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Articles Kava

Provided By Blackmores

Kava has a long history of safe traditional use in Pacific cultures, and has been introduced into modern Western herbal medicine in recent years for the relief of symptoms of mild anxiety. In Europe there have recently been reports of a possible association of some concentrated Kava products with liver problems; in consultation with Kava manufacturers, German health authorities are reviewing 24 reports of suspected liver toxicity. According to Australian researchers, liver toxicity linked to Kava is rare and likely due to an immunologic reaction.

Kava has previously been reviewed by the German governmentís expert Commission E panel and has been approved for use for nervous anxiety, stress and restlessness. Over the last two years there have been two comprehensive reviews of clinical studies using Kava, and neither has revealed adverse effects relating to liver toxicity. Adverse effects have generally been minor and have usually been associated with excessive intake; they include yellowing and scaling of the skin, and impaired motor control. The symptoms disappeared when the high doses were discontinued.

The main use of Kava is for the short-term treatment of stress and mild anxiety and until the above reports have been adequately assessed, the following recommendations should be considered by Kava users.

  • Kava should not be used by those with known liver disorders, or by those taking drugs which are known to adversely affect the liver.
  • Kava should not be taken daily for more than four weeks.
  • Kava should be discontinued if symptoms of jaundice, such as yellowing of eyes, and dark urine, appear.
  • Before using Kava, consumers should talk to their healthcare professional if they have, or suspect they have, liver problems.

    There are a number of alternatives to Kava:

  • St Johnís Wort (Hypericum) is used for the treatment of mild anxiety, including menopause related anxiety, and for nervous tension.
  • B - group vitamins are of benefit in times of nervous tension and anxiety when levels are depleted, and when levels of vitamin C are depleted. Magnesium can assist with muscle relaxation during those periods.
  • The herbs passion flower and hops help relieve nervous tension and stress, particularly occupational stress and examination jitters.
  • The herb valerian is useful for insomnia associated with stress and anxiety.


    1. Pittler M, Ernst E. Efficay of Kava extract for treating anxiety; systematic review and meta-analysis J Clin Psychoph 2000; 20(1);84-9 2. Singh Y, Blumenthal M. Kava, an overview. Herbalgram 1998;39:33-35 3. Packer-Tursman, J. FDA investigates kava. Washington Post 22 Jan 2002 4. Bone, K. Kava and reported liver damage. December 2001 5. TMEC. Response to concerns about Piper methysticum Forst.F., Kava. Eur Herb Pract Assoc Jan 2002

    depressioNet would like to thank the support of Blackmores (http://www.blankmores.com.au) for allowing us to reproduce this article

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