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kava leaves

© 2018 Steven Foster

A kava monograph for the home

Latin Name: Piper methysticum

Common Names: kava, kava kava, ava pepper, ava root, kawa

This kava monograph provides basic information about kava—common names, usefulness and safety, and resources for more information.


Kava Basics

  • Kava is native to the islands of the South Pacific and is a member of the pepper family.
  • Pacific islanders have used kava in ceremonies to bring about a state of relaxation.
  • Today, people use kava as a dietary supplement for anxiety.
  • The root and underground stem (fresh or dried) are used to prepare drinks; they are also made into extracts, capsules, and tablets.

Kava in Health Research

  • There is a fair amount of clinical research on kava.

Kava Research Summary

  • Kava supplements may have a small effect on reducing anxiety, but they have been linked to a risk of severe liver disease.
  • Differences in dosages used, preparation methods, and study designs have resulted in mixed conclusions about kava’s usefulness.

Kava Safety

  • In March 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned health care providers and the public about the risk of liver damage associated with kava.
  • Combining kava with alcohol may increase the risk of liver damage.
  • Long-term use of high doses of kava has been associated with dry, scaly skin or yellowing of the skin.
  • Heavy consumption of kava has been associated with heart problems and eye irritation.

Kava References


PubMed Articles About

Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)[Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US), National Center for Biotechnology Information; [1988] – [cited 2018 Apr 5]. Available from: