This paper examines the debate about the safety of kava (Piper methysticum Forst. f, Piperaceae), a plant native to Oceania, where it has a long history of traditional use. Kava became popular as an anti-anxiety treatment in Western countries in the late 1990s, but it was subsequently banned in many places due to adverse reports of liver toxicity. This paper focuses on the responses to the bans by scientists involved in kava research, contrasting their evidential culture with that employed by clinicians and regulatory officials. Cultural constructions and social negotiations of risk are shown to be context-specific, and are shaped by professional, disciplinary, and organizational factors, among others. Though the science of hepatotoxicity is uncertain enough to allow for multiple interpretations of the same data, the biomedical/clinical narrative about kava remains dominant. This case study explores the influence of these cultural, social, and political factors on the production of scientific knowledge and the assessment of benefit/risk posed by comestibles.