Kava—or kava kava—is a root found on islands in the western Pacific Ocean. Traditionally prepared as a tea, kava root is also available in other forms. These include dietary supplements and liquid or powder extracts.
Why It Is Used
Kava is used by some people for anxiety, sleeplessness, or other health problems. Taking kava may reduce anxiety. But so far there isn't clear proof from science that it helps with other health problems.
Kava may cause mild side effects, such as digestive problems, headaches, or dizziness. Over time, with high doses, it can cause dry, flaky, or yellow skin. Taking kava can also cause serious side effects, such as liver failure and death.
Kava can also affect how fast a person reacts, making it unsafe to drive or use heavy machinery.
Because of the side effects it can cause, kava isn't available in some countries.
The Natural and Non-Prescription Health Products Directorate (NNHPD), within the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada, regulates natural health products in Canada. Natural health products, including kava, must be reviewed and approved by the NNHPD before they can be sold in Canada.
Always tell your doctor if you are using a natural health product or if you are thinking about combining a natural health product with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on a natural health product. This is especially important if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
When using natural health products, keep in mind the following:
- Like conventional medicines, natural health products may cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with prescription and non-prescription medicines or other natural health products you might be taking. A side effect or interaction with another medicine or natural health product may make other health conditions worse.
- The way natural health products are manufactured may not be standardized. Because of this, how well they work or any side effects they cause may differ among brands or even within different lots of the same brand. The form of natural health product that you buy in health food or grocery stores may not be the same as the form used in research.
- Other than for vitamins and minerals, the long-term effects of most dietary natural health products are not known.
Current as of:
January 3, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: January 3, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
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