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Under kava's influence?

( -- The herbal remedy kava kava has gained a following as a natural way to relieve stress or as an alternative to antianxiety medicines such as Valium (diazepam).

There's no question that this plant extract from the South Pacific works. Scientists have identified several active compounds in the commercial mixture.

Sometimes this sedative works too well. People who use the herbal product can become so groggy that driving becomes dangerous.

Kava kava is usually just called kava, and in Hawaii it's name is awa. Island cafes frequently serve kava tea, which has more of the mood-altering ingredients than kava pills. A wire service story from the San Francisco Chronicle explains that some people have been prosecuted for driving while intoxicated after throwing back one too many cups of herbal tea.

A report from has additional information on kava. The article warns that alcohol may increase kava's sedating effects and that more than 250 mg of a standardized kava extract three times a day could cause disorientation.

(c) 2001

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