In today’s fast-paced world, increased responsibilities lead to a life dominated majorly by the emotion of anxiety. To counter this emotion and gain control over it, people of all ages often resort to unhealthy means mostly brinking on the side of substance abuse which has maximal side effects, and only temporary control over anxiety.
In such a situation, healthy means have been encouraged, or supplementation with products which have minimal side effects and maximum benefits are starting to gain popularity and are being used in their natural or extracted forms.
One such herbal product that has substantial evidence of providing numerous medicinal benefits is Kava Kava which certainly deserves to be mentioned.
What is Kava Kava?
The oldest accounts of Kava Kava contain reports of it being used as a recreational drink served during rituals ceremonies throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia.
The most potent part of this plant is the roots, which has various effects and used as a sedative, anesthetic, euphoria and entheogenic.
The active ingredient of Kava Kava responsible for its pharmacological effects is known as Kavalactones.
Kava Kava is grown as cash crops and has two main species referred to as the ‘Noble’ and the ‘Non-Noble’ species.
The former of which are known for their more pleasant effects and less unfavorable effects such as producing side effects and ‘kava Hangover.’
Medicinal benefits and pharmacological properties:
Kava used as an anxiolytic
One of the main highlights of the benefits of Kava is that it is one of the safest bets in the treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Its extract has been compared with the effects of antidepressants and benzodiazepines (Xanax and Valium).
People, who took it for 24 weeks, showed no side effects usually associated with the mentioned drugs.
The active ingredient isolated from Kava used in battling anxiety issues is known as ‘Kavain.’
Kava is also known to treat anxiety, without affecting mental clarity and reducing the sharpness of the mind.
Kava helps improve menopausal mood swings
Menopause is a period and an experience that every woman goes through. It becomes a time of testing due to hormone fluctuation and can lead to unpleasant emotional, physical and psychomotor effects. Many women use hormone replacement therapy to counter these effects which are known to come with side effects.
In this regard, Kava has been found to be of use as it improves the psychological status of women without affecting estrogen levels. Another research conducted recently has shown that Kava also increases libido in women.
Kava helps sleep better
Kava is known as an effective remedy for treating insomnia and sleeplessness. It achieves this feat by improving sleep quality and decreasing the amount of time needed to fall asleep. All in all, it promotes deep sleep without affecting REM sleep.
The best supporting evidence in nonhuman trials has found out that Kava improves sleep by acting on the GABA and serotonin receptors.
Kava contains two ingredients dihydrokavain and dihydromethysticin, which are known to act as natural pain relievers. This property of Kava has made it useful in the treatment of convulsions as a muscle relaxant.
It can also act as a remedy in the treatment of minor muscular ailments such as muscle soreness and tired muscles.
Kava as an anticancer and anti-tumor
Flavokawains extracted from Kava are secondary metabolites that have shown anticancer properties, chemotherapeutic and chemo-preventive properties.
Trials conducted on mice have shown that Kava reduces the tumor size and distant metastasis in mice with prostate adenocarcinoma, thus establishing its role in prostate health.
On the other hand, in females, Kava has been shown to be an excellent aid in enhancing antitumor immunity in breast cancer.
How to use?
As mentioned above, Kava Kava being a ritualistic drink and having similar effects as alcohol. It was mostly brewed into a strong beverage with or without added flavorings, usually taken after meals. Much of this trend persists. Apart from brews, it is also available in dried, powdered, capsules.
- Dosage: For treating anxiety, 250-300 mg of Kava in adults is thought to be effective. This dose is available in liquid form in 3 cups of brewed Kava and should not be exceeded daily.
- Side effects: Kava overdose can be considered as drug abuse if high doses are used. Feelings of depression, dizziness, drowsiness, and diarrhea can occur.
Kava users have been precaution not to take this herbal supplement while driving or operating heavy machinery due to these side effects.
The most noticeable of Kava side effects is that of liver toxicity which is manifested by icterus, jaundice, fatigue, and dark urine.
People who frequently use Kava should be instructed to acquire frequent liver function tests (LFTs). The severity of liver enzymes can range from moderate or mild elevation of liver enzymes to acute liver failure. After the appearance of which Kava supplementation should be halted for at least three months to normalize the liver enzymes. Some reports of liver transplants have also surfaced, which have pointed towards the critical role of Kava in Liver toxicity.
Kava can react with the following drugs and agents:
Anticonvulsants such as phenytoin to treat seizures, alcohol due to fear of liver damage.
Antianxiolytic benzodiazepines such as alprazolam, diazepam, and lorazepam because it can increase CNS depressant effects.
Diuretics because it can increase its effects and raise levels of dehydration in the body. It can increase the side effects of phenothiazine usually used to treat schizophrenia.
Kava can also reduce the effect of levodopa in treating Parkinson’s’ disease by affecting the ‘on-off mechanism.’
Is it legal to use?
Kava has a legal standing in most countries. It also treated as a supplement by most Food and Drug regulation authorities. Keeping this in mind, it still has been encouraged that Kava Kava being used for human consumption should only be of the Noble variety.
Users of kava have reported a grassy earthen taste with sometimes numbs the back of the mouth. It also numbs feelings of panic in anxiety attacks with affecting mental clarity.
Some users have described feelings of ‘drifting into a meditative state’ and having one the strongest orgasms they ever had, at slightly higher doses of 7gm.
Users taking higher doses have also reported deep dreams and waking up with a Kava hangover.
Feelings of high energy, euphoria, alertness, confidence, bliss, a rise in creativity and control also reported which waned in 4-5 hours.
Chronic sufferers of strained lower back muscles also reported relief in the tension and strain in the lower back.