If you’re looking for the best kava supplements to buy this year, then you’ve come to the right place.
You can also get more info by jumping to our Kava Supplements Guide.
Top 10 Kava Supplements
|#1||NOW Foods Kava Kava Extract||More Info|
|#2||Gaia Herbs Kava Kava Root||More Info|
|#3||Natrol Kava Kava||More Info|
|#4||Nature’s Answer Kava-6||More Info|
|#5||Oregon’s Wild Harvest Kava Root||More Info|
|#6||Eclectic Institute Kava Kava||More Info|
|#7||Source Naturals Kava||More Info|
|#8||Maui Medicinal Herbs Hawaiian Kava||More Info|
|#9||Pure Mountain Botanicals Kava||More Info|
|#10||Mediherb Kava Forte||More Info|
Kava (its scientific name is Piper methysticum) is a plant that’s native to the western islands of the South Pacific. The plant is related to the common pepper. South Pacific islanders have traditionally used the plant’s extracts in a drink used in ceremonies. The drink is also used in social situations, similar to the way alcohol is sometimes used. Its name comes from the Polynesian word for “bitter.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory to consumers regarding the use of kava supplements. Although this side effect is relatively rare, cases of severe liver complications have been reported in people using kava supplements. Other governments, including those of Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, have issued similar statements.
Kava supplements were actually banned in Germany for a time, although the German courts threw out the law in 2014. However, the consumer advisory does not mean that kava supplements cannot be sold in the U.S. The supplements remain available over the counter at most pharmacies and drug stores.
What is a Kava Supplement?
The kava plant goes by a wide variety of common names, some of which include:
- Ava pepper
- Intoxicating pepper
- Kawa kawa
- Kava kava
- Kava pepper
- Kava root
- Long pepper
Usually, the part of the kava plant that is used in dietary supplements is the root or the underground part of the stem. Supplements containing the kava plant are marketing for the relief of anxiety, stress, or tension, as well as insomnia and the symptoms of perimenopause and premenstrual syndrome.
Although there is little or no evidence to support these uses, kava supplements have also been used in the treatment of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, the common cold, depression, epilepsy, headaches, migraines, muscle pain, psychosis, respiratory infections, tuberculosis, and withdrawal from certain sedative medications. Kava has also been used in topical applications as a treatment for canker sores, toothaches, and leprosy, and to promote wound healing.
Additionally, some people take kava supplements for cancer prevention. Again, there is little or no scientific evidence that kava supplements are effective for this use.
Benefits of Kava Supplements
Some evidence has shown that supplements containing kava have some effect of reducing anxiety. This effect depends upon the dosage and preparation method. Supplements that contain at least 70% of the active ingredient kavalactones seem to have the most significant effect, according to some research. Further study is needed to determine whether an effective dosage for anxiety relief can be balanced with a dose that is safe from the liver toxicity effects.
Further, some people who experience anxiety may be more likely to be helped by kava supplements than others. The anxiety-reducing effect seems to be greatest in people who are young, female, and have severe anxiety. Those who have been diagnosed with mild to moderate Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) have seen improvement in their symptoms after using kava.
Research into the anti-anxiety effects of kava supplements has also suggested that, unlike some prescription medications for anxiety disorders, kava supplements may actually improve cognitive performance instead of having a depressing effect on mental functioning. The same study also suggests that kava supplements can elevate mood. Those who do not want to take kava supplements on a long-term basis may be interested to learn that some research has suggested that single doses of kava, taken before a mentally stressful task, have been shown to reduce anxiety in the short term.
Some studies have also shown that taking kava supplements over an 8-week period helps reduce the symptoms of perimenopause, including hot flashes.
Are There any Side Effects?
Serious liver-related side effects of using kava supplements could include cirrhosis, hepatitis, and liver failure. Some of those who have experienced liver failure have required liver transplants. According to FDA reports, these severe liver side effects occurred in fewer than one percent of the people who used kava supplements.
People who have known liver conditions should not use kava supplements. Those taking kava supplements will want to contact their health care providers as soon as possible if they experience any of the following symptoms that could be indicative of liver disorders:
- Brown or dark urine
- Decreased appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Yellowing of the skin
- Yellowing of the whites of the eyes
Combining the use of kava supplements with the use of alcohol puts one at an increased risk for experiencing negative side effects from the kava plant.
Dry and/or scaly skin has also been reported as another side effect of the long-term use of kava supplements. Eye irritation and heart problems have also been reported as a result of using large amounts of kava.
Those who are taking medicines that suppress, or slow down, the central nervous system should be aware of potential drug interactions with kava supplements. These medications include benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax; sleep medications such as Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata; and barbiturates such as Luminal Sodium and Nembutal. Kava supplements may amplify the effects of these drugs, causing the user to have increased trouble with motor reflexes. More study is needed on the effects of drug interactions with kava supplements.
Some medications have to be broken down by the liver to be effective, and these medications can be affected by kava supplements. These include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) medicines such as Prilosec and Prevacid as well as the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin) and other classes of prescription drugs. A health care provider can help an individual determine whether his or her medication has the potential to interact with kava supplements.
Kava supplements can cause the symptoms of some conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and depression, to become more severe. Those who have these conditions, or who are scheduled for surgery within two weeks, should not use kava supplements. Because kava-containing supplements affect the central nervous system, it is potentially dangerous to use kava supplements before one undergoes anesthesia.
Women who are pregnant or breast feeding should not use kava supplements. Not enough research has been done to show that kava supplements are safe during pregnancy or for young children who may ingest the supplement through the mother’s milk.
How to Take Kava Supplements
Kava supplements are generally available as capsules or tablets. Extracts are also available, and some use the dried, ground root to make a drink out of kava plants. Kava supplements are generally taken by mouth. Always follow the label instructions.
What to Look for in a Good Kava Supplement
Individuals who wish to try kava supplements for anxiety reduction should look for a supplement that contains at least 70% kavalactones. Without this strength of the active ingredient, the dosage is less likely to have an effect. Generally, the effective dose for anxiety treatment is between 50 and 100 mg, and the course of treatment may last up to 25 weeks. Courses of treatment of more than 25 weeks and doses of greater than 300 mg are generally not recommended. A health care provider may recommend a kava supplement that also contains calcium.
Individuals using kava supplements to help treat anxiety should visit a health care provider to discuss the most effective course of treatment, including dosage, possible side effects, interactions with other medications, and the use of kava supplements as a complementary medicine along with other, more conventional treatments for anxiety. Researchers note that it may take 5-12 weeks for the clinic effect to be seen.
When choosing a nutritional supplement, consumers may want to look at the inactive ingredients. Those who are trying not to eat too much sugar, for example, may want to look for sugar-free supplements. Vegans will want to avoid supplements that contain animal-sourced gelatin as an inactive ingredient.