Q: Dear Dr. Mao,
Is kava safe to use for anxiety?
A: When used appropriately, kava appears to be safe. Kava makes some people quite drowsy. I don’t recommend driving after using kava until you discover how strongly it affects you.
One study suggests that kava does not amplify the effects of alcohol. However, there is a case report indicating that kava can increase the effects of other sedatives. For this reason, kava should not be combined with alcohol, prescription tranquilizers or sedatives, or other depressant drugs. Kava should also not be combined with antipsychotic drugs or drugs used for Parkinson’s disease, due to the risk of increased problems with movement.
Kava should not be used during pregnancy and nursing. Safety in young children and those with severe liver or kidney disease has also not been established.
As always, discuss the possibility of using kava with your physician before you begin using it.