What is Kava?
There has been a huge interest within the past decade or so when it comes to natural remedies and herbs instead of taking medicine for a number of different conditions and reasons. Kava is a substance that comes from a root of a Kava plant that is native to the South Pacific region. It has been used by native islanders for many centuries for medicinal purposes but also in religious ceremonies. It is a root that is dried and then brewed in tea most commonly.
The use of kava began thousands of years ago by small villages in the various islands. It is still used today in the Pacific islands during social gatherings. There are many ceremonies that are entirely based around kava. It is common to pass the drink around in a wooden bowl and one person is typically chosen to serve the drink to others.
Kava is made by taking the stem and root into a tea sack and putting it in water. The traditional style of serving is done with the team in a wooden punch bowl.
Here are some primary facts about kava.
The root and stems of the kava scrub are said to have non-alcoholic but psychoactive features when taken. It has been used in Fiji, Tonga, and Hawaii for many years.
According to kava users, it isn’t thought clouding but has a relaxation aspect after drinking.
Research has shown that kava is as effective as benzodiazepines in treatment for stress, insomnia and anxiety. In the western societies there are kava bars that serve drinks to patrons.
There is worry concerning the effects kava has on the liver.
With most other supplements, there are warnings against mixing kava with any other prescription drugs because this can cause more serious side effects or cancel out the kava effects. Either way, not good.
Over the past ten to fifteen years there has been a good amount of attention on the negative effects that prescription pills have had in the United States, most recently being the drug epidemic. The amount of people abusing the drugs have dramatically increased in recent years and this causes people to worry. A solution for not taking the prescription drugs is natural remedies and supplements. Many people have looked for ways to relax without having to take a benzo.
Kava has been used as a natural supplement alternative for drugs like Xanax or Ativan. These are both benzodiazepines and there are millions of these prescriptions given out each year. Read more about benzo addiction and treatment here ← Kava is much safer in people’s minds because it doesn’t have the awful withdrawal period of what a benzo detox would look like. Kava releases GABA in the brain and this is why it is compared to benzos so often.
There are a number of individuals who automatically assume that if it is found in nature or if something is natural it is safe, there needs to be more research done when it comes to kava to know if it is one hundred percent safe or not. There has not been enough research completed to claim that kava does help those who suffer from anxiety.
According to WebMD. it is known that kava does have certain calming effects because it does change the way brain waves work, similar to Valium, but it is also stated that kava can prevent convulsions and relax muscles. The active ingredient in kava that work to relieve anxiety are the kavalactones. These are said to reduce anxiety, boost your mood, and make it easier to fall asleep.
How is Kava Taken?
Traditionally kava has been taken by people chewing the root, or turning the root to a pulp and then brewing with water as a tea. In our culture today and in other western culture we see kava as a liquid, in tablets, or teas. There is kava powder you can order and brew your own tea. There are a number of different drinks available to order that all have kava in it.
There are three ways we commonly see kava sold, as the ground kava root, micronized kava (a fine powder form), and as a kava concentrate. The condensed concentrate version can be easily added into other drinks. These are additional options to already having the tea and supplement versions.
When asked about the taste of kava, most say it is very earthy in taste and almost somewhat bitter. Most of the time it is best to take on an empty stomach to feel the results of the tea. The dosage amount is recommended to be between 100 and 300 mg per day.
Can Kava Make You High?
Short answer is no, but it does have effects you will be able to feel. It does not cloud your judgement or give you a buzz like alcohol would. Some users say they experience an increased level of sociability and euphoria when taking kava, but this varies from one person to the other.
Sometimes when people drink kava they experience a numbing sensation for a few minutes on their lips and tongue. Some people do not like the feeling, where others say it is pleasant. Users have also said that they start to feel warm and tingly like their muscles are relaxing after taking kava.
Is Kava Legal?
Currently in the USA, kava is legal and sold as a dietary supplement. So it can be marketed as that. It helps people relax and sleep better. Even though kava is legal in the U.S., there are advertisements released from the FDA about warnings for those who are using it if you have liver issues already or take medicines that affect your liver.
Using Kava For Anxiety
When thinking of the dietary supplement, one of the biggest reason people are taking kava is for anxiety. In 2013 there was a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, and researchers looked at a group of people with generalized anxiety disorder over six weeks, only around 40% said they felt better and less anxious from the kava, so those really aren’t convincing statistics. Study participants showed improvement in their anxiety symptoms after a week of treatment, but there has been a decline in the research done using kava because of the potential for liver toxicity.
The most common side effects from kava that have been reported are:
Is Kava Safe?
So while kava for anxiety may show some promise there are still many questions surrounding the safety of using this root. The main concern is the toxicity of kava when in the liver. In the U. S. there have been around 100 instances of liver injury that was related to kava, but those in favor of the substance have said those numbers are inaccurate, so it is still unknown and not enough research collected to know if it could potentially cause serious harm.
So even though kava may be safe for anxiety, there is still not enough known about this substance that anyone should be okay with a loved one taking the substance, liver problems are too serious. Doctors have just been advising people with liver problems or conditions to avoid alcohol and also avoid kava.