According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 28.8 percent of adults in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder, with the average age of onset being 11 years old. Medical professionals and scientists from all backgrounds have long searched for the best way to relieve anxiety and prevent it from negatively impacting an individual's quality of life.
For the people of the South Pacific, one natural solution has been used for centuries and has since gained attention around the world: kava. But is it safe? Is it right for you?
What Is Kava?
Kava (Piper methysticum), or kava kava, is native to the South Pacific, growing in places like Hawaii and Fiji. This plant is a member of the pepper family and is reported to have many healthful benefits. Mainly the roots of the plant are used to produce medicine and you can find kava dried in capsule form or as a tea as well as in liquid form as an extract.
Uses for Kava
The main reason kava is taken is to calm anxiety and reduce stress. Anxiety can inhibit productivity, contribute to weight gain and cause difficulty sleeping, which weakens the immune system, among other things. These calming benefits may help those who suffer from chronic anxiety or stress to regain control and may alleviate symptoms such as insomnia, headaches, migraines and fatigue. The main active compounds within kava are kavalactones, which may act similarly to benzodiazepines (prescription anti-anxiety medications), according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
A 2004 study published in the medical journal Phytotherapy Research found a total daily dose of 150 mg of kava to be well tolerated and successful at treating non-psychotic anxiety disorders without side effects or withdrawal for two weeks following treatment.
Women may also find relief from cramping and other symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) as well as anxiety mood swings associated with menopause. Additional reported benefits of taking this supplement include treating respiratory infections and soothing aching joints, however, there haven't been sufficient studies into thee benefits.
How to Take It
Choose the form of kava you prefer and be sure to follow instructions carefully. Because this product can make you drowsy, it's important to use it carefully and avoid driving or using any heavy equipment at home or on the job until you know how the supplement is affecting your body.
There have been many studies regarding the safety of kava and the research continues. The main concern has been in regard to possibly hepatoxicity, causing liver damage. A 2010 clinical review published in Annals of Hepatology and conducted in Germany found the supplement can be unsafe when taken for too long, in too high a dose or in combination with other medications. The quality of the kava can also be a factor. It's important to do additional research into the specific product you're considering and to speak with your doctor if you're interested in taking this supplement. If kava is found to be a safe option for you, it's important to take it under the continued supervision of your health professional.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and anyone with a history of liver problems shouldn't use kava kava. If you're currently being treated for a medical condition, either with prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, be sure to speak with your doctor before adding this supplement or any other to your routine. This especially applies to those taking anti-anxiety medications.
We carry a wide selection of kava products at eVitamins. Check them out, give them a try and let us know what you think. Have a great week!