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Is It Safe to Combine Kava and Alcohol?

Kathleen Howard
Kathleen Howard

Kava, also known as kava kava, is a plant native to the South Pacific whose root has been used in medicine, social settings, and ceremonies for thousands of years. Today, kava is available in beverage, powder, tablet and concentrated liquid forms. The effects of kava are similar to alcohol, as this herb works as a sedative and possesses intoxicating and mood enhancing effects. While kava and alcohol were often used together in traditional ceremonies, users should exercise extreme caution when combining these substances. When combined, the effects of both the kava and alcohol will be enhanced, which might cause severe intoxication or other health problems.

There are several uses of kava. It is used to treat insomnia and anxiety as well as for enjoyment. When consumed in conservative amounts, there are many benefits of kava. This substance can help a person relax and improve his or her mood. Kava is sometimes also used to reduce migraines and anxiety as well as improve certain bladder problems.


In addition to these benefits, kava is frequently used as a social lubricant. Since kava and alcohol produce similar effects, they are sometimes consumed together, especially in the islands of the Pacific. This is said to enhance the effects and produce a more enjoyable experience.

The problem is that kava and alcohol both impact the same receptors in the brain, primarily the GABA receptor. When consumed together, these substances will enhance each other’s effects. If consumed in excess, users might become highly intoxicated. This can be dangerous, especially since a person can become intoxicated much faster than he or she might have thought possible. Kava and alcohol intoxication might leave a person very ill or unable to function.

Another issue with consuming kava and alcohol is the additional stress on the liver. Studies have shown that when used with alcohol, kava might cause more severe liver damage than when consuming alcohol alone. Users who combine these substances are at risk of experiencing liver toxicity, cirrhosis, liver failure or even death.

It is also important to understand that both kava and alcohol thin the blood and reduce clotting. People who are taking blood-thinning medications should refrain from consuming these substances, especially in combination. Other side effects of kava include rash, headache, vision problems, indigestion and mouth numbness. People who abuse kava might also suffer kidney damage, loss of muscle control, skin problems, blood disorders or pulmonary hypertension. While kava is said to be non-habit forming, when used with alcohol there is a chance for abuse.

In most healthy individuals, consuming a very small amount of kava and alcohol should not cause health problems. Health concerns mainly arise when people begin consuming these substances frequently or in large amounts. Still, to ensure safety experts do not recommend combining these substances even when used in moderation.

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