Although clinical studies indicate no adverse effects on vigilance, the herb’s CNS effects may slow some individuals’ reaction times, thereby affecting ability to drive a car or operate heavy machinery. Additionally, it should not be used by people with pre-existing liver disease and long-term continuous use should be avoided unless under medical supervision. It should be used with caution in the elderly and in those with Parkinson’s disease.
Not recommended for use in pregnancy.
Practice Points / Patient Counselling
- Kava kava is a scientifically proven treatment for the symptoms of anxiety and stress states. Its anxiety-reducing effects are similar to those of 15 mg oxazepam or 9 mg bromazepam, yet physical tolerance and reduced vigilance have not been observed.
- It also reduces symptoms of anxiety related to menopause when used together with HRT, and reduces withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepine discontinuation.
- It has anxiolytic, sedative, antispasmodic, analgesic and local anaesthetic activity.
- Although the herb is considered to have a low incidence of adverse effects, long-term use should be carefully supervised because of the possibility of developing adverse reactions.
Answers to Patients’ Frequently Asked Questions
What will this herb do for me?
When will it start to work?
Anxiety-relieving effects are usually seen within the first few weeks of use.
Are there any safety issues?
Taking high doses long term has been associated with a number of side-effects and should be avoided.