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  Evaluated for:
Effectiveness Rating Effectiveness Rating
-1 (Possibly Ineffective)


  • Kava is a drink made from the roots of the Piper methysticum shrub native to the South Pacific islands.  Like alcohol, it has been used for social, medicinal, and ceremonial purposes.
  • Around the world, but especially in the South Pacific islands, kava has been used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and stress.
  • Some studies showed possible evidence that kava may be as effective as benzodiazepine drugs such as diazepam (Valium®) for treating these conditions.


  • The greatest concern associated with kava use is that it has been linked to a risk of severe liver damage, which can manifest as hepatitis or liver failure.
  • Kava has been associated with cases of dystonia, a type of movement disorder.  It may also interact with medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease.
  • Long term use of kava can result in yellow discoloration and scaling of the skin.  It may also cause drowsiness, and thus impair driving.
  • Other than a possible use in managing anxiety, kava has no other medicinal application.

If you are considering trying kava, discuss your decision with your doctor prior to using it, and plan to observe carefully for any changes to your health.

CONCLUSION: We do not recommend the use of kava for treating insomnia, anxiety, and stress.

“Kava.” Natural Standard –The Authority on Integrative Medicine. Natural Standard, 2013.
“Kava.” Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Therapeutic Research Faculty, 2013. 8 November 2013.
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Cassileth, B. et al. Kava (Piper methysticum). Integrative Oncology (2011)
Wheatly, D. et al. Kava and Valerian in the Treatment of Stress-induced Insomnia. Phytotherapy Research (2001) 15, 549-551
Pittler, E. et al. Kava extract versus placebo for treating anxiety (Review). The Cochrane Collaboration (2010) 6
Teschke, R. et al. Kava hepatotoxicity in traditional and modern use: the presumed Pacific kava paradox hypothesis revisited. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (2011) 73:2 , 170-174
Teschke, R. et al. Kava, the anxiolytic herb: back to basics to prevent liver injury? British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (2011) 71:3, 445-448
LaPorte, E. et al. Neuocognitive effects of kava (Piper methysticum): a systematic review. Human Psychopharmacol Clin Exp (2011) 26:102-111
Teschke, R., Lebot, V. et al. Proposal for a Kava Quality Standardization Code. Food and Chemical Toxicology (2011) 49: 2503-2516
Sarris, J. et al. The acute effects of kava and oxazepam on anxiety, mood, neurocognition; and genetic correlates: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Hum Psychopharmacol Clin Exp (2012) 27:262-269
Sarris, J. et al. The Kava Anxiety Depression Spectrum Study (KADSS): a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial using an aqueous extract of Piper Methysticum. Psychopharmacology (2009) 205:399-407

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