Healthy Living

Can Kava Relieve Anxiety? Learn the Truth About this Herbal Remedy

Can Kava Relieve Anxiety? Learn the Truth About this Herbal Remedy

Many people suffering from anxiety disorders often turn to prescription drugs to ease their pain. While medications prescribed by your physician can be helpful, it is also useful to explore homeopathic remedies.  Kava, also known as kava-kava, is a plant-based relaxant that has been used by Pacific Island cultures for centuries for treating people with chronic anxiety. 

What is Kava and how is it used?

Kava is a shrub that belongs to the pepper family. The root of the Piper methysticum plant is crushed, ground or powdered, added to water and consumed in the form of drinks or tea. It is also available in tablets, capsules, liquid extracts and powdered form. Kavalactones are the active ingredients of the kava root and several studies show that they can affect brain chemistry similar to how antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications affect. They can ease a person’s mind and improve mood. Generally speaking, chemicals in kava:

• Reduce anxiety
• Help us relax
• Relax muscles
• Improve mood
• Boost happiness and contentment
• Make us sleepy
• Relieve pain
• Act as diuretics (rid the body of excess water)
• Reduce convulsions (fits)

Why Kava Is a Preferred Remedy?

Recent studies prove that kava can be effective at alleviating mood related disorders such as anxiety and depression. Kava is a preferable treatment over other conventional medicines because it doesn’t put much effect on your reaction time. For example, while conventional anti-anxiety medications can slow your reaction time while you’re driving, a 180 milligrams (mg) dose of medicinal kava doesn’t harm a person’s driving ability, a 2012 study suggests.

Moreover, kava is known to have very few other side effects, as compared to other anti-anxiety drugs. In fact, one study showed participants who consumed daily doses of kava extract ranging from 120mg to 240 mg drastically reduced their anxiety without causing any liver damage. The only side effect experienced by the 75 study participants was headache.

In addition to that, research shows that kava can drastically boost sex drive in women. Decreased sex drive is one adverse effect of depression and kava is helpful in curing that too.

Health Concerns in Using Kava

Despite its numerous benefits, kava is strictly regulated in some countries such as United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Australia, and France due to concerns over toxicity. Kava has been reported to cause damage to the liver. Therefore, it’s important that you talk to your doctor before you decide to consume this herb. Your doctor, on the basis of your physical and mental condition, will prescribe appropriate dose to you that has no or negligible side effects.

A safety panel of the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2007, reported a potential link between kava consumption and 14 liver transplants and 7 deaths, mostly in Europe. However, the WHO report suggested that liver toxicity may be caused by kava formulations that were prepared using the whole kava plant, instead of just the root. The use of ethanol and acetone, instead of water, to extract the active ingredient from the plant can be another reason. Kava has been used in the Pacific Islands without any case of liver problems, but they follow strict ritual preparation. The locales use only water-soluble extract and peeled root of the plant to prepare the kava.

Still, the scientific and regulatory communities agree that further research is required to determine what actually causes toxicity in the liver - the root itself or the processing methods. Therefore, the FDA warns people to consult their doctor before taking kava supplements if they are having any liver disease or liver problem.