Treatment Options

Kava

Possible Harm/No Value

Kava is a member of the pepper family and grows on many Pacific Ocean islands. The root and underground stem have been used as a ceremonial beverage in the South Pacific for hundreds of years.  It is also known as kava kava, awa and kava pepper. Kava is sold as an herbal dietary supplement and is referred to as a complementary and alternative treatment.  

Kava has been used for treatment of asthma, urinary tract infections, colds, arthritis, dizziness and headache. Currently it is primarily used for anxiety, insomnia and menopausal symptoms. Liver damage, which can cause death, has been associated with the use of kava in Europe and the United States.  There is not a standard dosage and length of treatment available for the conditions kava is used to treat.

Things to Consider

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on March 25, 2002 issued a warning to consumers and physicians regarding the potential risk of severe liver injury, including hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver failure (which can cause death), associated with the use of kava-containing dietary supplements.
  • Kava may interact with several drugs (refer to the safety section for examples).
  • Seek the advice of your physician when considering any kind of complementary and alternative treatment choice.

Results

Possible Harm/No Value

Will I live longer if I take kava?

The FDA has stated the use of dietary supplements containing kava may cause liver damage, which can lead to death.

Will taking kava improve my quality of life?

Scientific evidence is not available to show whether or not taking kava will improve your quality of life.

Safety

Possible Harm/No Value

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on March 25, 2002 issued a warning to consumers and physicians regarding the potential risk of severe liver injury, including hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver failure (which can cause death), associated with the use of kava-containing dietary supplements.

Reported complications:

  • Allergic rash
  • Blood in urine
  • Drowsiness
  • Dystonia (abnormal muscle spasm or involuntary muscle movements)
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage, including hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver failure, which can cause death
  • Poor coordination
  • Pulmonary hypertension (increased blood pressure in the lungs)
  • Scaly, yellowed skin following long-term and/or heavy use
  • Seizures
  • Stomach upset
  • Tremor

Drug Interactions:

Some drugs that may be affected by kava include, but may not be limited to, the following:

  • Tylenol and drugs that may affect the liver – may cause liver damage, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure, which can cause death
  • Antidepressants, used for the treatment of depression
  • Anesthesia – check with your physician to see if kava use needs to be stopped before any surgery
  • Diuretics, used to increase urine output
  • Parkinson's disease drugs
  • Plavix, an anti-platelet drug
  • Sedatives
  • Warfarin (Coumadin), heparin and aspirin, which thins the blood – check with your physician to see if kava needs to be stopped before any surgery.

Comparison

Possible Harm/No Value

Comparisons of the use of kava to other treatments are not available.

Cost

Possible Harm/No Value

Cost ranges from $23.79 - $33.99 for 120 capsules that are 250 mg each. Kava is also available in root, liquid and tea forms. Cost varies by manufacturer.

The cost may or may not be covered by your health benefits plan.

Sources

The following are off-site links off-site link :

Medline Plus. U. S. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. (2013, February). Kava. Retrieved January 8, 2014 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/872.html.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. (2012, April). Herbs at a glance. Kava. Retrieved January 8, 2014 from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/kava

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. (2010, September). Kava linked to liver damage. Retrieved January 8, 2014 from http://nccam.nih.gov/news/alerts/kava/.

Next Review Date

1/23/2015

This document has been classified as public information.

Table of Findings

results:  possible harm / no value

safety:  possible harm / no value

comparison:  possible harm / no value

cost: possible harm / no value


total: possible harm / no value

legend

scale

Page modified:January 31, 2014