Many types of research have been carried out on the usage of kava for reducing anxiety and depression.
The use of kava is highly effective whether used in supplement or tea form. So, what is kava?
It is a tall shrub which grows in the particular islands of Pacific Ocean.
The kava shrub produces the green, large and heart-shaped leaves which grow thickly on the plant’s branches.
The plant has hairy branches and similar to wood bundles. The root of kava plant is used for medical purposes.
The plant is termed as “Yaquona” in Fiji. In Hawaii, it is termed as “Awa,” while in Aboriginal tribes the people refer it as “grog.”
Usage of kava for anxiety
It helps the people who are suffering from restlessness, excessive worrying, irritability, sleep disturbances, tension, and difficulty concentrating.
It helps in relieving the symptoms without causing any addiction, side effects or hungover feeling.
These symptoms usually occur due to the use of anti-anxiety medicines especially Benzodiazepines.
The kava is a traditional drink found in South Pacific. It promotes deep and complete relaxation.
It is an herbal remedy which is sold for reducing anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
However, concerns have been showing on the usage of kava, and temporary bans have also been imposed in Australia, North America, and Europe.
Kava has active ingredients which include Kava lactones or kavapyrones. These group of chemicals included hydro-kawain, kawain, and methysticin.
These compounds have been found to promote sleep, reduce convulsions and helps in muscle relaxation. These kava lactones also reduce the pain sensation.
Mechanism of action of kava
The kava drink has anxiety reducing mechanism which involves the blockage of serotonin in the Amygdala due to the alpha-pyrones.
The alpha-pyrones act as a bioactive constituent which is present in kava. The effects of kava interfere with the reuptake of norepinephrine.
The contents of kava have a binding affinity for NMDA and GABA receptors. Both of these receptors modulate the anxiety.
Kava is effective in patients with generalized anxiety, helps in reducing the stress by influencing the vagal heart tone.
Uses of kava drink
Some societies have a culture to drink a mood-altering, non-alcoholic drink.
For example, Japan has a distinct drink matcha, South America has Yerbmate, and South Pacific people have kava which is also termed as “kava-kava.”
The natives of Micronesia, Hawaii, and Polynesia prepare a ceremonial drink by utilizing a root from the kava plant.
This plant belongs to the pepper family from around 3000 years. The scientific name of kava-kava is “Piper methysticin.”
It is termed as “intoxicating pepper” in layman language. For preparing the kava drink, the root of the plant is boiled with water till it reaches the desired consistency.
Users assume that the kava tea tastes and smells like mud. However, people drink kava for its effects.
Firstly, it will give you a pleasant numb feeling; then it will make you feel calm and relaxed with clear-headedness. It frees your mind from all the anxieties.
Kava is also used for medical purposes such as to treat insomnia, asthma, fatigue, mood swings which might occur due to menopause or urinary infections.
Healthy mental benefits of kava
Kava is termed as the “Nature’s Valium” because it is highly efficient in reducing the anxiety.
Kava has active ingredients which include Kavalactones,i.e., a group of phytonutrients.
The kava lactones get attached to the brain receptors which are associated with cravings and addiction.
Due to which kava-kava has a potential to treat substance abuse of all kinds such as tobacco, alcohol, heroin, and cocaine.
There are many studies which show that kava is very useful in treating anxiety and does not lead to severe side effects as with the prescription drugs.
It was concluded in one study that kava is an efficient and safe alternative to tranquilizers and antidepressants.
The kava does not result in addiction as happens with benzodiazepines.
The studies also conclude the use of kava as a prescription medicine for treating the Generalized Anxiety disorder.
It treats the disease by increasing the release of GABA which is a relaxing brain chemical.
Studies show that kava is excellent for the improvement of mental well-being especially in menopausal women for reducing the depression and anxiety.
It treats the depression without the disruption of estrogen levels.
The kava drink not only helps in treating anxiety but increases the cheerfulness, sleep patterns and overall well-being of an individual. It helps in reducing the stress and aggression.
Methods of using kava for treating the anxiety and depression
Kava can be easily duplicated at home by preparing the customized tea with the kava powder.
The roots of the plant are enclosed in a cloth bag with the addition of water. The bag is then kneaded, till the tea reaches the proper consistency.
However, this is not convenient and is time-consuming. So, individuals prefer the kava supplements for managing anxiety.
The kava supplements are readily available in tablets, capsules, herbal sprays or in liquid extracts form.
They appear in the market as a natural solution for treating the stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
- TeaIt is readily available in all food stores. You just need to brew the tea in hot boiling water.Some users also include other herbs in the blend for inducing relaxation. It is advised to drink 3 cups of tea per day.
- Liquid/TinctureIt is a whiskey taste and potent smoky liquid form of kava. The distilled form of kava is sold in a bottle measuring around 2-6 ounces.Some users consume the kava with juices while others drink it directly from the dropper.
- Capsules/PowderKava is easily available in powder form. You can make a strong drink according to your choice.The users can ground the powder and insert it in the capsules or directly purchase the capsules from the health stores.
Kava dosage for anxiety and depression
The kava tablet comprises of water-soluble extract which is derived from the peeled root of the kava plant.
The tablet includes the total dose of 120mg kava lactones which are the essential active ingredient of the kava plant.
If the kava treatment dosage is not effective, then double the dose to 240mg.
To achieve the desired effects of kava, take the daily dose of around 60-120mg twice daily which makes around 120-240mg daily dose.
The studies show that minimum kava dose for treating anxiety ranges around 210-240 mg. Other studies suggest the use of 300 mg per day to reduce the stress effects.
Kava might lead you to drowsiness, so start with kava at evening time.
Please bear in mind that kava is a natural remedy and will treat anxiety slowly and gradually. You won’t be able to find immediate results.
The time duration ranges from one day to two months depending on the stress levels.
Side effects, warnings, and interactions associated with usage of kava
- Avoid kava in pregnancy, nursing phase and in children.
- Avoid mixing kava with other substances. It is because many elements interact negatively with kava.
- Avoid using kava with other alternative anti-anxiety remedies which include melatonin, 5-HTP or others.
- Avert the usage of kava drink if you consume alcohol, or you are suffering from liver diseases.
- The kava drink interferes with the antiparkinsonian drugs and potentiates the effects of Benzodiazepines where it increases sedation.
- The kava drink interacts with the muscle relaxants, sedatives, haloperidol, dopamine, acetaminophen along with benzodiazepines.
- The kava also interacts with MAOI antidepressants and psychotropic drugs. It also interacts with birth control drugs and anti-cancer drugs.
- The blend of kava with other substances will result in drowsiness.
- Some users who use kava daily, experience a unique side effect which is Kava dermopathy.
In this condition, a scaly rash is formed which is similar to psoriasis. The rashes appear after the users have consumed the kava drink for months,i.e., long term use.
- However, the condition is reversible and reverts to normal as soon as you discontinue the use of kava drink.
- Other rare side effects include stomach upset, liver concerns such as liver cirrhosis, liver failure or hepatitis. It can also result in headaches, allergic reactions, dizziness, drowsiness, restlessness, tremors and appetite loss.
- The high doses result in hair loss, partial loss of hearing, dry, flaky and yellowish skin.
- Do not use kava for more than 4-5 weeks.
It is well researched that kava is highly effective for treating depression and anxiety along with other medical purposes.
However, the safety of kava is still a big question. It is because according to many types of research, users have suffered from liver damage along with other side effects if consumed in high doses.
It is better to follow the dosage guidelines along with precautions, once you plan to start with kava. Before you start using kava, consult your doctor.