Is kava legal in my country

September 23, 2022

estimated read time - 10 min

So you want to try kava..

Or better yet, you've had kava before in Fiji on a vacation a few years back. You remember that mouth numbing spicy beverage chugged from a coconut bowl and the wonderful calming experience that ensued shortly after.

But now you're trying to buy some locally and nobody sells kava in your country. Well, if it's not sold locally it's most likely that either you're way ahead of the game being informed, or your country was involved in the "Great Kava Scare" in the early 2000's. We'll go over all the details to this in the following post.

We'll start off with a quick intro to the "Great Kava Scare" leading to the kava ban and a lot of the misinformation surrounding it

Why was kava banned

In the early 2000's kava use was on the rise. People were learning of this ancient ceremonial beverage used for thousands of years in the pacific.

Numerous research articles emerged showing the efficacy for kava to treat anxiety disorders, depression, and ptsd. Clinical practices began incorporating kava extracts to their patients who were suffering from anxiety and depression.

American Pacific Islanders began to look into their roots and realized this amazing concoction was actually a common staple in traditional gatherings before the church had banned their cultural and religious practices during the colonial years.

Then suddenly, around 2002 a few cases of liver toxicity appeared and immediately all countries put a hold/ban on the distribution and sale of any products containing kava. Kava was banned immediately after the cases emerged, and every major country followed suite.

Since then many researchers have dedicated their lives to getting to the bottom of what happened two decades ago. They have published dozens of in depth research papers since, showing the inconsistencies in the medical reports and the safety of kava as a safer alternative use for medical conditions, but the damage to the trade markets collapsed and kava dissappeared, until now.

The vast majority of people who have actually done the research, have concluded kava can be generally recognized as safe. The WHO has made statements in the positive light of kava but obviously have to tread waters carefully as a statement "proving" safety comes with many legal ramifications (along with shady accusations from those looking to get rich quick)

According to the NIH, the probability of an adverse liver incident with kava use according to current medical reports is 1 in 1,000,000. (Also according to the NIH the probability of Liver Cirrhosis due to alcohol is 4% with only 30g daily average -that's like a few craft beers on Saturday and Sunday. But that's none of my business...)

So did the government agencies overreact? Some of us think so. Especially the ones who have spent many years around this amazing root.

But why did a drink, that was used safely for thousands of years in the South Pacific, suddenly begin getting problems once it was proven effective as a natural remedy in the 2000's?

There are a few theories to what happened.

Theory 1 - Quality Control & Extracts

I go over the technical aspects of the research data in this post on kava and liver toxicity, but we'll be brief here.

The World Health Organization recommends to only use kava in its traditional form, which is a drink that is batched with just roots and water.

You're not supposed to actually eat the root, it is filtered out in the traditional preparation.

The problem is there are many inorganic solvent based versions on kava on the market that use non-traditional methods which would possibly bring out some negative things you shouldn't be consuming.

There is also another problem, in that kava has to be grown for a number of years, usually 3-5y, for it to gain it's status as "noble" and acceptible for human consumption.

Most in the industry believe kava was banned because of unethical companies trying to make a quick buck by illegally importing cheaper non-noble kava, and processing it in non-traditional manners

But that's not the whole story, because there's conspiracies too.

Theory 2 - OTC Drug Coverup

A sizeable cohort of studies with kava liver issues have shown to not be isolated to just kava. In fact most individuals with issues were on several different drugs at once.

One being Acetaminophen, a very common pain reliever and fever reducer found in many brand name otc products, like Tylenol or NyQuil. Acetaminophen is used to treat mild to moderate pain. However, taking a few extra strength capsules is quite dangerous, and can cause sever liver damage and even death.

Some say it was an attempt to throw kava under the bus as the isolated reason to lower the numbers of affected liver cases from common otc product.

This theory is mostly rumors but it does show a slight possibility of being true.

Theory 3 - The Great Pharma Scare

Some believe the Great Kava Scare had more to do with unethical pharmaceutical companies.

At that time, numerous clinicial trials were being released showing significant promise in kava being a natural replacement for anti-anxiety prescription medication.

There is reason to believe that kava was thrown under the bus because this wonderful, yet natural plant, was a direct competitor to patented anti-anxiety prescription medication. Also the plant could not be patented, and could be supplied for a fraction of the cost of prescription medication.

It was a natural plant that had been used for thousands of years in tribes on the islands.

This theory is mostly hearsay but it does show a slight possibility of being true, as kava was, and still is, showing promise to be a direct competitor to anti-anxiety prescription medication.

Back to Asking Is Kava Legal

But back to seeing if kava is legal in your area. Here's a few things we'll go over regarding kava legalities in different countries

  • Kava Laws in Different Countries
  • Where Kava Laws Were Lifted
  • How to Ensure You Don't Get in Trouble with Kava
  • Which Countries You Can Ship Kava To in 2022
  • What Happens When Kava Gets Seized By Customs
  • What To Expect With Tariffs and Customs

Summary of these points and things to look out for

If you want to skip to your relevant country go ahead and click a link below


The United States of America and Kava

Is Kava Legal in The United States

Kava is legal in the United States for personal use and is considered as a dietary supplement. You can buy kava both online and in physical stores in the country. In fact, kava bars have started springing up all over the country as a great alternative to heading to a bar to drink alcohol.


Canada and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Canada

Kava is legal in Canada but there are some requirements. Importing kava for personal use with an amount that is less than 3 months worth of supply is considered legal, but there is no specified weight amount to constitute this. Therefore, you can legally purchase kava from international websites willing to ship to Canada.

However, selling kava locally within Canada has some hoops to jump through, as you need to register the product with Health Canada, their National health government agency. This is supposedly very difficult, which is probably why we haven't seen anyone selling kava locally within the country.

We have never had a problem with shipping from the United States to our neighbors up north, Canada.


U.S. Virgin Islands and Kava

Is Kava Legal in the U.S. Virgin Islands

The US Virgin Islands are an unincorporated territory of the United States. But not all laws in the US apply to the Virgin Islands.

However, regarding kava, the islands don’t have a specific law on kava imports. We actually ship often to the Virgin Islands and we've never had a problem sending kava to our supporters living in paradise.


Australia and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Australia

Kava is legal in Australia as of 2022.

The Australian government banned kava imports in 2007 after Pacific Islanders who settled in Australia had reportedly had “health problems”, purported as a result of high consumption of kava.

However, travelers were able to bring up to 2kgs of kava while entering the country, in respect to the role of kava in the Pacific Islander’s culture.

Early this year (2022), the Australian government lifted the ban on kava. Passenger’s can now bring up to 4 kilos of dried or powdered kava root per person, usually in an unlabelled packaging.

All kava products being imported into Australia must meet national food standards. For now, importing and selling kava in the Northern Territory of the country is still illegal.

We have not had any problems shipping kava to Australia as of recent changes


Germany and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Germany

Kava is technically legal to import and consumer in Germany. Germany was one of the countries to ban all kava containing products from their markets in the early 2000’s.

In 2014, German administrative courts decided to lift the ban due to the lack of evidence supporting the claims.

However, the success rate of shipping is low even though it is said that it’s legal to import kava in the country.


New Zealand and Kava

Is Kava Legal in New Zealand

Kava is legal in New Zealand when it is used traditionally by mixing the root material in water. This is under the regulations of the Food Standards Code and the NZ Food (Supplemented Food) Standard. The plant was declared as supplement food in the NZ code list.

However, Kava extracts and concentrates are strictly prohibited in the country.

Kava is a traditional beverage with the native Māori people, and is known to be a common drink with New Zealand's rugby teams, where they use it for recovery after workouts.

Because we only manufacture traditional kava, we have not had a problem shipping kava to New Zealand and are big fans of the All Blacks. Kia ora!


Great Britain and Kava

Is Kava Legal in the United Kingdom

In the UK, kava is still illegal and is not permitted even for personal consumption. Therefore, it is unlawful in Great Britain to sell kava for human use in the nation.

However, some kava products can be bought locally, but it is only used to treat animals.

You can only have kava when you order it from other countries where kava is legal and they can import it to the UK. But this comes with high risk since this is against the law and authorities may confiscate your items if it is discovered that it contains kava.

We have not been successful yet in shipping kava to Great Britain and will update you when we are


Switzerland and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Switzerland

Kava is currently considered legal in Switzerland for import and is highly regulated for local sales.

Much like in France and Canada, most Swedish people in the country order kava from abroad, particularly the US.

Only those selling kava locally are subject to the restriction and must be registered with the Swiss Government.

We have not had a problem shipping to Switerland.


Sweden and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Sweden

Kava is legal in Sweden as it is not specifically mentioned in the country's list of prohibited substances.

However, in Sweden kava appears to be considered as a prescription only supplement. Some consumers said that unless they could present a prescription for the product, their shipments were detained in the airport. Others stated that in order to safely cross the Swedish border, they would need to use mail forwarding services that are based in the US.

We have had about 50% of packages send back so we no longer ship to Sweden unless the customer can provide a prescription (usually GAD prescription works well)


Poland and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Poland

In 2018 Poland lifted their restrictions with kava so it is no longer illegal to consume kava in the country.

However, selling kava locally is still prohibited, so your best bet is to order kava online if you are living in Poland.

We have not shipped to Poland yet so please reach out before ordering if you are interested in shipping kava to Poland


France and Kava

Is Kava Legal in France

In France, kava consumption is permitted and is not considered to be illegal.

Similar to Canada, selling kava locally is allowed as long as the product is authorized by the French Health authorities.

We have not had any problems shipping kava to France


South Korea and Kava

Is Kava Legal in South Korea

There is no certain law on kava in the country. It is said that purchasing kava is not restricted as long as the product meets South Korea's international packaging standard. So if you are planning to take kava to South Korea make sure that it is packed and sealed properly. It should also include the company name and contact details of the seller.

Having said that, there are currently no stores selling kava in Korea, so you will have to order online or fly it with you through customs.


India and Kava

Is Kava Legal in India

Just like other Asian countries, kava is not illegal in India. But due to its unpopularity in the country, finding a local store selling the herb is hard.

It is easier to shop online if you are living in the country.


Mexico and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Mexico

Kava is not on any banned substance list in Mexico and does not seem to be a substance of concern for the Mexican government.

There are few kava bars in the country serving local branded kava but we recommend to order abroad. We have never had any problems shipping kava to Mexico


Brazil and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Brazil

The agency in charge of regulating herbal supplements, Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (ANVISA), does not have kava on its list of prohibited substances. There isn't much information provided by ANVISA regarding it, and it doesn't seem to be a major concern for the country.

Although kava is said to be legal in Brazil, it can be very difficult to find the herb there. The best option is to order it online.


Singapore and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Singapore

Bringing kava to Singapore in your luggage is allowed per the Singapore Food Authority (SFA), but it should only be in smaller amounts that are less than 5kgs and costs less than $100 Singaporean dollars. You can order online as well, but you should stick to the same size limit.

We do recommend if you are bringing kava in, to first reach out to SFA at least a week prior about you bringing in kava. This way you will have a written letter of consent you can show authorities if you get stopped at customs.

Supposedly people state there are a few kava bars located in the city center, but we have not seen any proof of this. Please let us know if you find some!


Taiwan and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Taiwan

Kava is not listed on the country’s list of illegal medicines. At the same time, it is also not on the list of controlled substances.

It seems it is legal to import kava in the country and we have yet to have a problem shipping to Taiwan.


Japan and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Japan

Kava has been legal in Japan since 2002 but commercial sales is still not allowed. You will have to order from a different country and there are limitations on the product when importing.

You can only buy kava in smaller quantities at a time for personal use.

If you purchase larger amounts or wholesale, the border authorities can stop your package on the spot as they believe you may be using it to sell commercially.

For this reason we recommended to order not more than 1 pound if you’re residing in Japan. Instant kava's are easier to get through with a more "bang for the buck" per gram and it doesn't seem border authorities are aware of this.


China and Kava

Is Kava Legal in China

There is no current restriction on importing kava to China for personal or commercial usage.

China is actually the main manufacturer for almost all kava extracts you will encounter on the market these days. China is also notorious for importing and producing low quality kava products. This is why we recommend to stay away from kava extracts, especially while in China.

If you are in China, we recommend to ship from a reputable brand in a different country. Even if you find a real kava brand in China, there are a high number of counterfeit products, which make local purchases not worth the headache.


Hong Kong and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Hong Kong

Even with the concerns related to the kava scare in the early 2000’s, Hongkong has never banned the herb.

Kava is not currently mentioned on the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance.

You can purchase kava from local sellers in the country.

However, as we mentioned above, China is notorious for importing and producing low quality kava. For this reason along with the counterfeit problem, we recommend purchasing from overseas


Philippines and Kava

Is Kava Legal in the Philippines

Kava is not well known even though Filipino people use many types of herbs to treat diseases. The Filipino government doesn’t seem to be concerned about the herb.

You can find local online sellers selling kava powders and there seems to be no issues related to it. We have experience successfully importing kava to the country and have yet to have a problem with the authorities.


Indonesia and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Indonesia

Kava is not mentioned in Indonesia's list of Psychoactive Substances , even though the country has very strict laws when it comes to plant medicine possessions. Cannabis, psychedelic drugs, Ayuhasca or any plant medicines containing DMT are illegal in the country.

There are some locals who are selling kava, there’s even a purported kava bar somewhere in Bali. Which makes you think if kava is legal in Bali, it should be legal in the rest of Indonesian.

Having said this, the quality control of the kava being sold locally remains unclear. We recommend to order from a reputable supplier and import into the country


Thailand and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Thailand

Kava is considered to be legal in Thailand as it is not on any banned substance list for personal or commercial use.

However, not many people know about the plant so it can be difficult to find a local shop that sells kava. Ordering kava online is the best option we see.


Guam and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Guam

It is legal to import and consume kava in Guam, and it is actually grown traditionally on the island.

Kava on Guam is primarily produced and consumed by Micronesians living in the area. But since farming the plant is very rare, they would often import kava from Fiji in powder form.

In 2011, even though there are no legal restrictions on consuming kava in Guam, authorities are said to arrest motorists who failed the sobriety test under the influence of kava. So if you're using kava make sure you don't drink and drive!


Norway and Kava

Is Kava Legal in Norway

There’s is no official statement on the Norwegian Medicines Agency website regarding kava and kava is not explicitly listed as a banned substance in Norway.

However, some reports from consumers in Norway said that they encountered few issues when they ordered kava online. We recommend to follow the best practices below and work with a reputable supplier


How to Import Kava - Best Practices

How to prepare your kava being imported

Before you order and ship kava, it is best to look at your the country laws. Most sellers won't do this homework for you as it is responsibility of the buyer, but here's some pointers to get you on your way.

  1. Check what category kava is classified under - some countries classify kava as a medicinal herb, herbal supplement, food, or even sometimes as a narcotic. Depending on the different classification, it will be treated differently on import. There are many gray areas here and with the information you find, you can work with your supplier to figure out the best solution for yourself.
  2. Contact Authorities about kava - If you are in a country where kava is said to be legal but you still are unsure, it is best to contact the authorities responsible for the enforcement of kava. you might say "Why would I contact authorities, won't I get put on a list?" Where we would answer, well, not really. As far as we know, there are no "lists" you get put on when legitimately asking the authorities about importing a substance.
    1. Second, if and when they say it is perfectly fine to import, then you have written documentation stating the legal law to provide to customs in case they try to seize your package.
  3. Find a reputable supplier willing to ship - Ask yourself questions like "Is this a legitimate supplier", "Is this kava being processed in China", "Is the kava of noble classification", "Does this kava company have a face to the name". Questions like these will help you figure out if the product is good. You don't want to work on importing it if it's going to be bunk kava!
  4. Work with your supplier - Ask your supplier how they will classify the product before shipping and what you know of the law. Many suppliers are not aware of the law in your country and may categorize your kava in the right category for them, but the wrong category for you. Furthermore, asking them questions will let you know if they are purposely illegally classifying the product in order to save tariff fees or pretend it is not an actual purchase to avoid fees. It's best you are aware as your supplier may get you in trouble.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if my package is taken by customs

If denied at customs, your package will usually be sent back to the seller. Depending on how your kava seller handles return shipping you may expect a fee from the shipping company along with inability to refund the original purchase price. At drinkroot we don't charge extra fees for the return shipping and refund the original purchase price sans shipping charges.

Are there customs or tariff fees on kava

Yes. If you are buying from a registered business you will have to pay tariff and customs duties once your package arrives in your country, and before you pick it up. If your supplier does not properly categorize your shipment you may get in trouble with customs or your country's federal agencies.

How much kava can I import

The amount of kava you can import is different for each country. For example, in the United States we can import as much kava as we want, as long as it is properly paid for in either personal or commercial categories. In Australia you are limited to a couple kg's of kava per person, and in Japan you are recommended to import no more than a single lb!

What are common kava customs fees

If your seller is staying on the right side of the law regarding rules of customs and tariffs, you should expect a tariff fee equivalent to the hs code your seller is classifying your kava under. I would recommend reaching out to them and asking how they submit the tariff fees, as this will determine the amount of tariff you will have to pay when the product arrives. We have seen anything from 5%-20% purchase price.

Will the authorities fine me for importing kava

No, at least not usually. We personally haven't seen a situation where a product was shipped legally, seized, and any government organization was involved in pressing charges on the buyer. The worst that I have seen is the product is refused and shipped back to the buyer.

HOWEVER, this is assuming the product was shipped commercially and the product was categorized correctly for your country. If the supplier is purposely attempting to circumvent your country's customs and federal agency to save on fees, that's a whole other story and you may get in trouble.

I do need to add here, I am not a customs broker so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Consult a professional

Conclusion

In conclusion, different countries have different laws and views on kava. Before you decide to purchase or sell kava, be sure that you are aware of the legality and the import laws of the plant in your location.

Although kava is legal in most countries today, there are still limitations with the possession and consumption of the herb. It is best to be informed and as always, remember to work with a reputable supplier

Much love and Mahalo!



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