General Information

Kava is native to the islands of the South Pacific and is a member of the pepper family. Kava has been used as a ceremonial beverage in the South Pacific for centuries.

Common Names(s)

kava, kava kava, awa, kava pepper

Scientific Names(s)

Piper methysticum

How is Kava usually used?

The root and rhizome (underground stem) of kava are used to prepare beverages, extracts, capsules, tablets, and topical solutions.

What is Kava used for?

Kava has been used to help people fall asleep and fight fatigue, as well as to treat asthma and urinary tract infections.

Topically, kava has been used as a numbing agent.

Today, kava is used primarily for anxiety, insomnia, and menopausal symptoms.

Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What else should I be aware of?

Although scientific studies provide some evidence that kava may be beneficial for the management of anxiety, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning that using kava supplements has been linked to a risk of severe liver damage.

Kava is not a proven therapy for other uses.

NCCAM-funded studies on kava were suspended after the FDA issued its warning.

Kava has been reported to cause liver damage, including hepatitis and liver failure (which can cause death).

Kava has been associated with several cases of dystonia (abnormal muscle spasm or involuntary muscle movements). Kava may interact with several drugs, including drugs used for Parkinson's disease.

Long-term and/or heavy use of kava may result in scaly, yellowed skin.

Avoid driving and operating heavy machinery while taking kava because the herb has been reported to cause drowsiness.

Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.


National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Herbs at a Glance. Kava. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/kava/ataglance.htm

The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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