Generic Name: kava (KA vah)
Medically reviewed on October 3, 2017
What is kava?
Kava is a plant also known as Ava, Ava Root, Awa, Intoxicating Long Pepper, Kao, Kavain, Kavapipar, Kawa, Kawapfeffer, Kew, Lawena, Malohu, Maluk, Maori Kava, Meruk, Milik, Piper methysticum, Poivre des Cannibales, Poivre des Papous, Rauschpfeffer, Rhizome Di Kava-Kava, Sakau, Tonga, Waka, Wurzelstock, Yagona, Yangona, Yaqona, Yaquon, Yongona.
Kava has been used in alternative medicine as a possibly effective aid in treating anxiety.
Other uses not proven with research have included cancer prevention, insomnia, depression, attention deficit disorder, preventing sedative withdrawal symptoms (from medicines such as Valium, Xanax, or Tranzene), and other conditions.
It is not certain whether kava is effective in treating any medical condition. Medicinal use of this product has not been approved by the FDA. Kava should not be used in place of medication prescribed for you by your doctor.
Kava is often sold as an herbal supplement. There are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for many herbal compounds and some marketed supplements have been found to be contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. Herbal/health supplements should be purchased from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination.
Kava may also be used for purposes not listed in this product guide.
Kava is considered unsafe due to many reports of fatal effects on the liver, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure.
You should not use kava if you have liver disease.
Before taking this medicine
Kava is considered unsafe due to many reports of fatal effects on the liver, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure. Even short-term use (1 to 3 months) may increase your risk of liver damage.
You should not use kava if you have liver disease.
Ask a doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider if it is safe for you to use this product if you have:
depression (especially if you take an antidepressant).
You should not take kava if you are pregnant. Kava may cause weaken muscle tone in the uterus.
Kava can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while using kava.
Do not give any herbal/health supplement to a child without medical advice.
How should I take kava?
When considering the use of herbal supplements, seek the advice of your doctor. You may also consider consulting a practitioner who is trained in the use of herbal/health supplements.
If you choose to use kava, use it as directed on the package or as directed by your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider. Do not use more of this product than is recommended on the label.
Do not use different forms (tablets, liquid, tincture, teas, etc) of kava at the same time without medical advice. Using different formulations together increases the risk of an overdose.
You should have frequent blood tests to check your liver function if you choose to take kava.
If you need surgery, stop taking kava at least 2 weeks ahead of time.
Call your doctor if the condition you are treating with kava does not improve, or if it gets worse while using this product.
Store kava as directed on the package. In general, kava should be protected from light and moisture and stored in a sealed container.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not use extra kava to make up the missed dose.
What happens if I overdose?
Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.
Long-term use of kava can cause dry, flaking, discolored skin; reddened eyes; a scaly skin rash; puffy face; muscle weakness; blood abnormalities; and feelings of poor health.
What should I avoid while taking kava?
This medicine may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert.
Avoid using kava together with other herbal/health supplements that can also harm the liver. This includes androstenedione, chaparral, comfrey, DHEA, germander, niacin (vitamin B3), pennyroyal oil, red yeast, and others.
Avoid drinking alcohol while taking kava. Alcohol may increase your risk of liver damage.
Avoid using kava with other herbal/health supplements that can also cause drowsiness. This includes 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), calamus, California poppy, catnip, gotu kola, Jamaican dogwood, melatonin, St. John's wort, skullcap (or scullcap), valerian, yerba mansa, and others.
Kava side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Stop using kava and call your healthcare provider at once if you have:
Long-term use of kava may cause serious health problems, including:
dry, scaly, flaky skin;
yellowed skin, hair, fingernails, or toenails;
red eyes, puffy face;
decreased ability to absorb protein;
blood in your urine; or
blood cell disorders that can make it easier for you to bleed or get sick.
Common side effects may include:
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What other drugs will affect kava?
Taking kava with other drugs that make you sleepy can worsen this effect. Avoid taking kava together with a sleeping pill or sedative, narcotic pain medicine, muscle relaxer, or medicine for anxiety, depression, or seizures.
Do not take kava without medical advice if you are using a medication to treat any of the following conditions:
anxiety or depression;
arthritis pain, occasional pain, or tension headaches;
a psychiatric disorder; or
This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with kava, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this product guide.
- Consult with a licensed healthcare professional before using any herbal/health supplement. Whether you are treated by a medical doctor or a practitioner trained in the use of natural medicines/supplements, make sure all your healthcare providers know about all of your medical conditions and treatments.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
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