Can You Have Kava While Pregnant?

Can You Have Kava While Pregnant?

Reviewed by Erin Berthold

Throughout the 9 month pregnancy journey, the body undergoes dramatic transformations — the heart pumps faster, muscles expand, and joints shift to accommodate the developing child. Such sudden and massive changes can cause mothers to experience a host of side effects, not the least of which include stretched skin, tender breasts, swollen extremities, morning sickness, cramps, aches, and so on.[1]

If you're a pregnant woman seeking relief from pregnancy symptoms, you may wonder: can you have kava while pregnant?

It is not recommended that pregnant people consume kava. Here’s what you need to know about kava and pregnancy. 

What Is Kava?  

In recent decades, kava has become an increasingly popular herbal supplement worldwide.  

Also known as kava kava, kava is an herb originating from the South Pacific islands, found in the roots of the Piper methysticum plant. The kava root is then ground into a fine powder before being mixed with water. Historically, kava tea has been used in traditional medicine to treat fever, pain, respiratory problems, convulsions, and urogenital problems.[2]

Today, many adults use kava as a natural mood lifter and energy enhancer, especially to help relieve occasional stress and anxiety symptoms or physical discomfort. Its mainstream appeal lies in its calming and relaxing effects—the tonic is said to promote a sense of tranquility and mild euphoria, but does so without impairing cognitive function or causing a sedative effect.

There are a variety of kava products and formulations available including kava extract, capsules, and even kava tonics.

Is Kava Safe During Pregnancy?

Considering its numerous psychological and physical benefits, some pregnant women may consider taking kava to help relieve localized discomfort, elevate their mood, ease stress, and promote relaxation. But is kava safe while pregnant?

In short, no. Kava is not recommended for pregnant women in any form, whether as a powder, drink, capsule, or tonic. While there is little to no direct risk to the mother, the potential impact of kava use on the unborn child is less clear, and therefore, potentially more risky to consume during pregnancy. 

According to the National Institute of Health,[3] “Kava may have special risks if taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding because of the presence of harmful pyrone constituents.”

At present, medical leaders lack the necessary research and data to know whether kava is safe to use during pregnancy. Given this uncertainty, it's prudent to avoid any potential risk. What you consume during gestation can directly influence your baby's growth and development. This is why kava joins a list of substances and foods that pregnant mothers are advised to avoid, which includes:

  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Unpasteurized foods
  • CBD
  • Raw fish 
  • Soft cheese 

Is Kava Safe While Breastfeeding?  

Even after a baby is born, the responsibilities of a breastfeeding mother extend beyond her own nutritional needs. Breastfeeding mothers must be cautious about what they consume, knowing that trace amounts can still be passed through breast milk to the newborn, sometimes even affecting milk flow and supply.   

That said, kava consumption isn’t strictly off-limits during breastfeeding. Its usage may resemble that of an alcoholic beverage, wherein occasional consumption may be permissible if managed with care. As John Hopkins notes:[4]

“To be safe, you should wait two hours after having a drink to feed your baby. (One standard drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1½ ounces of liquor.) Alcohol enters breastmilk and then the level decreases over time, similar to the way it gradually leaves your blood. If your breasts get uncomfortably full before enough time passes, you can pump the alcohol-laced breast milk and dump it.”

By extension, it's advisable to avoid kava consumption directly before or during a breastfeeding session to ensure your baby's health and safety. Remember, every substance you consume can potentially influence your baby's development and well-being. 

Who Else Should Avoid Kava? 

While pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are the potential user segment that needs to take the most caution around kava, they’re not the only types of people for whom consuming kava might be ill-advised.

Doctors strongly recommend that you avoid kava use if you satisfy any of the following conditions:

  • Take anti-depressants – Kava's calming effect could potentially be hazardous when combined with SSRIs, MAOIs, and benzodiazepines. If you’re currently being treated with antidepressants, you should first consult with your healthcare porvider before taking kava in conjunction. 
  • Are on other medications – Kava could have a negative interaction with various other prescription drugs, including Parkinson’s medications, anticonvulsants, liver-affecting drugs, and phenothiazine medications. You should consult a doctor if you’re currently taking other medications before consuming kava. 
  • Plan to drink alcohol – When combined, alcohol can intensify kava’s relaxing effects, which could increase impairment. Further, you run the risk of experiencing liver toxicity when kava is mixed with alcohol. 
  • Plan to drive or operate heavy machinery – Although it’s not necessarily illegal to drive after drinking kava, doing so is not recommended, seeing as it could induce drowsiness or inhibit your reflexes.  
  • Have any of the following medical conditions – You should avoid kava altogether if you have conditions such as alcoholism, liver disease, kidney disease, depression, or a bleeding disorder. 
  • Plan to undergo surgery – Kava has the potential to interact with anesthetics and other medications, which could lead to adverse effects or complications during surgery. When combined with anesthetics, kava’s sedative properties could be magnified, potentially resulting in respiratory depression, excessive drowsiness, and heart issues that would only further complicate the medical procedure. 

Kava Potential Side Effects and Health Risks

Regardless of your risk, it’s important to be aware of kava’s short-term side effects prior to consumption:

  • Headache and Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Stomach upset
  • Kava dermopathy (dry, scaly skin)

Long-term health risks associated with kava include:

  • Liver damage
  • Impairment of cognitive function
  • Potential for dependence and withdrawal

While kava is not considered highly addictive, there is some evidence suggesting that long-term use can lead to a degree of psychological dependence or habituation. If you or someone you know is struggling with kava use, it's highly advised to seek out counseling services for addiction.

Potential Alternatives to Kava During Pregnancy

If you’re a kava enthusiast, you may need to press pause during the pregnancy and breastfeeding stages. Due to the potential risks it could pose to the developing baby, you’ll likely need to seek alternative remedies and treatments. 

So, what can you do to manage the symptoms and discomforts commonly associated with pregnancy? Try these tips: 

Herbal teas

Herbal teas made ​​from roots, berries, flowers, seeds, and leaves of plants—are typically caffeine-free and safe to be consumed during pregnancy. Similar to drinking kava tea, other types of herbal teas have their own benefits while being considered safer during pregnancy. The following teas are considered safe in moderation:[5]

    • Ginger tea
    • Peppermint tea
    • Green tea
    • Black or white tea
    • Rooibos Chai

Mindfulness practices 

Dealing with stress or pregnancy-related anxiety? Yoga, meditation, prayer, journaling, and other introspective activities can calm and center your mind and body during the various phases of pregnancy. Routinely engaging in mindfulness practices will help promote overall well-being while reducing stress levels and anxiety symptoms. 

Regular exercise 

Another alternative to a kava drink or supplement is regular physical activity. Doctors recommend that women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, which is akin to 5 30-minute workouts throughout the week.[6] Caring for your body can lead to improved cardiovascular health, improved moods, lower stress, increased energy levels, greater muscular strength, improved sleep quality, and reduced risk of gestational diabetes or pregnancy-related complications. Common exercises that are safe for pregnant people can include walking, swimming, stationary bicycling, or modified yoga.


Acupuncture can help alleviate many of the common discomforts associated with pregnancy, including anxiety, nausea, and common aches like lower back and pelvic pain. Generally speaking, acupuncture is safe for most pregnant people, though it’s recommended that you first consult a doctor. 

Prenatal massage

A massage, especially one conducted by an experienced prenatal specialist can target the physical discomfort a person feels during pregnancy. Prenatal massages can relieve aching muscles, reduce fluid retention, and improve circulation.

Hydration and diet

Staying well-hydrated while maintaining a healthy and balanced diet can greatly contribute to the well-being of both the mother and her child. Pregnant people should drink 8 to 12 cups every single day according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.[7]  A high-quality diet can help, too, consisting of a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. 

Botanic Tonics: Your Trusted Source for Kava Information

Understanding kava safety during pregnancy is important for your baby's health. At present, there simply isn’t enough research and analysis to determine whether kava is safe to consume during pregnancy. While this recommendation could change down the line, for now, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming kava until after the baby has been born.

When you reach that point and you’re ready to add kava back into your daily routine, Botanic Tonics is here for you. As the only kava company with a product that’s been approved by the FDA, our herbal kava supplements offer a clean energy boost without the jitters, a mood boost, and a focus enhancement without the crash. 

Reach out to our experts today to learn more about how to consume kava safely. 


  1. ACOG. Changes During Pregnancy.
  2. Science Direct. Piper Methysticum.
  3. NIH. Kava.
  4. Hopkins Medicine. 5 Breastfeeding Diet Myths.
  5. Baby Center. Pregnancy-Safe Tea.
  6. ACOG. Exercise During Pregnancy.
  7. ACOG. How much water should I drink during pregnancy?

About The Author

Erin Berthold Botanic Tonic

Erin Berthold, PhD

Erin Berthold is the R&D Director at Botanic Tonics. She holds her PhD in Pharmaceutics from the University of Florida. There she studied the interaction potential between mitragynine and cannabidiol, two compounds from complex natural products. She is passionate about developing creative and alternative options for individuals suffering from substance use disorders.

Erin earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2011. Prior to going back to obtain her PhD, she worked in manufacturing, quality control, engineering, and quality assurance roles across regulated industry at pharmaceutical, medical device, and dietary supplement companies.

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