A picture of fiji vanua kava and its packaging.

Kava Safety Confirmed: Debunking the Liver Damage Myth through the VMHO Study – A Comprehensive Insight


Kava, a traditional drink made from the root of the Piper methysticum plant, has long been a symbol of hospitality and respect in the Fiji Islands and other Pacific communities. At Fiji Vanua Kava, we believe kava is not just a beverage but a social ritual, an integral part of the local culture and traditions. Yet, despite its deep roots and widespread consumption, Kava has been clouded by a lingering myth that has caused undue concern and fear: the notion that Kava consumption leads to liver damage.

This misinformation has unfortunately overshadowed the actual safety profile of Kava, leading to misconceptions and hesitation among potential consumers. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no scientific evidence to support a causal relationship between Kava and hepatotoxicity. In their exhaustive study on Kava and liver safety, the WHO thoroughly debunked the liver damage myth, reaffirming Kava’s safety profile.

Being a Fijian and spending half my life in the Fiji Islands, I have had the privilege to witness firsthand how Kava has been used by our forefathers. My grandfather, who just celebrated his 83rd birthday and is a lifelong Kava drinker, stands as a living testament to Kava’s safety, with no signs of liver damage. My personal experience, coupled with scientific findings, offers a unique perspective on Kava’s role and reputation.

In this article, we will explore the rich cultural context of Kava in Fiji, unravel the myth of liver damage, discuss the findings of the WHO study, and share personal insights that highlight the true essence and safety of this remarkable beverage.

WHO Study Confirms Kava Is Not Linked to Liver Damage or Health Concerns

WHO Study Confirms Kava Is Not Linked to Liver Damage or Health Concerns

The WHO extensively explored case reports associated with Kava-induced liver injury, revealing an absence of direct causal links. The careful analysis establishes that while concerns have been raised, a definitive connection between Kava and liver damage remains unsupported.

This inquiry extended into the unknown specific chemical components in Kava that might cause hepatotoxicity, ending inconclusively. This finding emphasizes the lack of empirical evidence connecting Kava consumption with liver toxicity, further supporting the safety of Kava.

Meticulous examination of various potential risk factors and proposed hepatotoxic mechanisms demonstrates that these hypotheses remain speculative and unproven. Moreover, an in-depth analysis of the rarity and unknown incidence of hepatotoxicity related to Kava concludes that such occurrences are likely uncommon or rare, fortifying the argument that Kava’s link to liver damage is unsubstantiated.

The research also delves into the complexities of different Kava extracts, including synthetic products, water extracts, and alcoholic and acetonic extracts. Although associations have been noted, a clear risk has not been determined, affirming the safety profile of Kava.

Additionally, the nuanced study of varying chemical compositions in Kava species, cultivars, and plant parts adds depth to our understanding of Kava’s pharmacology, further supporting the notion that sweeping statements regarding Kava’s liver toxicity are unmerited.

Clinical trials, as outlined in the WHO report, fail to reveal hepatotoxic effects from Kava. This consistent absence of evidence in human and experimental studies strengthens the conclusion that Kava is not harmful to the liver.

In summary, the information found in the WHO’s comprehensive research, unequivocally demonstrates that the alleged connection between Kava and liver damage lacks scientific validity. The thorough analysis leads to a clear and reassuring conclusion: Kava, when understood and used appropriately, can be considered safe, and the fears surrounding its effect on the liver are not substantiated by existing scientific literature.

In-Depth Examination of Kava’s Safety in Scientific Findings

The safety of Kava has been a subject of extensive research and scrutiny, particularly in the context of potential liver toxicity. The comprehensive examination of Kava’s safety profile highlights several key aspects:

Absence of Hepatotoxicity in Controlled Studies:

Clinical trials and laboratory studies involving Kava have consistently failed to demonstrate a toxic effect on liver cells. The lack of evidence supporting a causal relationship between Kava and hepatotoxicity underscores its general safety when consumed appropriately.

Understanding Risk Factors:

While there are isolated case reports concerning liver injury associated with Kava use, these often involve additional risk factors such as heavy alcohol use, previous liver disease, genetic differences in metabolism, and potential interactions with other drugs. A detailed understanding of these factors can mitigate risks and enhance the safe use of Kava.

Incidence and Comparative Safety of Kava and Liver Function:

According to Mathias Schmidt’s research in 2003, the incidence rate of probable cases related to Kava is less than 0.02 per one million daily doses. This calculation far exceeds the safety profile of certain pharmaceutical treatments like diazepam. Some experts have highlighted a significant imbalance in benefit-risk analysis, leading to underestimation of efficacy and overestimation of risk.

While the true incidence of adverse events is unknown and possibly lower than reported due to underreporting, it appears to be quite low, especially when compared with other treatments for anxiety disorders. A true figure can only be determined through a proper epidemiological study.

Safe Forms of Kava:

The evidence points towards a higher safety profile for synthetic products and water extracts of Kava. Acetonic and ethanolic extracts have presented some concerns, but these issues seem to be non-random and may be related to specific manufacturing processes or plant parts used.

Ensuring the uniformity and quality of Kava products through rigorous standardization, including the selection of specific species and cultivars, can lead to safer and more effective products. This includes avoiding potentially toxic substances that might be present in non-traditional extracts.

Kava as a Safe Herbal Modality:

The totality of scientific analysis, coupled with the incidence information, supports the safety of Kava as an herbal supplement, particularly when following traditional preparation methods and avoiding known risk factors. The rarity of hepatotoxicity, along with careful consideration of the preparation and consumption methods, solidifies Kava’s position as a safe and beneficial part of both traditional culture and modern therapeutic practice.

Personal Insight and the Wisdom of Indigenous Kava Practices

Being a Fijian and having spent half my life in the Fiji Islands, I’ve had the privilege to witness firsthand how Kava has been used by our forefathers. My grandfather, who just celebrated his 83rd birthday and is a lifelong Kava drinker, stands as living testament to Kava’s safety, with no signs of liver damage. This personal connection to Kava allows me to see beyond the misconceptions and embrace the traditional wisdom that surrounds this herbal remedy.

In the modern era, holistic and herbal remedies often face ridicule and skepticism, especially when they don’t align with mainstream scientific paradigms. The vilification of Kava is an example of this trend, where assumptions and bias have led to a misunderstanding of its true nature. Without substantial scientific data linking Kava to liver damage, the widespread concern appears to be unfounded.

The indigenous practices surrounding Kava emphasize its natural form and correct usage. By adhering to traditional preparation methods, Kava’s true essence is preserved, avoiding the malpractices that may arise from commercial distribution. Indigenous wisdom, passed down through generations, ensures that Kava is consumed responsibly and respectfully.

At Fiji Vanua Kava, we believe that consumers must choose wisely where they source their Kava from. The integrity of the distributor, adherence to traditional practices, and commitment to quality all play a crucial role in ensuring a safe and beneficial Kava experience. General awareness of these factors can empower consumers to make informed decisions.

My personal experience, coupled with scientific findings and respect for indigenous knowledge, offers a unique and balanced perspective on Kava’s role and reputation. The combination of of personal insight, traditional wisdom, and scientific investigation dispels the myths surrounding Kava and emphasizes its place as a valuable and safe herbal remedy.

Conclusion: Confirming Kava’s Safety and Lack of Association With Liver Damage

Through rigorous examination, including the critical assessment of WHO’s findings on Kava safety, insights from indigenous practices in Fiji, and personal testimonies, the team at Fiji Vanua Kava believe that the safety of kava emerges as an undeniable fact.

The rare reports of liver injury connected with Kava have not found substantial evidence, making the concerns about its safety largely unsupported. By embracing both traditional wisdom and modern scientific analysis, a well-rounded and definitive perspective on Kava’s role and reputation is reached.

Whether for cultural connection, natural healing, or clinical use, Kava’s secure position as a safe herbal practice is firmly established, and its continued responsible use is endorsed by the World Health Organization. As the benefits of Kava become more well- known, we hope to see continual studies that reveal the safety and potential of Kava as a healing modality.


Bian T, Corral P, Wang Y, Botello J, Kingston R, Daniels T, Salloum RG, Johnston E, Huo Z, Lu J, Liu AC, Xing C. Kava as a Clinical Nutrient: Promises and Challenges. Nutrients. 2020 Oct 5;12(10):3044. doi: 10.3390/nu12103044. PMID: 33027883; PMCID: PMC7600512.

Coulter, D., et al. (World Health Organization). Assessment of the risk of hepatotoxicity with kava products. WHO appointed committee. ISBN 978 92 4 159526 1 (NLM classification: QV 766).