions from another study:

The traditional Kava beverage is essentially a water suspension and until recently large quantities 10-15 times the recommended daily dose have been used without signs of liver damage (Whitton 2003, “Kava lactones and the kava-kava controversy”).

This couldn’t be any clearer, yet the caution statements the FDA makes us put on our Kava packages are longer than cigarettes or alcohol warnings, which literally kill hundreds of thousands of people each and every year.  Can we say “out of proportion” when it comes to the kava controversy?

Even in the final pages of the WHO’s book on Kava side effects, in the “Overall Summary > Conclusions” section on page 62, point eleven and point twelve are simple and clear:

11. Clinical trials of kava have not revealed hepatotoxicity as a problem.

12. Most experimental studies have failed to demonstrate a toxic effect on liver cells by kava.

So, let’s explore some numbers truth and facts instead bias and agenda. (Or media hype like Dr Phil’s horrendous article on Kava in 2015.)

First, as personal as possible: I’m only one person, but I drink Kava daily, at about 500mg of Kavalactones per day, and have for almost 20 years now. I get blood tests once a year to track where my health is at, and there have not even been elevated enzyme levels in my liver. In fact, native users throughout Oceania have enjoyed Kava in quantities far larger than the 295mg dosages that the United States FDA has allotted as a “safe daily dose”, for several thousand years with little to no reported side effects, and certainly virtually no reports of negative impacts on the liver.  Yes, there is a chance of underreporting, but if Kava was as toxic as some websites and media outlets are trying to make it appear, there would be something plain to see regarding this alleged damage that wouldn’t require hundreds of clinical trials and alleged connections to find this elusive connection..

Let’s do a few quick comparisons: Over 2,000 people a year die from negative reactions to aspirin. Over 200,000 people a year die from negative reactions to pharmaceuticals. Even the FDA themselves states that there are over 100,000 deaths yearly.  Over 600,000 people a year die from heart disease, much of which is linked to alcohol consumption and/or cigarette smoking.

I know that most of us typically glaze over when we hear numbers like this, and find it difficult to really connect the dots here.

BUT THE BOTTOM LINE COULD NOT BE SIMPLER: You are far more likely to die from a coconut falling on your head (150 deaths per year), from a mosquito biting you (800,000 deaths per year), playing high school football (15 deaths per year), by opening a champagne bottle (25 deaths per year), by getting bit by a dog (30 deaths per year), or even taking the bus to school or a plane on vacation than you are from simply enjoying a shell of Kava, every single day, for the rest of your life!

That’s the simple statistical fact.

With all the noise being generated about the possible dangers of Kava, there are fewer POSSIBLE deaths from Kava ingestion over its entire 3,000 year history, than there have been people killed by a vending machine.  A similar article elsewhere on this website called “KAVA CONTROVERSY” takes on this topic as well.

If others want to try to dismiss my controversial words and claim they’re not based on science, that is also untrue. My research comes from over 100 clinical studies of Kava, gathered by the leading worldwide research authority called the World Health Organization. Google them. See the amazing work they do. See how positive of a reputation they have for accuracy, for doing good in the world.

Besides that, though, I have personally been in the Kava business for nearly 20 years as of this writing. I have enjoyed Kava roots almost every day of my life, and have purposely tried to feel side effects of Kava in my own personal research. THE ABSOLUTE WORST SIDE EFFECT THAT I CAN REPORT, after nearly 2 decades of use, is an INCREASED QUALITY OF LIFE, and A DESIRE TO SMILE for one reason or another every day of my life.

I kid you not.

I am the biggest hypochondriac I know, as well as the biggest skeptic. Combine those two together and I’m lucky I get to enjoy a decent meal that I’m not concerned might give me food poisoning once in a while. I’ve spent a great deal of time purposely trying to induce side effects of Kava, including the scaly skin I’ve sometimes heard about. I’ve failed every time. The closest I’ve come is when I ingested exactly 4 shells of Kava, and followed each with a shot of vodka.

I know, I know. This is not very smart. But hear me out: I do not feel as though I can speak authoritatively on any subject unless I have personally experienced that subject myself. So, in a controlled environment, with medical personnel standing by and monitoring me, I very carefully, twice an hour, ingested a shell of Kava followed by a shot of alcohol.

At first, it was actually quite pleasant, as I became VERY giddy, almost uncontrollably so. But soon, it became a bit uncomfortable, and I grew very dizzy by the 3rd shell and 3rd shot of vodka. Mind you, I’m not a heavy drinker, and my tolerance for alcohol is quite low, but the combination of alcohol and Kava not only felt completely unnecessary, it made me very nauseated for quite some time as well.

That was indeed a one-time event.

Besides that, though, I have tried every experiment I could think of to see what kinds of side effects I may be able to induce from Kava. I’ve also tried every form of Kava there is, and share that experience in my “KAVA EXPERIMENTS AND EFFECTS” article elsewhere on this site. Iv’e worked with tinctures, powders, fresh roots, Kavalactone 30% extract and Kavalactone Paste. I wanted to know where the edges were and what they felt like.

Enough of the personal anecdotes, though. Let’s get back to the science and the facts, and examine why there may be so much noise about a natural herbal product that has been used safely for over 3,000 years, with nary a case against it that has negatively impacted someone’s health.

First, it became clear in the early 2000’s, that Kava was beginning to turn into a formidable natural anti-anxiety product for people. It was safe, effective, and easily purchased without a prescription. In fact, it was deemed so safe, that Kava was prescribed to children in Europe on a regular basis before the German study on Kava was released. Kava was being prescribed instead of prescription medication to children experiencing high levels of anxiety, and it was proving to be extremely safe and effective. Kava’s effects are very gentle, yet firm. It not only helps reduce anxiety, but it can help to elevate mood as well.

Funny how the negative study that came out in the early 2000’s was funded by a pharmaceutical company, funny how the study was conducted with a test group of people who already had some sort of liver damage, and funny how the study used the potentially poisonous parts of the Kava plant (leaves and stems), instead of just the roots.

Now why would a company find a study that would clearly produce some very skewed results? I have sometimes been called a conspiracy theorist, but to me, the truth couldn’t be clearer to see:

Kava was beginning to threaten a sliver of the pharmaceutical industry, and the pharmaceutical industry decided to take action.

What would be the most effective means of completely shutting down the Kava industry?

Talk about side effects so dangerous that they might kill you!

Fear is one of the most powerful weapons of control, and by our very nature, we listen and respond to authority. Most of us have a built-in acceptance of taking what an authoritative body tells us, without ever investigating for ourselves. We’ve been trained to believe that since we’re not the authority, since we’re not trained in the clinical study field, that “they” must know best.

As we’ve seen over the recent years, those in positions of power most often abuse that power when money gets involved. And a natural herbal product that cannot be patented, cutting into a sliver of the profits of one of the most money-hungry world-dominating industries in the world would most definitely be seen as a threat, no matter how small.

If it seems impossible to believe that an industry so large, (the global pharmaceutical market is a $980 billion dollar a year industry, could possibly be threatened by an industry to small (the Kava industry in Hawaii at that time was a $585,000.00 yearly industry).

But it’s happened to me and people I know, time and time again. One example is HBI International and their “Chill” rolling papers for tobacco products. A dear friend of mine had a natural herbal smoking blend called “Chill Blend”. They sold about 6 packs of this product a week, for a total yearly sales of $9,360.00.

HBI International had their team of attorneys harass the makers of Chill Blend, and said they would work until the brand was shut down because it confuses their customers. HBI has many tens of millions of dollars in sales per year. The makers of Chill Blend were absolutely no threat to them whatsoever. They even went so far as to tell them that it would cost them about $50,000.00 to “get in the ring with them”, and their best option was to roll over and kill the brand.

So, they changed the name to “Lucid Blend” and went on their way to avoid a losing battle.

And this is just one personal example of David and Goliath. When money is involved, it seems those in a position of power and money don’t care how small fry a threat might be. They appear to have teams of attorneys who’s job is to find ANY competition and destroy it. So, it’s not too far-fetched to put the pieces together, and see why a worldwide scare about the dangers of Kava were initiated by those with a specific agenda.

Again, take a look at the FACTS, gathered from over 100 studies of Kava, by the World Health Organization; one of the most reputable research organizations in the world. They have no ties to the pharmaceutical industry, and they have no ties to the Kava industry. If there were clearly dangerous side effects from water-based Kava products made from the roots of Kava only, they would have reported it. They may even have emphasized it and made it big news. But they didn’t.

They did find that there are parts of the Kava plant than can be dangerous, but the same is true for a vast number of natural products. Many fruits are poisonous before they’re fully-ripened. This is a natural plant defense to prevent fruits with immature seeds from being taken off the plant. Bananas are a great example of this; very unripe bananas are very dangerous to humans.

So, any reputable Kava supplier, especially one who manufactures 100% of their Kava products in a GMP Manufacturing Facility (a good manufacturing practice facility that is under strict rules for purity and cleanliness by the FDA) such as does, will use only the roots of the Kava plant.

There is some new evidence that there may be a component of Kava that may possibly have a negative impact on the liver. But, this recent study involved giving rats massively massive quantities of Flavokavain B, quantities, so large that no human could ever consume that much without ill effects, just for consuming that much of anything in a single serving or dose.

Let’s quickly put that study into perspective: If the same amount of caffeine was given to these rats, it would likely have elevated their hearts so much, it would have killed them. Seriously.

So, what might the moral of the story be?  Everything in moderation, folks.

And really, let’s just take a step back, take a deep breath, and enjoy a shell of Kava with ourselves or with friends. When it comes down to it, only a few of us choose to consume Kava on a daily basis, and only enjoy it on special occasions, on weekends, or during gatherings with friends.  I’ve gone long periods of time without consuming Kava, but I like how it feels.  I drink a shell in the morning instead of coffee (Caffeine’s Hidden Dangers). It’s my personal choice.  As I stated above, it has helped raise the quality of my life simply because I like feeling connected to the plant that provides for me, my family, and a number of loyal employees who are as passionate about Kava as I am.


01. Assessment of the Risk of Hepatotoxicity with Kava Products. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 2007. Print.

02. Whitton PA, Lau A. Salisbury A, Whitehouse J, Evans CS. Kava lactones and the kava-kava controversy. Phytochemistry. 2003, 64(3), 673-79

03. “Why Learn about Adverse Drug Reactions (ADR)?” N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2015.

04. “Deaths and Mortality.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 01 Nov. 2015.

05. “25 Shocking Things More Likely to Kill You than a Shark.” WNYY 1470 AM Progressive Talk. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Aug. 2013.

06. “Topic: Global Pharmaceutical Industry.” N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2015.

07. “Caffeine’s Hidden Dangers.” American Fitness Professionals & Associates. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.

8 Responses

  1. I have used Kava root every day for more than 20 years. Liver is check ever year and it is OK. I do take SAM-e and Milk Thistle for a health Liver.
    I use Kava for my combat PTSD , Muscle Relaxation and pain. I am a 72 year old endurance athlete cycling more than 3,500 miles year and still racing.

  2. David,

    These are the posts we wish we received more often. There is so much negative press related to Kava, and I personally know over a dozen people who have consumed Kava over the course of years, without any ill effects or health issues. Thank you for taking the time to relay your experience; it means the world to us.

    Mahalo nui,
    Team Kava

  3. what form of kava I want to try it for pain relief and sleep for the first time does it work right away and what form to buy

  4. Fred,

    I’m glad to hear that you are looking into kava! Kava acts as a mild muscle relaxant, and many of our customers find that it is helpful both for managing pain and sleep. I would recommend that you look into our capsules (particularly the ‘Awa Calm) since these can be taken as needed and still deliver a strong dose of kavalactone. Kava begins working shortly after ingestion so for sleep you will want to take a couple of capsules 30 minutes before bedtime. Feel free to contact us if you have any other questions or would like to place an order, 716-989-5577.

    KavaDotCom Team

  5. Hi!
    Are there negative side effects taking Kava while on Venlafaxine? I’m taking 112 mg daily. My Dr. just upped my dose 4 days ago and my insomnia is worse than ever! Have anxiety and depression. Sleeping only 4 hours a night. Would love to try Kava if it’s possible. My Dr. wants to put me on 3 mg of Lunesta . Not crazy about the idea. Just another drug with side effects!!

  6. That is a great question. The gentlest form of Kava would likely be any of the Kava Blends we offer. Specifically though, the Kava Blends with Ginger is your safest bet. Speaking of ginger though, if you take Kava, in any form, taking a couple of ginger capsules alongside can work wonders on sensitive stomachs.

  7. We have had this question come up many times. We are not doctors and, as you might expect, are unable to provide medical advice. From customers who reported that they have consulted with their doctors regarding mixing Kava with anti-depressants, though, we have been told that there is little concern of any interaction. This is in reference to the few anti-depressant medications we have been asked about such Effexor, Prozac, and a few others. Either way, always consult a doctor before taking any medication or dietary supplements that have the power to alter mood.

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