The Unwinder is reader-supported, meaning we may earn an affiliate commission if you buy through a link from our site.


Is Kava Legal In My Country? A Comprehensive Guide

Kava’s journey through legal landscapes over the years has been quite the rollercoaster ride.

In the dawn of the new millennium, around the early 2000s, Kava found itself on the wrong side of the law. This herb, known for its relaxation-inducing properties, was deemed illegal in most Western countries. This decision was driven by concerns about its safety and potential for misuse.

However, just like the ever-changing seasons, legal perspectives toward Kava began to shift. Most of these countries that once held firm prohibitions started to re-evaluate their stance. In an emblematic turn of events, the initial bans were largely reversed.

Today, the atmosphere surrounding Kava is noticeably different. Whether you’re interested in its powdered form or prefer it encapsulated, purchasing Kava has never been easier. With a few clicks online, you can legally obtain this herb in most parts of the globe, albeit with a handful of exceptions.

So, while Kava may have had a tumultuous past, its current status paints a more welcoming picture. It’s a testament to evolving understanding and regulation of natural substances in the modern world.

When and Why Was Kava Initially Banned?

Our journey starts in the early 2000s when Kava was banned in various countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Africa, and most of Europe.

German and Swiss case reports hinted at liver damage caused by Kava, instigating these bans. However, these reports were later discredited when research revealed that liver damage was predominantly a result of other medications used concurrently with Kava.

Once safe usage of Kava in specified dosages was established, and the absence of liver disorders was noted, the bans were lifted in many countries. This saga established a critical understanding that any proposed ban on a substance needs thorough research and comprehensive studies, keeping all possible factors and contexts in account.

The landscape of Kava legality witnessed a significant shift in 2006 when the European Union decided to lift the ban on this intriguing herb. Not long after, major countries such as Canada, the United States, and Japan joined the movement, choosing to legalize the sale and importation of Kava for personal use. That said, the map of Kava legislation isn’t uniform across the globe.

Despite the growing acceptance, the legal issues around Kava aren’t entirely erased. Most countries have chosen to maintain a degree of control over Kava’s circulation. This restriction spectrum ranges from a complete prohibition, much like the situation in Singapore and South Africa, to a more nuanced partial ban.

In nations such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, the partial ban limits the sale of Kava products. This approach allows for a balanced interplay between respect for individual choices and the need for societal safeguards.

In essence, while the world opens up to Kava, it continues to navigate the labyrinth of regulations, varying from country to country.

Navigating Kava Regulations Around the World

North America

United States: In the United States, Kava is fully embraced by the law, making it a breeze to buy and sell it, whether in powder form or as supplements. You’ll also find Kava bars becoming increasingly popular in major American cities, a testament to Kava’s growing appeal.

Canada: When it comes to Canada, the rules around Kava are a bit more nuanced. You’re allowed to have Kava, but it’s strictly for personal use. If you’re thinking about bringing in a large amount, you’ll have to register with Health Canada first. As for how much you can have on you, the rules suggest a 3-month supply, though this can be open to interpretation.

Mexico: Mexico’s position on Kava is harder to pin down. It’s not explicitly listed as a prohibited substance, and Kava bars operate without noticeable hiccups. Moreover, Kava lovers have reported that they’ve been able to order Kava online from the United States without any hurdles, suggesting that Kava shipments are finding their way into Mexico without trouble.


The scene in Europe changed dramatically in 2006 when the European Union decided to lift the ban on Kava. This triggered a domino effect, with countries like the United States, Canada, and Japan following suit. However, not everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Countries like Poland, Australia, and South Africa have yet to update their laws to mirror this trend.

United Kingdom: The regulations around Kava are quite stringent in the United Kingdom. Importing or selling Kava for human consumption isn’t permitted. However, there’s a loophole for our furry friends, as Kava can be legally imported for animal use. If you’re thinking about trying to bring in Kava for personal use, be aware that you might end up empty-handed, as such imports are likely to be confiscated. So, tread carefully and stay informed.

France: In France, Kava fans are in luck. French residents can legally import and possess Kava. That said, if you plan to sell Kava products, you’ll need to get approval from French authorities first. So, while you can enjoy your Kava, remember to keep things official if you’re going into business.

Germany: Germany offers a happy tale for Kava enthusiasts. Following considerable debate about the original research that branded Kava as a harmful substance, and persuasive lobbying from Pacific Island nations like Fiji, Samoa, and Vanuatu, the German government lifted the ban on Kava in 2006. Today, Kava is legally accepted in Germany, marking a victorious turn of events for the herb and its aficionados.

Ireland: Just like its European Union counterparts, Ireland permits the legal purchase of Kava. You’re free to order this herb online as long as you’re buying for personal use. There’s no scope for wholesale orders unless you’ve registered with Irish authorities. Locally sourced Kava might be hard to come by, but you can easily order it from places where it’s legally sold online, such as the United States or Germany. In a nutshell, if you live in Ireland, you can legally buy Kava online.

Poland: Poland, one of the last European nations to revise its post-ban laws, had explicitly prohibited Kava until 2018. Since then, laws have evolved to permit the importation and consumption of Kava. However, selling Kava in local shops for human consumption is still illegal. Despite these nuances, you can legally buy Kava online if you live in Polandv.

Switzerland: In line with countries like Canada and France, Switzerland permits Kava purchases in local shops and online. Most people order the herb from American suppliers and get it shipped directly to their addresses. The main restrictions for Kava apply to sellers who need to register their products with the Swiss government. So, if you live in Switzerland, you can order Kava online.

Norway: In Norway, Kava laws remain ambiguous, with no official statements on the Norwegian Medicines Agency website. It seems that Kava is classified as a prescription-only medication, a lingering effect of the early 2000s EU ban. Despite this, Kava drinkers in Norway have reported minimal issues when ordering the herb online. However, it’s important to note that Kava laws are not explicitly outlined in Norway.

Sweden: Sweden, like many Northern European nations, doesn’t specifically list Kava on the government’s banned substances list. It appears that Kava is considered a prescription drug in Sweden. Some Kava enthusiasts in Sweden have reported minor issues at the border with their shipments, and there are instances where packages are seized unless a valid prescription can be provided. Some residents have successfully used mail forwarding services based in the United States to get their Kava shipments through the Swedish border. However, the legal status of Kava in Sweden is somewhat unclear.

Belgium: In Belgium, the legal status of Kava is neither black nor white. The herb isn’t listed in the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AFMPS) database of banned substances. However, there are reports of Kava orders being confiscated and eventually destroyed by the Belgian government. Therefore, while Kava isn’t explicitly illegal in Belgium, you might face challenges at the border.

Italy: In Italy, Kava can’t be sold, but it seems that purchasing or owning it isn’t illegal. The Italian Medicines Agency, which oversees the regulation of health products in Italy, doesn’t list Kava or related species as a banned substance. However, you won’t find Kava locally in Italy, so you’ll have to resort to online shopping. Whether Italian border officials can confiscate Kava packages remains unclear, but most reports suggest a smooth experience when ordering Kava online to Italy. Therefore, if you’re in Italy, you can buy Kava online, albeit with a few caveats.

Kava in Asia

Japan: In Japan, Kava hasn’t been illegal since 2002, but it is subject to considerable restrictions. You can only order small quantities for personal use, and larger or wholesale orders are likely to be halted at the border. It’s advisable not to order more than about a pound (0.4 kg) at a time, as Japanese border officials determine on a case-by-case basis whether a shipment can be considered for personal use. If you reside in Japan, you can order Kava online, but it’s wise to stick to smaller quantities.

Singapore: Known for its stringent laws, Singapore surprisingly has lenient regulations regarding Kava. You can bring small amounts of Kava into the country personally and order less than 2 pounds online. Kava culture is growing in Singapore, and you can even find a few Kava bars within this city-state. To summarize, Kava is legal in Singapore, but there are limits on the quantity you can order at a time.

Hong Kong: Kava has never been banned in Hong Kong. Despite widespread bans in Europe and North America in the early 2000s, Hong Kong didn’t incorporate any such ban into their laws. Even today, there’s no mention of Kava in the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance or Dangerous Drugs Ordinance, which regulate medicinal and banned substances in Hong Kong. Residents can order Kava online from Europe or North America, and there are also a few Hong Kong-based retailers selling Kava. Therefore, Kava is legal in Hong Kong, and you can conveniently purchase it locally or online.

Thailand: Kava is legal in Thailand but isn’t very popular there. Most people looking for the herb are Western travelers passing through the country. As a result, you might have a hard time finding Kava locally in Thailand, and you will probably need to order online. Occasionally, you can find a good Kava nakmal (a traditional Kava bar) on the South Islands, but they are typically hidden gems. While Kava is legal in Thailand, it’s challenging to find locally.

India: In India, Kava isn’t listed as a banned substance, and there have been reports of local bars offering Kava brews. However, most shops don’t sell Kava — not because it’s illegal, but simply because it’s not very popular in India. Like many Asian countries, the primary interest in the herb comes from travelers. If you live in India and want to try Kava, you’ll need to shop online, as it’s hard to find locally.

Australia and Oceanic Countries

Australia: In Australia, Kava is regulated by the National Code of Kava Management, established in 2007 following reports of abuse within indigenous communities. Kava can only be brought into Australia in person, with a limit defined as a 3-month supply or 4 kg of dried, powdered root. Currently, importing Kava into Australia online is illegal, and most people report a success rate of around 50% for receiving their orders. A new pilot program is expected to be introduced in Australia that will legalize the importation of Kava products, possibly by the end of the year. This push towards legalizing Kava in Australia is largely due to local herbal extract company MediHerb’s research proving the safety and efficacy of Kava. In summary, Kava is currently banned in Australia, but this could change in the near future.

New Zealand: New Zealand has a rich history of Kava consumption, so the herb is regulated as a food under the Food Standards Code. This makes traditional preparations of the herb (dried, powdered roots in water) completely legal. However, alcohol extracts from the plant and pharmaceutical preparations are illegal in New Zealand. While most people report no issues when ordering Kava to New Zealand, there is a potential problem if the package passes through Australia before reaching New Zealand; it could be confiscated. To sum up, traditional preparations of Kava are legal in New Zealand, but Kava concentrates are not.

Vanuatu: Kava has a deep history of use in Vanuatu and is legal to cultivate, possess, and use. It’s quite common in Vanuatu, with a large portion of the local population regularly using Kava. The laws governing Kava focus on the export of the product, which is one of the country’s largest income sources. The Vanuatu government bans the export of non-noble varieties of Kava or parts of the Kava plant not traditionally used (like above-ground portions of the plant). This is primarily to maintain the high quality of Kava and avoid triggering bans in other parts of the world due to side effects from undesirable Kava cultivars. Most Kava comes from Vanuatu where it has a rich history of use.

Fiji: Kava is not only legal and readily available in Fiji — it’s the country’s national drink! Fiji produces roughly 4,000 – 4,500 tonnes of dried Kava per year, making them one of the largest producers in the world. Many people travel to Fiji specifically to participate in a traditional Kava ceremony. Like Vanuatu, it’s important to ensure you’re getting noble Kava only, as some local farmers growing tudei Kava will sell it cheaply locally because they can’t find customers on the international market. In summary, Kava is legal and widely available in Fiji.

Africa and The Middle East

South Africa: In South Africa, the sale and importation of Kava were banned in 2002, the same time the European Union did so. However, even though the ban was lifted in Europe four years later after the initial evidence supporting the ban was discredited, South Africa has not yet lifted its own ban, and Kava remains illegal. Some South Africans who order Kava online have reported that their orders were flagged and confiscated. It appears South African border officials may flag an address if Kava is identified, blocking any further attempts at ordering the herb. Therefore, the estimated success rate for shipments is less than 50%. Bottom Line: Kava is illegal in South Africa, and ordering it comes with risks.

Israel: In Israel, the laws regarding Kava are unclear. Kava does not appear to be listed in any public records posted by the State of Israel Ministry of Health. Few accounts exist of people ordering Kava online, but none of these accounts have reported any issues with getting their product through to their final address. Therefore, the estimated success rate for shipments is 75%. Kava appears to be legal in Israel, but it may be hard to find locally.

As we have seen, Kava’s legal status and availability vary widely around the globe. Depending on local and national laws, it may be readily available, limited to personal use, or even illegal. Understanding these laws is crucial for anyone wishing to buy or use Kava in their country or when traveling. Remember always to check the current regulations in your country or the country you’re visiting, as laws can change. Finally, use Kava responsibly and abide by local cultural norms, where applicable.

About the author

Holden Desalles is a journalist in the new wellness space, covering topics such as CBD, adaptogens, and nootropics. He was formerly a staff writer at the millennial lifestyle website Thought Catalog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *