“Have you had kava before?” If yes then you know that recently, there has been increasing attention on kava drinks.

For some people, it is a new drink in town. However, the drink originates from a long line of ceremonies in the Pacific islands.

It helps to reduce stress and cause relaxation. Hence, its properties have received widespread attention. However, the debate on Kava versus alcohol, its benefits, and its effects still rages on. We will discuss the benefits, forms, and side effects of this drug.

What Is It?

Kava or Piper methysticumas named in the science world, is an evergreen tropical shrub with a woody stem and a heart-shaped leaf. Like any other ceremonial drink, pacific cultures use drinks made from it during social events and rituals. If you had seen some old traditional movies with ceremony scenes, you might have seen them.

To make the drink, people grind the root of the tropical shrub into a fine paste. They either chew or grind it by hand. Then, they mix the paste with water. Finally, they filter the mixture and then consume the filtrate.

There are several ingredients in the drink; however, kavalactone is one of the active ingredients. It makes up 3-35% of the plant’s root weight. Several experiments show that the ingredient might possess the following benefits:

  • Protect damages to the neurons
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Reduce the effects of cancer
  • Reduce the feeling of pain

These effects of kavalactone are possible through their impacts on the brain’s neurotransmitters. For instance, kavalactone helps GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter, decrease nerve activities.

Kava – Forms of the Medication

There are several ways in which we might consume this tropical shrub. Some popular ones include tea, tincture, or capsules. However, all the consumption methods except tea contain extracts of kavalactone and acetone.


Kava tea products are beneficial in combating anxiety and are readily available at some tea stores. Ensure that it contains kavalactone and other ingredients. In addition, avoid products with ingredients listed as proprietary mixtures because you may be consuming more than the required amount of kavalactone.

Liquid or Tinctures

Kava can also be liquids in short bottles. The bottle sizes might range from 2-7 ounces (59-178 ml). But, it is best to mix it into another drink as the whiskey-like smell and taste can be strong. Furthermore, these tinctures should be taken in small doses because it contains concentrated kavalactones.


It is also available in pill form. However, the capsules might contain high amounts of kavalactones and require that you take them on prescription. For instance, one might carry over 100mg of the extract, equal to 30% kavalactones. Hence, overdosing might be dangerous.

Benefits of Kava

Impact on Anxiety Disorders

Some persons suffer from psychiatric disorders like anxiety. However, treatments can be through medication, talk therapy, or both.

There are new medications that are purported to be the best but, the effects can be undesirable. However, natural medicines like kava products are a safer option. Therefore, this is one of the reasons for the recent spike in demand for it.

A study conducted in 1997 suggested that kava extracts administered to anxiety patients helped reduce the perceived anxiety. It also noted that the people showed no signs of dependency or withdrawal unlike, after using other medications. Since then, there have been studies to prove the benefits of using kava products to treat anxiety.

Impact on Sleep

Sleep is a necessary component of life. We can link several medical conditions like obesity, diabetes, cancer, and depression to lack of sleep. Hence, the reason most persons resort to using sleeping pills.

But, just like some anxiety medication, sleep medications might result in drug dependence. Since kava extracts produce a calming effect, they might be the best alternatives to sleep medications. You can click on https://www.psychiatry.org/ to read more about sleep disorders.

A study conducted suggested the effects of kava extracts on sleep disorders. It recorded that administering the extracted drink to patients helped reduce insomnia and stress. Since stress induces insomnia, the impact of kavalactone on stress can help relieve insomnia.

Possible Side Effects of Kava

While the benefits of this natural medication might desirable, there are still some concerns about its possible effects. We will consider some of these possibilities in this section.

Several persons reported increased liver toxicity after kava consumption in the year 2000. To this effect, the US Drug and Food Administration banned products made from kavalactones. Other countries like France, Germany, Canada, and Switzerland also placed bans on it. However, the German government removed the embargo in Germany for lack of proper evidence.

We can explain these effects on the liver with kavalactone interactions with other pills. The liver contains some enzymes responsible for the breakdown of the drugs. And, as they break down kavalactone and other drugs, it restricts the breakdown of others. Therefore, the restriction leads to a build-up which eventually increases liver toxicity.

Also, people might suffer some side effects of using fake products. Some companies try to save the cost of production by using some other parts of the plant other than its roots. However, the stem and leaves can harm the human liver. Hence, consumers of such products may face some danger over time.

However, consumers can avoid these effects by using the correct dosage prescribed by a doctor. Also, ensure that your purchases are from a regulated vendor. Finally, consumers can safely use the product for about two months.


Kava is a new drink in town with a history traced back to festivals on the Pacific islands. Some people argue that it is a better substitute for alcohol. However, this argument is a function of taste.

There are several health benefits of the product that makes it stand out. Some studies show that the tropical shrub can help with nervousness, pain, and more. In addition, there are some ongoing experiments as to its effects on cancer. The plant might be an alcohol substitute anyway.

However, there are some effects of abusing the drug. So, ensure that you get the right dosage from a doctor before consumption. Furthermore, purchase the products from a reliable vendor to avoid buying fake ones.