Is kava bad for your heart?

Picture of Kavahana

There has been a question floating around about whether kava effects your heart. While there is much discussion on the false effects of kava negatively affecting your liver, it’s difficult to find research that explicitly studies kava on the heart.

Back in the early 2000s there was the suspicion that excessive kava use was a factor in the sudden deaths of some young Aboriginal sportsman in Australia. However, further research and investigation concluded that kava itself was not the blame. It was the combination of exercise and a hidden heart disease that was the deadly mix.

People drink kava for its calming and relaxing effects. It’s a known muscle relaxant that plays a role in the body sometimes feeling heavy and relaxed. However, this relaxing effect could be dangerous for active people who have pre-existing heart issues or a family history of heart disease.

The research on this isn’t strong, and their may be other cultural and individual factors at play, but it’s certainly something to talk to your doctor about if you’re interested in trying kava.

Research does suggest that that kava can help support the vagal cardiac control or the natural calming system for your heart. The vagus nerve is a crucial part of your nervous system, running from your brain to many important organs including your heart, lungs, and digestive tract. It communicates from the brain to the body, but also sends signals from the body, back to the brain.

When compared to a placebo, or pretend treatment like a sugar pill, kava had better improvement 2 main systems related to the heart: baroreflex control (BRC), and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA).

BRC is how your body controls your heart rate by adjusting to changes in your blood pressure. RSA is the natural change in your heart beat that’s connected to your breath rate. In kava treated patients , both BRC and RSA were significantly more improved that those who took placebo.

There is strong connection between anxiety and heart disease. In fact, this is were the issue of the heart and kava connect. It’s been found that anxiety is more than just a mental challenge. It can affect our breathing and heart rate too. This can feel like skipping beats, rapid fluttering, heavy pounding even to hearing thumping your your ears.

Since kava is known to help reduce anxiety and manage stress, it’s argued that kava many actually help the heart in those who have anxiety disorders. However, more research needs to be done to look at this specifically.

As it stands, after 3000 years of use in the pacific islands, there have been no reports on kava having negative effects on the heart. And so far there has been very limited research done to explore this.

But as always, we highly recommend that you start off drinking kava slowly to see how your body responds and how you feel.

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Is kava bad for your heart?


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