Kava Laws Around the World: Is Kava Legal Where I Live?

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Kava has had a few run-ins with the law over the past few decades.

The herb was made illegal throughout most of the Western world in the early 2000s — but most of these countries have since overturned the ban. You can order kava powder or capsules online legally in most of the world (with a few exceptions).

Why was kava banned? Why was the ban overturned? Is kava available where you live?

We’ll answer all of these questions in this ultimate guide to kava laws. We’ll also provide some insight into how likely your kava order is to make it to your final address depending on where you live.

Let’s jump straight in by discussing why kava was banned in the first place.

Why Was Kava Banned?

Starting in Germany in 2002, kava was completely banned throughout most of Europe, South Africa, The United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan.

The ban stemmed from a series of German and Swiss case reports that kava was causing liver damage.

However, these reports have since been discredited after it was found that the main cause of liver damage was due to other medications taken alongside kava.

There have since been a number of studies proving that kava is safe when used in the recommended dosage, and in the absence of known liver conditions or liver-toxic medications or alcohol.

The ban was lifted in the European Union in 2006, and countries including Canada, the United States, and Japan followed suit within a few years — allowing the sale and importation of kava in personal amounts.

However, some countries, such as Poland, Australia, and South Africa have yet to update these laws. Poland only recently overturned this ban in 2018.

Most countries retain some level of restriction over kava, whether it’s a full ban like Singapore of South Africa or a partial ban that limits only the sale of kava products — such as in Canada, The United Kingdom, and Australia.

Kava Laws in North America

The United States

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments: 99%

Kava is completely legal to purchase and sell in the United States. Kava root powder and supplements are readily available here, and most of the world’s online kava suppliers are based out of the US.

You can also find kava bars serving kava to patrons in most major cities in America.

Bottom Line: Kava is completely legal and readily available in the United States.

Where to Buy Kava in the United States:

Most kava suppliers in operation today are headquartered out of the United States. You can choose from just about any kava supplier you want without having to pay for added shipping or risk confiscation at the border. 

Our top-rated American kava suppliers include:

Canada

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments: 99%

Kava is allowed for personal consumption only in Canada. You can’t import wholesale quantities of the herb into Canada but can buy personal amounts up to a 3 months supply. The Canadian government doesn’t list any specific weight for what they consider a “3-month supply”, so this remains up for interpretation.

I live in Canada and have yet to experience any issues ordering kava online. I’ve even made some large orders consisting of three 1-pound bags of kava at a time (which lasted me about 3 months).

Bottom Line: You can buy kava online if you live in Canada — but you can’t sell it without first being registered with Health Canada. Kava supplements are readily available at local health food shops and pharmacies in Canada.

Where to Buy Kava in Canada: 

Kava can be ordered from companies in the United States and shipped to Canada — however, there’s always a chance your package won’t arrive, and you’ll pay an additional 25% on average to have it shipped. 

I recommend you order from a Canadia source — the best kava supplier in Canada at the moment is The Kava Roots (Canada). 

Mexico

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments: 99%

The kava laws in Mexico are very unclear, but it’s not listed on any of the official banned substances lists.

There are also a few kava bars in Mexico that appear to be operating without any issues.

Many people living in Mexico report ordering kava successfully from the United States without any problems with border officials. In fact, I have yet to hear of a situation where the order was confiscated or blocked at the border.

Bottom Line: You’re unlikely to experience any issues ordering kava in Mexico, but the legality remains unclear.

Kava Laws in Europe

The United Kingdom

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments: 95%

Medicinal products made from kava are illegal and you’re not allowed to import or sell kava for human consumption. Instead, you can only order the herb if you plan on using it with animals.

In order to leverage this loophole, there are a few suppliers selling kava supplements in the UK that list “not for human consumption” on the package.

Despite being banned, it’s rare for packages to be confiscated at the border in the UK — but order at your own risk.

Bottom Line: Kava is illegal for human consumption in the UK. We don’t recommend ordering kava if you live here.

France

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments: 95%

Kava products are legal to import and possess in France, but can only be sold if registered with French authorities. This is a very similar law to Canada — where only the sellers of the herb are regulated.

There are very few problems reported by customers ordering kava from suppliers in the United States to France, or from other European countries to France.

Bottom Line: Kava can be imported legally if you live in France.

Germany

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments: 90%

The initial banning of kava that started in 2002 originated in Germany. The plant was believed to cause irreversible liver damage, prompting the German government to propose banning the herb throughout the European Union — which successfully caused a global ban on the herb that lasted a couple of years.

However, after four years, the ban was lifted. In part from members of the scientific community disputing the original research that suggested kava was dangerous. Another key driver of this change was due to a push from Pacific islands like Fiji, Samoa, and Vanuatu to overturn this ruling based on insufficient evidence. These disputes were all brought to the World Trade Organization, prompting Germany, and most EU-members to overturn the ban on kava in 2006.

Bottom Line: Kava is legal to import and possess in Germany.

Ireland

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments: 99%

Like most of the EU, kava is legal to buy in Ireland. You can order the herb online as long as it’s in personal amounts (no wholesale orders allowed without registering with Irish officials).

You aren’t likely to find kava products locally in Ireland but should have no problem ordering it from companies located where kava is legal to sell online — such as the United States or Germany.

Bottom Line: Kava can be bought online legally if you live in Ireland.

Poland

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments: 90%

Poland was one of the last European countries to update kava laws after the ban.

Kava was explicitly illegal in Poland until 2018. Since this time, new laws allow the importation, and consumption of kava. However, it still remains illegal to sell kava in local shops for the purposes of human consumption.

Bottom Line: You can now legally buy kava online if you live in Poland.

Switzerland

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments: 99%

In a similar fashion to Canada and France, kava can be purchased in local shops and online. Most people order the herb from suppliers in the United States and have it shipped directly to their address.

The restrictions for kava primarily fall on those selling the herb, who need to register their product with the Swiss government.

Bottom Line: You can order kava online if you live in Switzerland.

Norway

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments 60%

Kava laws are unclear in Norway, and there are no official statements listed on the Norwegian Medicines Agency website.

The herb is reported to remain classified as a prescription-only medication as remnants of the earlier bans on kava by the European Union regulators in the early 2000s. However, kava drinkers living in Norway report few issues when ordering the herb online.

Bottom Line: Kava laws are unclear in Norway but it’s not explicitly listed as a banned substance by the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

Sweden

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments 60%

As with many of the Northern European countries, kava isn’t specifically mentioned on the Swedish government’s banned substances list.

It appears Sweden considers kava a prescription drug.

Kava drinkers in Sweden have reported only minor issues at the border with their shipments. Some people report having their package seized at the border unless a valid prescription can be submitted.

Some people report using mail forwarding services based out of the United States (like Skypax, Shipito, or Stackry) to get their mail through the Swedish border safely.

Bottom Line: Kava laws in Sweden are unclear, but the herb isn’t specifically listed on Sweden’s banned substances list.

Belgium

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments 60%

Belgium doesn’t explicitly ban, or allow kava. The herb isn’t listed in the Agence Fédérale des Médicaments et des Produits de Santé (AFMPS) database of banned substances.

I was only able to find one account of a Belgian kava drinker who reported that the Belgian government confiscated their order, and eventually destroyed it.

Bottom Line: Kava isn’t explicitly illegal in Belgium, but border officials may still stop packages containing kava at the border.

Italy

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments 99%

While it’s illegal to sell kava in Italy, it doesn’t appear to be illegal to buy or own.

The Agenzia Italiana del Farmaco oversees the regulation of health products in Italy. Kava, or related kava species aren’t listed as a banned substance.

However, as is the common theme in many European countries, kava remains unavailable locally in Italy. You have to buy the herb online in order to source some for yourself.

It’s unclear whether or not Italian border officials can confiscate packages containing kava, but most reports I’ve read suggest no issues with ordering kava online to Italy.

Bottom Line: Kava isn’t explicitly illegal to buy in Italy but it’s only available online.

Kava Laws in Asia

Japan

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments: 75%

Kava has not been illegal in Japan since 2002 but remains highly restricted. You can only order small quantities for personal use at a time. Large or wholesale orders will be stopped at the border.

I don’t recommend you order any more than about 1 pound (0.4 kg) at a time if you live in Japan. Japanese border officials seem to decide on the spot whether the shipment can be deemed as personal use or not, so it’s best if you can keep the package to a smaller size.

Bottom Line: You can order kava online if you live in Japan, but stick to smaller order sizes.

Singapore

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments >90%

Singapore is known for its strict laws, yet kava has somehow escaped the tight restraints of Singapore law. You’re allowed to bring in small amounts of kava into the country in person, and can order small amounts (less than 2 pounds online as well). 

Kava culture is thriving in Singapore and you can even find a few kava bars within the city-state. 

Bottom Line: Kava is legal in Singapore, but there are limits on how much you can order at a time. 

Hong Kong

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments >90%

Kava has never been banned in Hong Kong. Even as a result of the sweeping bans around Europe and North America in the early 2000s, Hong Kong never incorporated a ban into their laws.

To this day, there’s no mention of kava on the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance or Dangerous Drugs Ordinance — which regulate the medicinal and banned substances in Hong Kong.

You can order kava online from Europe or North America, and there are a few Hong Kong-based retailers selling kava as well.

Bottom Line: Kava is legal in Hong Kong and can be bought locally or online with ease.

Thailand

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments 95%

Kava is legal in Thailand but isn’t very popular here. Most of the people looking for the herb are Westerners traveling through the country. As a result of this, you’re not likely to be able to find kava locally in Thailand, and will, therefore, need to order online.

You can occasionally find a good kava nakmal on the South Islands — but these aren’t the types of places you’re likely to find on Google maps. They mainly consist of a small, quiet backroom or hut behind a bar of coffee shop that serves kava in the evenings.

Bottom Line: Kava is legal in Thailand but hard to find locally.

India

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments 99%

Kava isn’t listed as banned in India, and there are reports of local bars selling kava brews in their shops.

Most shops don’t sell kava — but this isn’t because it’s illegal, it’s because kava simply isn’t very popular in India. As with many Asian countries, most of the interest in the herb comes from travelers.

Bottom Line: Kava is legal in India but hard to find locally. You’ll need to shop online for kava if you live in India.

Kava Laws in Australasia & Oceana

Australia

Estimated Success Rate For Kava Shipments: 50%

Kava is regulated in Australia by the National Code of Kava Management — which was put in place in 2007 after reports of abuse surfaced from indigenous communities around Australia.

You can only bring kava into Australia in-person. The limit is a 3-month supply, which the Australian government defines as 4 kg of dried, powdered root.

You can’t import kava into Australia online legally, and most people report about a 50% success rate with receiving their orders.

There is a new pilot program about to be introduced in Australia that will allow the legal importation of kava products into Australia — which should come into law by the end of 2020.

A lot of the push towards legalizing kava products in Australia has stemmed from a local herbal extract company called MediHerb — which was granted the rights to conduct research on the herb that was able to prove its safety and efficacy. This research proved similar points found in Europe in 2006 that ended up overturning the ban.

Bottom Line: Kava is banned in Australia, but will likely become legal again by the end of the year.

New Zealand

Estimated Success Rate For Kava Shipments: 80%

New Zealand has a rich history of kava consumption, so the herb is regulated as a food under the Food Standards Code. This law makes traditional preparations of the herb completely legal (dried, powdered roots in water).

Ethanolic extracts (alcohol extracts) of the plant and pharmaceutical preparations are explicitly illegal in New Zealand.

While most people report no issues when ordering kava to New Zealand, there’s one major problem when ordering the herb online. If the package goes through Australia before making its way to New Zealand the package could be confiscated. This is unlikely, but there are a handful of reports of people following their package via a tracking number, only to find it getting stuck somewhere in Australia.

Bottom Line: Kava is only legal in traditional preparations — never order kava concentrates to New Zealand.

Vanuatu

Estimated Success Rate For Kava Shipments: 99%

Kava has a very rich history of use in Vanuatu and remains legal to cultivate, possess, and use. It’s very common in this part of the world where large amounts of the local population use kava regularly.

The laws governing kava focus on the export of the product — which is one of the country’s largest sources of income.

The Vanuatu government bans the export of non-noble varieties of kava, or parts of the kava plant not traditionally used (like the above-ground portions of the plant). This is primarily to keep the quality of kava high and avoid triggering bans in other parts of the world due to side effects from undesirable kava cultivars.

The downside of these export laws is that any non-noble kava tends to be sold locally instead since it can’t be shipped overseas.

Bottom Line: Most kava comes from Vanuatu where it has a rich history of use. Be careful not to order tudei kava if you live in or near Vanuatu.

Fiji

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments 99%

Kava isn’t only legal and readily available in Fiji — it’s the countries national drink!

Roughly 4,000 – 4,500 tonnes of dried kava are produced per year in Fiji, making them one of the largest producers in the world.

A lot of people travel to Fiji specifically so they can join in on a traditional kava ceremony.

Similar to warnings when buying kava in Vanuatu, it’s important you make sure you’re getting noble kava only. Some local farmers growing tudei kava will sell it very cheap locally because they can’t find customers on the international market.

Bottom Line: Kava is legal and widely available in Fiji.

Kava Laws in Africa & The Middle East

South Africa

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments: <50%

South Africa banned the sale and importation of kava in 2002 at the same time the European Union did.

Four years later the ban was lifted in Europe after the initial evidence supporting the ban was discredited. However, South Africa has not yet lifted the ban of its own, and kava remains illegal.

I’ve spoken to several South Africans who order kava online and only one of them has experienced issues with his order. He told me that after receiving a note in the mail that his package was confiscated, he made a separate order, only for the same letter to arrive in the mail for the new package. It appears the South African border officials will flag your address if kava is identified, blocking any further attempts at ordering the herb.

Other people living in South Africa have reported similar experiences on forums like Reddit.

Bottom Line: Kava is illegal in South Africa — order at your own risk.

Isreal

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments 75%

Kava laws are unclear in Isreal and kava doesn’t appear to be listed in any of the records posted publically by the State of Isreal Ministry of Health.

I was only able to find a few accounts of people ordering kava online and none of them reported any issues getting their product through to their final address.

Bottom Line: Kava is legal in Isreal, but hard to find locally.

Kava Laws in South America

Brazil

Estimated Success Rate For Shipments 75%

Herbal supplements are regulated by the Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (ANVISA). Kava is not listed as a banned or restricted substance in the ANVISA database.

In fact, there’s very little information available regarding the opinion of the agency on the website. It appears to be of very low concern for Brazilian regulators and it doesn’t appear to have ever been banned.

Bottom Line: Kava is available legally in Brazil, but hard to find.

Summary: Kava Laws Around the World

Due to some unfortunate reports coming out of Germany in the early 2000s, kava’s name has been tainted — bringing unsubstantiated fears of liver damage from using kava. This lead to the banning of kava for a few years around the world.

Only after persistent pushes to local governments to overturn this ban and dozens of scientific reports proving the safety of the herb has the laws begun to change.

Between 2006 and 2010, most of the countries that put a kava ban in place have overturned these laws, while only a handful of countries retain an illegal or highly-restricted status for kava products.

As time goes on, we expect to see more countries loosening the laws around this incredibly useful plant, and allow the import, or sale of kava products locally. Australia is on the verge of legalizing the plant completely once again — scheduled to come into effect by the end of 2020.

At the moment, most of the world’s kava is grown on pacific islands like Vanuatu, Fiji, and Hawaii, before being repackaged in the United States where it’s shipped to customers all around the world.