I. Traditional Kava Consumption versus Modern Perceptions

In the contemporary United States, kava is often thought of as tinctures, pills, or extracts. However, it’s crucial to understand that kava’s origins and primary form of consumption in the Pacific Islands is as a traditional beverage. Derived from the Piper methysticum plant, kava has been a cherished drink for centuries, integral to the Pacific Islands’ cultural ceremonies and medicinal practices.

traditional kava tea
Traditional Kava

II. The Historical Context of Kava Consumption

Pacific Islanders have revered kava for its therapeutic properties and social significance for millennia. While modern adaptations have expanded its forms to include concentrates, extracts, and mints, the traditional medium grind kava root remains the most authentic representation of this historic beverage. Kava, in its genuine form, is celebrated for promoting relaxation, alleviating anxiety, enhancing mood, and facilitating muscle relaxation.

III. The Emergence of Liver Damage Concerns

The late 1990s marked a concerning period for kava, as reports from Europe and the USA began associating kava-containing products with liver issues. These incidents prompted global regulations, notably a ban on kava products in some countries in Europe. We covered the story in depth on our TikTok channel @kavahana here:

Drinking kava does NOT cause liver damage. The World Health Organization (WHO) concluded this after conducting a comprehensive, unbiased review of every available study on kava they could find. You can read it online! #kava #sobercurious #nonalcoholicdrink #alcoholfree

IV. The World Health Organization’s Clarification

A recent comprehensive study by the World Health Organization (WHO) titled “Assessment of the risk of hepatotoxicity with kava products” critically examined the previously raised concerns about kava’s potential liver toxicity. Their exhaustive research led to a crucial insight: there is no scientific evidence to suggest that kava causes liver damage, debunking what has been a long-standing myth.



We’ve shared the full PDF to the World Health Organization paper on our site kavahana.com

V. The Role of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) in Shaping Perceptions

The influence of entities such as CRN, a prominent trade association, has been significant in framing perceptions around kava. In 2014, CRN proposed specific labeling warnings for kava products, emphasizing potential liver injury risks. However, even within these recommendations, an essential caveat was highlighted: there lacks evidence establishing a causal relationship between kava consumption and liver damage. Such cautious yet ambiguous guidelines might inadvertently perpetuate misconceptions.

VI. Conclusion

In synthesizing the available research, particularly the recent findings from the WHO, it becomes evident that the myths surrounding kava and its alleged hepatotoxic effects need urgent reevaluation. Modern perceptions, shaped by selective presentations and outdated reports, must be realigned with current, rigorous, and evidence-based conclusions. To unequivocally address the central concern: there is no scientific evidence to suggest that kava causes liver damage, and any such belief is, in fact, a myth.


WHO Study: “Assessment of the risk of hepatotoxicity with kava products”. https://iris.who.int/bitstream/handle/10665/43630/9789241595261_eng.pdf

“FAERS Kava Adverse Reports.” September, 2022. Google Docs. Accessed November 17, 2022. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1WP-51afXDK08VPwiotfJLQR-KIXtR_Hweky-3T_WMc0/edit?usp=sharing.

“About CRN.” n.d. Accessed November 17, 2022. https://www.crnusa.org/about-crn.

CRN. 2014. “CRN Safety Considerations for Dosage Recommendations and Labeling.” Council for Responsible Nutrition. https://crnusa.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/CRN-Safety-Considerations-Vol_Dosage_Labeling-Revpost2014.pdf.

Gruenwald, Joerg, Cordula Mueller, and Skrabal Juergen. 2003. “In-Depth Investigation Into EU Member States Market Restrictions On Kava Products.” Centre for the Development of Entreprise.https://www.taxtyranny.ca/images/HTML/Health-Regulatory-History/Canada/Articles/kavareport.pdf

Schmidt, M., and Harsewinkel. 2002. “Is Kava Really Hepatotoxic? An Analysis of the Known Data on Adverse Effects of Kava Preparations on the Liver.” http://www.fijihosting.com/dload/is_kava_really_hepatotoxic.pdf