What is Kava and How Does it Work?
Kava, also sometimes known as kava pepper or kava root, is plant-based extract that comes from the
Piper methysticum plant.
This particular plant is most commonly found in the western Pacific islands. The plant itself can be made into an extract or beverage, the latter of which is common in the Southern Pacific as a social drink (similar to alcohol consumption in the Western hemisphere).
And while there are many potential uses for kava extract, perhaps the most popular today is that of using it to treatment symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks and stress.
Specifically, kava "works" because of the kava-lactones that it contains; these lactones can directly affect the brain and central nervous system when introduced into the blood stream, creating a relaxing sensation in those who take it.
For those who suffer from anxiety, high levels of stress, or similar issues, a kava supplement can work wonders when used properly.
Benefits of Kava Supplements for Anxiety Sufferers
Research has shown that kava extract can be extremely effective in managing anxiety in adults, most likely due to the high levels of kava-lactones found in the extract itself. In fact, kava extract is comprised of up to 70% lactones, which are proven to lower anxiety. Many comparisons have been done between kava supplements and magnesium supplements for anxiety, with the findings being that the effectiveness is similar.
Studies on Kava for Anxiety
One of the most notable studies conducted on the use of kava to manage anxiety analyzed 75 patients who had been diagnosed with different anxiety disorders (such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and the like). Some of the participants in the study were given placebo pills, whereas others were given a kava supplement for treatment. Over the course of the next six weeks, each participant's anxiety levels were assessed and recorded.
By the end of the study, researchers found that "26% of kava-consuming patients were in remission from their symptoms compared with 6% of the placebo group."
Of course, this is just one of many studies that have been done on the effectiveness of kava supplements among anxiety sufferers. In a review of 12 different studies in 2010, it was concluded that kava is most likely an effective anxiety treatment and completely safe in short-term use.
Fewer Side Effects & Less Addictive
Another huge benefit to consider for those with anxiety is the fact that kava has fewer potential side effects and is less addictive than prescription drugs currently available for anxiety sufferers, such as Xanax. Many medications currently prescribed by doctors for anxiety, such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants, come with a major risk for addiction and other scary side effects, such as:
- suicidal thoughts and behaviors
- brain fog
- nausea and vomiting
With this in mind, kava can be a great natural alternative to these drugs and can yield similar treatment results without as much concern over side effects, dependency, and addiction. Furthermore, since kava is extracted from a plant, many people feel better about taking it as a natural supplement as opposed to a medication created by the pharmaceutical industry.
How to Use a Kava Supplement for Anxiety
Those interested in incorporating a kava supplement into their regimen should begin by seeing their primary care physician. He or she will be able to make specific recommendations and ensure that a person is healthy enough to be taking a kava supplement. From there, anxiety sufferers should do their research and find a kava supplement brand that is reputable.
Kava supplements are 100% legal in the United States, though there are some restrictions in other countries. You can find kava extract in supplement form (recommended, since it's the easiest to take and the best way to track dosage), though it is also possible to find kava tea and other forms of the extract.
Recommended Kava Dosage for Anxiety
The specific dosage recommended by nutraceutical manufacturers for anxiety sufferers can vary depending on a person's level of anxiety, age, gender, and some other factors as well. This is another reason why it's a good idea to consult with a doctor before beginning to take this supplement. Still, the general recommended dose for treating anxiety is between 210 and 240 mg per day. It is worth noting, however, that some people may need up to 300 mg daily.
For those who are planning to begin a daily kava supplement for anxiety, it's also important to keep in mind that it can take a few weeks or even months to experience the calming effects of the supplement. If, after a month, minimal progress is seen, it may be worth speaking to a doctor about increasing the dosage. However, some may see relief from their anxiety symptoms almost immediately. The results can vary from person to person.
Tips and Warnings
There are some warnings and tips to keep in mind before starting a kava supplement for anxiety, such as the fact that it is not advised to operate any heavy machinery after taking a kava supplement. This is because one of the possible side effects of kava is drowsiness. It's a good idea for those taking this supplement to wait and see how it will affect them. Other possible side effects can include upset stomach and loss of appetite. Those who experience unwanted effects are advised to stop taking kava and to see a doctor if issues persist, though this is not likely.