Natural Health Products

Non-traditional solutions to help boost your health and wellness.


General Information

Kava is native to the islands of the South Pacific and is a member of the pepper family. Kava has been used as a ceremonial beverage in the South Pacific for centuries.

Common Name(s)
kava kava, awa, kava pepper
Scientific Name(s)

Piper methysticum

How is this product usually used?

The root and rhizome (underground stem) of kava are used to prepare beverages, extracts, capsules, tablets, and topical solutions.

What is this product used for?

Kava has been used to help people fall asleep and fight fatigue, as well as to treat asthma and urinary tract infections.

Topically, kava has been used as a numbing agent.

Today, kava is used primarily for anxiety, insomnia, and menopausal symptoms.

Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What else should I be aware of?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning that using kava supplements has been linked to a risk of severe liver damage. Health Canada had issued a ban on kava in 2002 that has since been lifted, although products containing kava now require regulatory approval before they can be sold.

Common side effects related to kava use include drowsiness, dry mouth, dizziness, headache, memory difficulties, tremors, and upset stomach. In rare cases, it may cause liver and muscle damage.

Kava may interact with the following:

  • alcohol
  • barbiturates
  • benzodiazepine
  • haloperidol
  • other agents that are metabolized by the liver’s cytochrome P450 enzyme system
  • ropinirole

Long-term and/or heavy use of kava may result in scaly, yellowed skin.

Avoid driving and operating heavy machinery while taking kava because the herb has been reported to cause drowsiness. Stop taking kava at least 2 weeks before surgery as it may interact with anesthesia and other medications during your operation.

Kava may worsen symptoms in those with Parkinson’s disease. Contact your health care provider before using kava.

Kava should be avoided by those who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.

  1. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Kava.
  2. Health Canada. Listing of Drugs Currently Regulated as New Drugs (The New Drugs List).

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