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Debunking Myths on Kava Safety and Liver Toxicity

by Dew Wellness on Oct 06, 2022

Debunking Myths on Kava Safety and Liver Toxicity 

Kava has been used traditionally by Pacific Islanders for centuries but gained international attention only recently in the Western World. Kava is consumed either as a supplement or a tea made from the rootstock of the kava plant. The popularity of kava soared after some clinical studies on this herb revealed its anti-anxiety and stress-relieving properties. However, recent studies that linked liver toxicity and damage with long-term kava intake have triggered a worldwide debate. 

In this article, we'll look at each of these myths in more detail to better understand what they mean and how much truth there is behind them!

What are the Common Debunking Myths on Kava Safety and Liver Toxicity?

The following are the common myths about kava and liver toxicity:

Kava Is Like Alcohol

Kava is frequently compared to alcohol because of its calming and relaxing effects. However, several important differences between the two compounds can lead to serious health problems if kava is consumed incorrectly.

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that can cause blackouts, memory loss, nausea, and vomiting. It should be noted that people have died from alcohol poisoning, but there has never been a reported death from kava use alone.

Kava is liver-protective; however, alcohol is liver-toxic. Research suggests that kavalactones may help treat fibrotic diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver and alcoholic hepatitis. Higher levels of kavalactones in the body may prevent inflammation in the liver, while lower levels of alcohol in the body may make it more susceptible to damage by free radicals. Additionally, research shows that kavalactones can help heal "abused" livers. In contrast, research shows that alcohol consumption accelerates liver damage.

Kava Makes You Hallucinate

This is a common myth about Kava. Kava does not cause hallucinations. Kava is known for its calming effects, but there are no scientific studies that show it causes hallucinations.

The Active Kava Is Unsafe

Kava's potential for liver damage has been getting much attention lately. For example, a recent study demonstrated that Kava could cause liver damage in rats after chronic consumption. This news spurred an investigation by the FDA, which found no evidence of liver damage in humans who consume the plant regularly or occasionally. After further research, the FDA concluded that the rats in the study were not consuming Kava; instead, they were force-fed pure compounds found in Kava which caused toxicity in their livers. These findings set off some controversy over whether or not Kava is safe to consume at all.

The truth is that Kava is perfectly safe if consumed responsibly by those who know what they are doing and have had some experience with it.

Kava Is Banned

Kava is legal in every country in Australia.  However, some countries like New Zealand have restrictions on its sale or usage due to concerns about liver toxicity from compounds found in some strains of kava. The United States has no laws against consuming kava, but several states restrict its sale and distribution because of these concerns.

Toxicity of Kava 

In general, kava is well tolerated when taken short-term and at recommended doses. 

Chemical Composition

Kava contains two main groups of chemicals, kavalactones, and flavokavaines. The kavalactones are responsible for the sedative and muscle relaxing properties of kava. They include dihydrokawain, methysticin, and dihydromethystic. The flavokavaines are responsible for the anti-anxiety and analgesic effects of kava.

Exposure Information

How much kava you would have to drink to become intoxicated is unknown. This varies depending on the type of kava used, how long it has been stored, whether it has been dried or fresh, and how much of the root has been used in making the drink (the root contains more kavalactones than other parts of the plant). The amount of active ingredients in a single dose is also unknown but may be as low as 100mg per day if taken chronically over time.


Kava has been found to increase the rate of absorption and metabolism of other drugs, and this may cause an increase in their toxicity and side effects. Kava has also been shown to alter the activity of certain enzymes associated with drug metabolism (cytochrome P450). These changes may be responsible for side effects such as liver damage, skin reactions, and photosensitivity reactions.


Kava has a history of use around the Pacific Ocean. While this plant may have been used for hundreds of years, there is no regulation on who can sell kava and how it is made. As a result, low-quality kava may be potentially toxic or contain other products that produce worse results. We use only 100% pure, organic Noble kava root, sustainably sourced from Vanuatu in the South Pacific and harvested in the tradition of the local Melanesian culture. Each batch is third-party tested and GMP and ISO 9001 certified, so you can feel confident you’re taking the highest quality kava.

Unlike your average kava tincture, ours is blended with certified organic sunflower seed oil instead of alcohol because alcohol interacts with kava, increasing the risk of adverse side effects. Plus, sunflower seed oil tastes better than alcohol—and we think kava should taste good. 

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