Kava – Plant based anxiety relief


Stress and anxiety riddle many people and medications, or let’s face it, self-medicating, are used to subside these emotions. There actually exists a natural alternative possibly worth the try to help reduce anxiety and to even improve sleep. Kava has been used by Pacific Islanders for hundreds of years because of its relaxation effect. More and more people are learning about this plant. The scientific name for kava is Piper methysticum.

The roots can be ground into a paste that can be mixed with water. Kava can be taken as a powder, tea, capsule, or in liquid form. Tea is the most popular form for having kava, and there are also tinctures available to add drops into a liquid or with other drinks. Those who don’t like tea can use capsules. Whichever the type, the dosage should be somewhere between 70–250 mg kavalactones and should never exceed more than 250 mg per day.

The key ingredient of this plant are the kavalactones. Studies have brought attention to the benefits of kavalactones which include reducing pain sensations, protecting neurons from damage, reducing anxiety, and reducing the risk of cancer. Reduction of anxiety has been the center of attention regarding this plant, especially as mental health awareness is on the rise.

Reduction of anxiety as a result of kava occurs due to the interaction of this plant with neurotransmitters. These are the nerve communicators in the body to the brain. A particular neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), actually decreases the activity of these nerves when interacting with kava. This in turn, can reduce the anxious activity in the brain.

Another benefit kava has been found to offer is sleep improvement. Lack of sleep is associated with many poor health conditions including high blood pressure, depression, obesity, and diabetes. Besides these medical concerns, not having enough sleep takes a toll on our energy and mood. Because of kava’s calming effect, it can be used as a sleep aid versus traditional medications. Insomnia is often associated as a symptom of anxiety, suggesting that kava can again help reduce anxious feelings.

Kava has been controversial due to possible side effects. The FDA has warned about its use, and it is banned in Germany, Switzerland, France, Canada and the UK. This is mainly because of its interaction with the liver and with certain medications. Because the liver breaks down medications, having to breakdown kava in addition to medications can impede upon the liver’s performance It is your personal choice and you can consult a doctor if you plan to use kava. There are pros and cons to all choices, even those that are in their natural form.

Kava as a Clinical Nutrient: Promises and Challenges – PMC (nih.gov)

Kavain, the Major Constituent of the Anxiolytic Kava Extract, Potentiates GABAA Receptors: Functional Characteristics and Molecular Mechanism | PLOS ONE

The effectiveness and safety of Kava Kava for treating anxiety symptoms: A systematic review and analysis of randomized clinical trials – PubMed (nih.gov)

Kava | NCCIH (nih.gov)

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Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough owns a fitness studio in Oceanside CA called Every BODY's Fit. She has a Doctorate in Health and Human Performance, M.A. in Physical Education & Health Science, and she's an NASM Master Trainer & Instructor. She's also a professional natural bodybuilder, fitness model, Wellness Coach, and AFAA Group Exercise Instructor. She has 6 books on Amazon too,.