Does Kava Cause Liver Disease?

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The World Health Organization’s report on kava states that “the great majority of cases of hepatotoxicity reported have been associated with kava products either in the form of tablets or pills and not the traditionally prepared water extract that is commonly drunk in the pacific.” 

bowl of kava powder
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Data about kava and its benefits and side effects can be very confusing. Reports of people suffering from liver disease after using kava created some fear and misinformation about drinking natural kava. 

At Kavahana, we believe that it is vital to take any health concerns seriously and understand the true data. We want to ensure that our natural kava products are the highest quality available to give our customers the safest and most traditional experience of kava. 

What is kava?

kava root
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Kava is the ground root of the kava plant. Used for centuries by the native peoples of Polynesia, it is brewed into a tea. Kava produces feelings of relaxation and happiness. 

The native people of Polynesia have traditionally used kava in ceremonies and social events for generations. Discovered by the Western world in the 1600’s. In Western culture, kava is gaining popularity with people looking for stress relief, often as an alternative to alcohol. 

Many people living a modern lifestyle are questioning to moderating their alcohol use for dealing with stress and overwhelm. Kava provides an alternative for people who prefer not to use alcohol, are sober curious, or want to reduce their alcohol consumption. 

How is kava made?

Kava served in its traditional form is brewed into a tea. The brewing process releases the extracts of the kava into the water safely. This tea can be made either at home, or purchased at a kava bar. 

For the true experience of kava, it should be produced and made in its traditional pacific form. This not only produces the best kava experience but maximizes safety. 

Keeping kava traditional 

As kava becomes more and more popular in the West, some companies have unfortunately begun including additives in their kava to increase profits.

traditional kava tea
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These additives can include synthetic components and solvents. They can produce unpleasant hangover effects for users and the safety of these products is unknown. 

At Kavahana, we use only 100% natural kava from Fiji and Vanuatu in our kava tea. We believe that kava should be enjoyed in its traditional form and are proud to bring only true kava experiences to our customers. 

Why do people think kava causes liver disease?

Scientists investigated a small number of cases where people suffered hepatotoxicity, or liver disease after drinking kava. As liver disease is a serious condition it is important to study anything that could cause an increase in cases. 

The World Health Organization’s investigation found that  “the great majority of cases of hepatotoxicity reported have been associated with kava products either in the form of tablets or pills and not the traditionally prepared water extract that is commonly drunk in the pacific.” In other words, kava does NOT cause liver damage, and there is no causal evidence to support the notion that traditionally taken kava is associated with liver damage.

Do the native people of Polynesia get more liver disease?

In 2004, a study evaluated the possible risks of liver disease from kava by using data from native people in Fiji. As a culture that uses kava frequently, “the average number of kava bowls consumed in a lifetime of participants was 100,000.” 

indigenous peoples sitting drinking kava
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The large number of kava bowls drunk by the native people in Fiji did not have an association with liver disease. This led the leaders of the study (Malani, 2005), to conclude that kava in its traditional form doesn’t increase the likelihood of liver disease in otherwise healthy people. 

Does kava make you drunk?

Kava produces feelings of relaxation, happiness, and euphoria but does not cause impairment the way alcohol does. Many people prefer kava to alcohol for this reason and even enjoy a more focused mindset as they feel more relaxed. Alcohol can also be unpredictable in its effects and can often lead to aggression and violence. 

Kava does not have these effects and is a great alternative for people who have had unpleasant experiences with alcohol. The sober curious movement of people looking to move away from alcohol and find alternatives is growing.

Does it give you a hangover?

In its natural form without any additives and at normal doses, kava does not produce a hangover effect. This is one of the major reasons people prefer kava to drinking alcohol. 

Using Kava in a non-traditional form or kava that includes additives can create unpleasant hangover symptoms. When large doses are drunk in a short time, some hangover feelings can be present the next day.  

Who shouldn’t drink it?

Kava is 100% safe when taken in it’s traditional form – the way people have been for thousands of years. Although kava is not “intoxicating” in the sense that alcohol is, pregnant people should refrain from taking kava as it is psychoactive (much like caffeine)) and people taking medications should consult their physician before use. 

What is a kava bar?

chairs near pool

A kava bar is a place with a relaxing and social atmosphere. A place where people can buy and drink kava in a peaceful and social environment. 

Many people love the soothing and happy effects of kava. They do not always have the time or inclination to make it at home. Kava bars can offer flavor choices and provide a more interesting social and taste experience.

At Kavahana, we are the first kava-only bar in Los Angeles. We prioritize introducing people in Southern California to the delicious flavors of kava. With tasty options like brown sugar milk tea and honey lavender, we love elevating the 100% natural kava experience. 

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Does Kava Cause Liver Disease?

kava bowl and wooden scoops


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