Cautions: Do not use kava during pregnancy, nursing, bouts of depression, or while driving or operating machinery.
When used as directed, standardized kava products are considered nonaddictive, nonhypnotic, and safe to use, except during pregnancy, lactation, or bouts of depression. The German government's Commission E warns against using kava with alcohol, barbiturates, antidepressants, and other substances that may act on the central nervous system. Because it apparently acts like a sedative, kava shouldn't be taken when driving or operating machinery. No side effects have been associated with using small amounts of kava products, but long-term, heavy use can cause temporary yellowing of the skin, hair, and nails, as well as itching, sores, and vision disturbances. In Germany, where the dried rhizome and its preparations are sold commercially, the government allows kava preparations to be labeled as treatments for nervous anxiety, stress, and unrest.
Over indulgence in kava, like any drug, poses dangerous health risks. It is best to follow the guidelines offered on the label of the product you are using or the instructions of your health-care provider.
Story compiled by the Herbs for Health staff.
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