Danger at the Kava Bar
Kava kava is an herb used to help deal with severe stress and anxiety. In some societies, it is used on a regular basis, and it is becoming more popular, especially in the U.S. In order to avoid the pitfalls of alcohol, bars serving various beverages from it are springing up.
There are a few things you should be aware of before leaving the night club and heading to the kava bar. First, let me point out that used in moderation and infrequently, this herb may be beneficial. Like all herbs, it has side effects, precautions and interactions.
1) DUI: Any substance that impairs your driving can result in a DUI. It can be an over the counter allergy medication, alcohol, a controlled substance or an herb. There have been several arrests and at least one conviction from the use of this herb.
2) Use with alcohol: Not a good combination for several reasons. One is that it will boost effectiveness of both the alcohol and the herb. Even one drink while it’s in your system can be enough to make you drunk, even if you tolerate alcohol well.
3) Side effects: There are many side effects with kava. Some are uncomfortable and others may be more problematic. Loss of appetite, dizziness, drowsiness, contact dermititis, fatigue, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, restlessness, stomach pain and tremors have all been reported.
4) Liver damage: This side effect could be fatal. The damage can occur after one use, but could also be cumulative. Kava has been banned in the United Kingdom since 2003, and the FDA in the U.S. is looking into it seriously for this reason.
5) Interactions: Any medication, supplement or herb that causes drowsiness will interact with this herb. That includes anti-convulsants, alcohol and anti-anxiety herbs and medications. It also interacts with some allergy medications, diuretics and levadopa, a drug used for Parkinson’s disease.
There are benefits to kava, and it would be a shame if it were banned. Studies show that it could help deal with anxiety. Prelimenary studies indicate a possible benefit for those suffering from insomnia.
If, after reading this you don’t want to use this herb, there are others that may be beneficial without quite the number of side effects and interactions. For stress and anxiety, lavender, chamomile, jasmine and passionflower may be useful. For insomnia, try valerian or skullcap. With the valerian, it usually takes ten days to two weeks before you notice a significant change in your sleep patterns, so be patient.
As with any supplement, it’s best to speak to your doctor before you start using kava. You should also get regular check ups to make sure your liver is healthy. Tell the doctor about any medications or supplements you take, as the doctor can tell you about possible interactions.