Kava is a plant whose rootstock has been widely consumed as a traditional beverage in the South and North Pacific islands (Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Hawai’i, etc.) for approximately 3,000 years for its relaxing, anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) and mood-lifting properties. These effects are generally mild but can be quite pronounced and even heady in larger doses.

The active compounds are called Kavalactones and bind with the brain’s GABA receptors, blocking serotonin and dopamine reuptake. Alcohol also acts upon your GABA receptors, which is why kava shares some of the same pleasant effects: it’s a potent social lubricant in addition to the properties mentioned above. In fact, many people have successfully used kava to curb their alcohol consumption, including our founder and CEO.

We encourage everyone to research kava on their own, however, one of the first things you’ll see in search results is that it causes liver damage or even failure. This is simply not accurate when it comes to the traditional aqueous beverage (what we make for use in our products) as kava has been safely consumed for 3,000 by the indigenous people of Oceania.

This association with liver toxicity stems from pharmaceutical research conducted in the 90s that used isolated Kavalactones in tablet form that were solvent-extracted. In addition, participants were drinking alcohol during the study, sometimes heavily, and the only instances of liver failure occurred when it was combined with acetaminophen. There are excellent articles with many cited sources explaining more here and here.

From a World Health Organization study published in 2007:

  1. Evidence from our review of case reports suggests that kava lactones in any type of product may rarely cause hepatic adverse reactions because of kava-drug interac- tions, excessive alcohol intake, metabolic or immune mediated idiosyncrasy, excessive dose or pre-existing liver disease.

  2. In addition to this background incidence, products made from acetonic and ethanolic extracts appear to be hepa- totoxic on rare occasions, seemingly from non-kava lac- tone constituents. The incidence is unknown, but is more significant than the background effect in '1'.

Since then, even more information has emerged actually suggesting that traditional aqueuous kava has absolutely no potential for liver damage (see the link above). None of this is of course medical advice, so please consult a medical professional if you have any questions or concerns.