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 Herbal Medicine: Kava-kava: A calming herb from the South Pacific 
Herbs for Health Staff ©

Cautions: Do not use kava during pregnancy, nursing, bouts of depression, or while driving or operating machinery.

Kava cautions
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.

Additional Reading

Brown, Donald J. Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health. Rocklin, California: Prima, 1996.
Foster, Steven. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, Colorado: Interweave Press, 1996.
Lehmann, E., et al. "Efficacy of a Special Kava Extract (Piper Methysticum) in Patients with States of Anxiety, Tension and Excitedness of Non-Mental Origin--A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study of Four Weeks Treatment." Phytomedicine 1996, 3(2):113 - 119.
Leung, Albert Y., and S. Foster. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley, 1996.
Schelosky, L., et al. "Kava and Dopamine Antagonism." Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 1995, 58(5):639 - 640.

(Excerpted from Herbs for Health Magazine)
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