14 Impressive Benefits Of Kava, How To Take It, & Side Effects

Reviewed by Alexandra Dusenberry, MS, RDN
Written by Ravi Teja Tadimalla, Professional Certificate In Food, Nutrition & Health

Kava benefits are numerous. It may help prevent convulsions, is an effective pain reliever, and exhibits a calming effect. This root is especially found in the South Pacific islands. It offers many other important health benefits. Continue reading to know more about them. We also have included the kava tea recipe just for you.

In This Article

What Is Kava Good For?

The calming effects of kava find great use in relieving anxiety and restlessness and other stress-related ailments. This root also relieves muscle spasms and other kinds of pain that are related to stress and irritability.

Some sources say it also improves sleep quality.

That’s a brief about what this root is good for. And now, we get to the details.

What Are The Benefits Of Kava Root?

Kava root has a calming effect and also helps relieve pain. In addition, the root also helps fight cancer and can do good to your muscles.   

1. Fights Cancer

Studies have shown kava to be a potential cure for bladder cancer. The inhabitants of the South Pacific islands (the home of kava) have surprisingly low cancer rates despite being heavy smokers (1).

As per reports by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, intake of kava has been linked to lower incidences of cancer. However, one of the constituents of kava has been found to stimulate melanoma cancer cells – so, consult your doctor before using it (2).

Other studies have also spoken about the direct relation of kava consumption with lower cancer rates (3).

2. Regulates Blood Pressure

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Some sources say kava might lower blood pressure. In fact, it can even interfere with blood clotting. For this reason, avoid kava at least two weeks prior to surgery. Also, consult your doctor for further information in this regard.

3. Can Help Lower Cholesterol Levels

There is one preliminary study that spoke of how a kava-using group had seen a decrease in their body fat and skinfold thickness (4). However, there is not enough evidence suggesting that kava can help lower cholesterol levels.

4. Eases Depression And Anxiety Issues

The relaxing and mood-elevating effects of kava are well known. The root contains compounds called kavalactones, which are known to positively affect the brain and the central nervous system. The chemicals produced from the kava root also help prevent convulsions.

Studies have also focused on the efficacy of kava in treating stress and anxiety (5). And the calming effects of kava also reduce muscle spasms and relax the muscles.

5. Is Helpful For Bodybuilders

Since kava helps relax muscles, it is of great use for bodybuilders. The root negates the symptoms of overtraining and soothes the muscles.

6. Treats Cough And Cold Symptoms

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Some research suggests that kava can help treat cold, cough, flu, and other infections of the respiratory tract. Ingesting kava root tea might help in this regard (we will discuss how to prepare the tea a little later).

7. Helps Deal With Symptoms Of Alcohol Withdrawal

Kava has been known to help people deal with symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and drug addiction. Studies have spoken about its efficacy as an anti-craving agent (6).

Kava can also help you deal with the symptoms of opiate and kratom withdrawals.

8. Cures Chronic Pain

Studies have shown how kava might ease pain and other kinds of pain like muscle tension or spasms. Kava has shown the ability to heal back pain and other forms of chronic pain as well. Its muscle-relaxing properties play a role here.

It also has neuroprotective properties that can help ease pain, as per studies (7). The root might also help deal with fibromyalgia.

9. Can Ease Menstrual Cramps

Given its ability to reduce pain, kava might also help ease menstrual symptoms. The root can also help deal with hot flashes.

10. Treats Erectile Dysfunction

As kava has the ability to calm the nerves and reduce stress, it can help treat erectile dysfunction (as the condition is often caused by stress and anxiety). Kava can help treat self-induced sexual dysfunction (caused by stress, etc.), but it may not show much improvement in an actually diagnosed case of erectile dysfunction.

Kava might also help treat premature ejaculation. You can take 100 milligrams of the root powder (you can also take it in a pill form) before engaging in sexual intercourse. The root is known to increase blood flow to the penis as well as sexual stimulation.

11. Promotes Sleep

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Since kava has calming effects, it can help treat sleeplessness or insomnia. The root promotes deep sleep without affecting the restful REM sleep.

One German study talks about how effective kava extract can be in reducing sleep disturbances associated with anxiety disorders (8). In yet another study, researchers could treat stress-induced insomnia using kava (9).

12. Reduces Adrenal Fatigue

We have seen that kava eases stress and anxiety – this might have some beneficial effect on adrenal fatigue too. However, we need more research on this.

13. Treats Toothache

Kava also possesses anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and anesthetic properties that help treat a toothache. Simply chewing a small piece of dried kava root for about 15 minutes can help with a toothache. The root might also help cure gingivitis.

Even applying kava root oil to the affected part of your gums can treat any infection. The root is also used as a mouthwash to treat canker sores.

14. Might Support Hair Growth

There is very little research on this. Some sources say kava root can strengthen the hair follicles and prevent hair fall. But we are not sure. We suggest you talk to your hair care specialist before using kava for this purpose.

Those are the few ways kava can be effective for you. But hold on, this root is kind of controversial. Some sources suggest its side effects might even outweigh the benefits. Well, is that really the case? Let’s find out.

What Are The Side Effects Of Kava Drink?

1. Liver Damage

When taken orally, kava might lead to serious liver damage. Stay away from kava if you already have liver issues. And please consult your doctor if you are taking it for the first time.

2. Depression

In some cases, kava might aggravate depression.

3. Parkinson’s Disease

Kava can also make Parkinson’s disease worse. Stay away from it if you already have this condition.

4. Issues During Surgery

Since kava affects the central nervous system, it might increase the effects of anesthesia. Hence, stop its use at least two weeks before and after surgery. Also, check with your doctor.

5. Issues During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

Please don’t use kava if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as it can affect the uterus. Some chemicals in kava can also pass through breast milk and harm the baby.

Yes, these side effects give us an entirely different perspective on kava. Hence, we recommend you talk to your doctor before taking kava root orally. The ill effects of the root have more to do with the amount taken – the higher the concentration of the root, the more the risk.

But the benefits of this root don’t need to be discounted. They are as important – which takes us to the next section.

How To Take Kava

There are different ways you can take kava (after consulting your doctor, obviously):

  • Kava root, where you directly ingest a small part of the root and use its essence in your food.
  • Kava capsules, which are supplements that you get in the market.
  • Kavalactone paste, which is a highly concentrated form of kava (you will get this in the market as well).
  • Kava tea, which is prepared using kava root powder. 

Of these, kava tea is the most common and recommended way of taking the root. But how do you prepare it? 

How To Prepare Kava Tea

Preparing the tea is simple. 

What You Need
  • 1 cup of kava root powder
  • 2 cups of water
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, mix the root powder and warm water.
  2. Let the kava root powder soak for about 20 minutes.
  3. Filter the mixture through a muslin cloth. Squeeze the juice into a separate container.
  4. Once done, put back the kava root powder into the water. Mix well and repeat step number 3.
  5. Serve.

Kava is a plant grown in the Southern Pacific islands, renowned for its cognitive benefits. The benefits of kava include anxiety and stress relief and the possible reduction of depressive symptoms. This mild analgesic also provides relief from pain caused by cramps and toothaches. Although kava is available commercially as a paste or capsule, kava tea is a popular option. It may, however, aggravate some medical conditions and may harm the liver if taken in excess. Hence, consult your doctor before taking kava orally.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you feel the effects of kava?

Kava usually takes 20 to 30 minutes to produce an effect that lasts for about 2 to 3 hours.

How do you feel when you drink kava?

Your eyes might get sensitive to light, and you may not hear much. You will also begin to feel subtle forms of relaxation.

How much kava is safe to drink?

It is safe to take 70 milligrams of kava root powder in a day. But check with your doctor first.

What is reverse tolerance to kava?

Reverse tolerance to kava means one may not feel its effects for the first time or even for the first few weeks. And then, you begin to feel the effects all of sudden, which are supposedly the good ones.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. “Can kava cure cancer?” UCI News.
    https://news.uci.edu/2014/02/25/can-kava-cure-cancer/
  2. “Kava”. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
    https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/kava
  3. “The correlation between cancer…”. US National Library of Medicine.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11149250
  4. “Kava use…”. US National Library of Medicine.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15220953
  5. “Efficacy of kava…”. US National Library of Medicine.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10653213
  6. “Kava as an anticraving…”. US National Library of Medicine.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12180513
  7. “Neuroprotective properties of…”. US National Library of Medicine.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4498339/
  8. “Clinical efficacy of kava extracts…”. US National Library of Medicine.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14706720
  9. “Stress-induced insomnia treated…”. US National Library of Medicine.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12404572
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Alexandra Dusenberry

(MS, RDN)
Alexandra Dusenberry is registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer based in San Diego, California. She works with clients around... more

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